Are Cats Really Afraid of Water?

Have you ever seen a cat that is so excited to dip itself in a water tub to take a bath? Most probably not. Yet, it is most likely that you have seen a cat that is calmly sitting at its resting place but turns violent, angry or distressed when suddenly showered with water. Some cat owners admit that they have never given their cat some bath because of this reaction, thinking their pets are hydrophobic.

Normally, cats are composed of animals, but they hate surprises. And they are not actually afraid of water – they just don’t like how it feels on their fur. The top layer of their coat generally has water resistance, but if it’s completely drenched, it becomes heavy, slowing their movements down. Cats like to know they can get out of a situation anytime they want, so feeling heavy and slow is an unwanted feeling. Also, many cat breeds also have coats that trap water, making it hard for them to stay warm if the weather is cold.

Cats do not really need baths or swim because they are innately clean. They use their own tongue to groom themselves and keep their coat clean, sweet-smelling and in good condition. But if your cat gets into a smelly or sticky situation or acquires a skin condition that needs bathing, you have to acquaint your cat with the bathing experience. If you would start earlier while they are still a kitten, they can grow accustomed to the water. When they are exposed early, they are more likely to accept it and maybe even enjoy it.

Unfortunately, there is a possibility that even if you would start bathing them in the water while they are still kittens, they express aversion to it. Scientists explain that this dislike of water comes from their ancestors – house cats’ owners are protecting them from the elements since the earliest periods of domestication. Domestic cats are descended from Arabian wild cats that live in arid areas with very few to no bodies of water. They never knew how to swim and they found no advantage in it. Cats like leopards and lions avoid water because river-dwelling predators like crocodiles live there.

Despite not enjoying a full-blast immersion with water, cats like to play with it in general. If you’re a cat owner, you may have probably observed that they love to play with water. They are fascinated with a dripping faucet, and they would gaze at it, drink directly from it, or wet their paws with it to scatter the drops on the floor. Some will even sit on the edge of your bathtub while and play with the bubbles. The key to getting a cat like water is to avoid using water as a punishment, like squirting them using water guns, and to introduce them to it while they’re young. Try putting a flowing pet fountain that recirculates water. It’s a fun way for them to drink more water and enjoy.

In addition, not all cats dislike water. There are breeds that actually enjoy it and can even swim. Cats from warmer climates like tigers, lions, leopards and jaguars like water to cool off. They are also generally good swimmers. Some cat breeds love water and love to swim, such as the Turkish Van and the Turkish Angora. The Abyssinian, Savannah, American Bobtail, Bengal, Egyptian Mau, Manx, Norwegian Forest cats, Japanese Bobtail and Maine Coon are other cat breeds who actually like the water.

Biologically, cats have deep ear canals which allow water and moisture to easily get inside the ear causing infection and ear mites which don’t come out so easily. During bathe, cats sit in a position that their ears don’t get wet easily. Even the Turkish cats that enjoy rain will sit in a way that water doesn’t get inside their ear.

Secondly, cats have an undercoat which once soaked doesn’t dry off so easily. It sticks the moisture to the skin as if you are wearing a wet t-shirt. This is not only uncomfortable for the cat but also very dangerous as it may cause cold and hypothermia which is life-threatening for cats.

Cats are generally very individualistic and prefer doing things to their own liking. If you have a cat that despises water baths, you don’t need to force them to it in one instant. Train them gradually. Get your cat used to the enclosure you want to bathe him with and fill it with water. Do this just for a short while several times over a few weeks until your cat becomes comfortable. If your cat remains persistent with fleeing away from the water despite many tries, let him be because he might hate you also. The good thing is they can cleanse themselves without any help from us humans.


As a cat owner, you must be aware that a cat is an emotional and honest animal that brings joy to a family with its unique yet sweet and loving disposition.  However, there are certain things that they don’t like and they are very firm on being respected on their choices. If you want your cat to follow some of your rules, all you need it to train them and give them time to be familiar with your patterns.