Last Updated on May 2, 2024 by themubbi63

If you own a cat, you’ll notice that they aren’t great fans of water. While cats are perfectly capable of swimming if the occassion calls for it, they’d much rather not get. It’s one of the many, many things that set them apart from dogs, most breeds of which are quite happy to wallow in pools. So why exactly do cats hate water so much? What are they thinking when they refuse to be bathed? Let’s find out.

Cats Just Don’t Like the Feeling of Being Wet

The thing with cats is that they’re very finicky creatures. They’re also quite fastidious and spend a lot of time grooming themselves. So why do they avoid baths? It’s because they don’t like water in their fur. The very idea of being wet is unpleasant to them.

When cats get wet, their coats become very heavy. This is particularly true of cats that have double coats. It can take hours to completely dry off and they feel uncomfortable during the entire time. It’s like stepping out of the shower and not having a towel to dry yourself off. The fur of a cat isn’t designed to repel water so it just becomes waterlogged and weighs the animal down. 

In addition to this, cats are usually quick and nimble animals that are light on their feet. It’s part of their evolutionary being so that they can flee from danger quickly. Being wet and heavy makes them feel vulnerable. And that’s a feeling that causes as much anxiety in cats as it does in humans.

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There are Evolutionary Reasons For Cats Hate Water

The domestic feline evolved into its present state in the hot and dry climates of the Middle East. Water is scarce there and pools and rivers aren’t easily come by. Cats have had millenia to evolve into creatures that like the hot and dry climate. They haven’t been exposed to much water in a very long time. Thus, when the exposure does come – probably in kitten form in the guise of its first bath – it’s a big shock to the cat.

For anyone who has observed the bigger cousins of domestic cats – leopards, tigers and jaguars – occasionally taking a dip in hot weather or swimming across a river to reach prey, there’s your answer. Their evolution has been completely different from that of a domestic cat. While big cats are by no means big fans of water, they’ve often evolved around water bodies and are used to them.

Their Strong Sense of Smell Makes Water Unpleasant

Cats have a much, much stronger sense of smell than us humans. In fact, their sense of smell is 14 times stronger than ours. Ordinary tap water has a bunch of minerals in them and bodies of water like pools even have chemicals. While this might not smell very strong to us, just imagine how strong it must smell to the cat. They might dip their paw into the water once in a while but why on earth would they want to submerge themselves in something that smells so alien to them?

Grooming Preferences

Cats love grooming themselves, we all know this. So why do they object to being bathed? Well, it’s partly because they’re quite fussy about what comes in contact with their fur. They’d much rather groom themselves than be subjected to the shampoo and mineral-smelling water that humans prefer. They are pretty clean already and they don’t understand our methods of cleaning them. 

Additionally, if they’ve been bathed before, they know just how much time it will take them to dry off. They’d rather not go through that. Your shampoo might even be stripping the natural oils off their skin which makes them smell odd. In their eyes, you’re just adding to their work. They’ll have to spend that much more time getting their fur to smell natural again.

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Water-Related Traumas

If a kitty has fallen into a big bathtub or a pool before, they have a trauma response to water. After all, if a human fell into a pool without being able to swim they’d have water-related traumas. Many a time, a cat might be afraid of water because they’ve had previous bad experiences with it. 

Fear of the Unknown

But even if they’ve never had a bad experience with a pool of water or a bathtub, cats are naturally afraid of the unknown. Anything that is new or strange is a source of fear for them. Cats that are unused to baths may be wary of the water for this reason. They don’t have an evolutionary memory of big bodies of water so the pool might be terrifying for them. A lot of the time, the only water a kitty is comfortable with is the water in their bowls.

You can get your cat used to water by exposing them to it from a young age. Three to sixteen weeks is the most important period in their growth. Use bath toys or treats to familiarize them with water and to help them not to fear it. The key is to make them feel in control and you’ll need patience for that.

However, you should note that bathing your cat really isn’t all that necessary. They’re very fastidious and they spend fifty percent of their day grooming themselves. They might have some problems with some hard to reach places, especially at an old age. The only time you really need to bathe your cat is if some medical reason calls for it. Or if they’ve had an encounter with a skunk.

Kitties That Don’t Mind Water

Finally, keep in mind that there actually are some breeds that don’t mind water. In fact, they’ll take to swimming quite easily. Examples of such are the Maine Coon (due to its water-resistant coat) and the Turkish Van (which is actually called the swimming cat). Abbysinians, Bengals, Sphynxes and Siberians also don’t mind the occasional dip.

Conclusion

The mystery of the water-averse cat is solved! From disliking the feeling of wet fur to their strong sense of smell, several factors contribute to a cat’s fear of water. Remember, bath time should be a stress-free experience. If your cat truly dislikes it, spot cleaning or wipes might be a better option. After all, a happy cat is a purrfectly clean cat!

FAQs

How can I get my kitten used to water?

Introduce water gradually during their socialization period (3-16 weeks) using bath toys, treats, and positive reinforcement.

Should I bathe my cat regularly?

Cats are very clean animals. Unless your cat has a medical condition or gets dirty, regular baths aren’t necessary.

Do all cats hate water?

Not all cats! Some breeds like Maine Coons and Turkish Vans actually enjoy swimming.

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