Taking a Dip: Do Cats Hate Water?

The feline aversion to water is a widely accepted fact, but is it true? If it is, why do cats hate water? Understanding this nuance of feline behavior caught our attention. Let’s separate fact from fiction.

Not all cats hate water, and there are even some breeds, such as the Turkish Van cat and the Bengal cat, that actually like to swim. Still, most cats we know have a preference for not getting wet. Schertz Animal Hospital breaks down the basics, here. 

Water Aversion

If a cat’s experience with water is getting caught in a thunderstorm, a forced bath, or being sprayed with water, it stands to reason that she’ll have a strong aversion. 

Unless they are not well, most cats have a preference for a meticulous coat.  And being mussed up by a bath or rain shower may not sit well with their need for maintaining a clean and well kept coat. Science contends that grooming in cats gives natural skin oils less of a chance to build up on the coat, making a cat’s coat less waterproof than a dog’s. They may get colder and their fur feel heavier when wet as a result. 

Another reason cats may avoid water and getting wet is that their ancestors have been shielded from the elements since the earliest periods of feline domestication. Limited experience with water for these ancient cats did not require that they adapt and evolve to deal with it. Big cats in the wild avoid bodies of water and swimming to avoid predators like alligators and crocodiles. 

However, some wild cats like to swim to keep cool or to catch dinner. Many big cats in hot, arid, or humid climates will regularly bathe and spend time in the water. The Asian fishing cat even dives for its dinner!

Drip, Drip, Drip

Despite not enjoying full immersion, many house cats are mesmerized by a dripping faucet and may drink from it or even play with the water drops. Some cats have drinking fountains and enjoy reaching in with a paw to try and catch the drips. For these cats, flowing water can be great fun and a wonderful way to encourage them to drink more

Bath Time Together

Cats generally don’t need frequent baths since they are such fastidious groomers. But if they get into something sticky (or stinky) or if they have a skin condition, you will want to help your cat cope with water and bath time.

If you begin gentle and positive baths when your cat is young, she may learn to tolerate them better.  

  • Begin with gently placing your cat in an empty sink or tub
  • Speak reassuringly, and run a damp, warm washcloth over his fur
  • If he tolerates this calmly, use a pitcher of warm (not hot) water to slowly saturate his fur and skin
  • Work in a small amount of feline shampoo, avoiding ears, face, and eyes
  • Rinse him thoroughly so the shampoo does not irritate his skin or get into his mouth when he licks himself dry
  • Dry him gently with a warm, fluffy towel

Do Cats Hate Water?

Your cat probably views swimming and bathing as spectator sports, but we’ve found that not every cat completely hates water. Like us, cats are all individuals with their own likes and dislikes. 

If you have any questions about your cat’s health or well being, please let us know