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May 11, 2021 |0 min read

Why Do Cats Hate Water?

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Just about anyone will tell you that cats and water don’t mix… but have you stopped and wondered why? Why do cats avoid bathtubs like they’re filled to brim with dogs instead of good ol’ H2O? And why do they seem to love playing with it when it’s dripping from a faucet instead? Are there cats out there that actually like to swim? 

Here at PrettyLitter, our health monitoring cat litter instantly traps odors. Keep reading to hear from our experts break down some meowths (myths) and paw-sible reasons for this long-standing, one-sided feud, and why most cats do not enjoy the water. 

A Brief Hiss-tory

Hiss-torically domestic cats have one common ancestor: the North African / South Asian wild cat. These wild cats were known to live in dry, arid regions like savannas and deserts, and because of their little exposure to water (other than to drink), they never learned how to swim. This trait is believed to have been passed down to our modern-day domestic cats and creates a strong hy-paw-thesis for why most of them avoid water like the plague.

“Heavy is the Fur”

Picture this: You’re out and about, enjoying a beautiful, sunny day when suddenly the sky gets dark, clouds roll in and it starts pouring! You weren’t ready for this and your trusty umbrella is nowhere to be found... now you’re absolutely soaked from head to toe. It’s going to take you forever to get dry! 

By this same logic, one can imagine that most cats would feel the same way about getting their fur wet. They are naturally clean pets and meticulously groom themselves all the time, throughout the day. Cat people know that if there’s one thing they love to do more than showing us their butts randomly, it’s their love for licking themselves clean. Since they’re so efficient with their personal hygiene, bath times are rarely needed. If you’re worried about your cat, check for signs of overgroomingInstead of helping them, getting them wet only makes it harder for them to feel clean and dry in the long run. Wet kitty fur will not only feel uncomfortable but will also weigh them down, making them less nimble to run away from potential threats, like their other sworn nemesis… the vacuum.

In a Drip or Drown World...

Okay, so they don’t like feeling soaked but why do they still like playing with water when it’s dripping from a faucet? Shouldn’t they also run away from it like they run away from the nefarious vacuum? You’d think so, right? 

Actually, some cats probably like to paw at dripping water because of the shininess, movement, and reflectiveness of the element. They also like to be in control. Who knew? And in these situations, they’re more in control playing with the dripping water than being submerged in a bathtub full of it. Basically, in a drip or drown world, they prefer playing with the drip than feline like they’re drowning...

Negative Ex-purr-riences

Purr-haps your cat experienced a bathtime gone wrong or got a wet fur coat soaked when they were a kitten. Those early, wet interactions can stick around in a cat’s memory. For older cats the sight of a bathtub could be a trigger for them, making them run for the hills. 

If you're a pet owner and for whatever reason, would like your cat to be more comfortable around water the best way would be to paw-sitively expose them to it at a young age. This way they’ll be more fur-miliar around it as they get older. Otherwise, if you have or are planning to adopt an adult cat with (most likely) a strong aversion to water, this technique is not for you. Luckily, there are cats out there that actually enjoy being around water and occasionally go for swims!

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Splish, Splash Kitty Cat

Yes, you read that right. Some cats actually enjoy swimming! And no, I’m not talking about big cats like tigers and jaguars, who are known to cool off in their local watering holes. Some domestic cat breeds are less scared of water than the average house cat and they’re even bold enough to go for a dip!

  • Maine Coons: These kitties have a water-resistant fur coat that makes it very easy for them to go for swims. Give a maine coon any body of water: a bathtub, pool or puddle and they won’t mind going for a splash! Hiss-torically Maine Coons were used by sailors as trustworthy pest controllers on sailing voyages thus making them more comfortable around water.
  • Turkish Vans: AKA “the swimming cat”... these little kitties have a special waterproof “cashmere-like” fur coat that doesn’t retain water and makes swimming a way more enjoyable ex-purr-rience for them. Owners of this breed commonly seek out “cat pools” so their kitties can splish, splash and swim around as much as their hearts desire.
  • Abyssinians: These cats are known for their explorative nature and won’t hold back from getting to know the water around them. Whether it's their own bowl or the bathtub, they’ll dip their paws in first to get fur-miliar. Abyssinians arrived in Europe for the first time via boat, so this is a paw-sible reason for their carefree energy around water.

Most cats don’t have special waterproof coats and there are many paw-sibilities to explain why they seem to hate water. But hey, maybe your feline friend doesn’t! As a cat owner, when you’re welcoming a new cat into your life the best way to figure out their purr-references is to let them fur-familiarize themselves with their new space, allowing them to test out these unchartered waters themselves!

Sources:

1. https://www.petsbest.com/blog/3-reasons-cats-hate-water-like/

2. https://www.madpaws.com.au/blog/turkish-van/

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!

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