Why do cats hate water?
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Why do cats hate water?

It is difficult to find another creature as cute and wayward at the same time as a cat. If the animal does not like something, he immediately demonstrates it to the owner. Pets do not favor bathing, and in every possible way, avoid this procedure. Why do cats dislike water, and is it possible to overcome this fear?

The Biology of Cats and Water

Why can waterfowl stay in the water for long periods of time? Because the structure of their body is adapted to the aquatic environment: for example, long and stiff guard hairs, combined with abundant sebum secretion, reduce the water permeability of the coat. Narrowed ear canal prevents entering in the ears a large amount of water, and a developed fatty layer protects against hypothermia. Cats are much less adapted to swimming.

The coat of most cats is loose due to the small thickness of the hairs and hygroscopic due to the weak secretion of sebum. It quickly gets wet, which causes discomfort. In this case, the water displaces the air between the hairs, and the air layer that protects the cat from hypothermia and overheating is damaged. The layer of subcutaneous adipose tissue, which also helps maintain a constant body temperature, is quite thin in cats (unless, of course, we take into account overweight animals). And that is why cats hate being sprayed with water; they feel more vulnerable when they are wet.

Cats have large ears relative to their body size, which easily gets water, causing discomfort. It is especially difficult for them to shake it out since the auditory canals are curved and deep. This creates a risk of developing ear diseases.

Natural Instincts and Behavior

One can also try to explain why domestic cats hate water so much by the origin of the "Felis silvestris catus" species to which they belong. Their ancestor - the steppe cat (Felis silvestris lybica) - lived in a desert area and, perhaps, "did not pass on" to his descendants the skills of interacting with water, so modern cats can be distrustful of water and even be afraid of it.

This indirectly confirmed opposite cases: all those few breeds of cats that are known for their tolerance and even love for water developed near water bodies.

The Psychology of Cats and Water

The cat can and knows how to behave on the ground. How to move along it, climb a tree or any other surface, how to jump back.

Whereas water is less common in everyday cat life, and it is not clear to a cat how to behave in an aquatic environment. In addition, most species of these animals do not know how to swim and are simply afraid to die.

The second reason for the hate of water in cats, there was maybe an unsuccessful bath in the past. Some owners, out of caution, so that the animal does not scratch them, tie his paws with a special tape and only then proceed to wash.

As a result, the animal experiences fear. It seems to him that the owners want to drown him. The pet can be very frightened if you hold him tightly and scold him during water procedures.

Exception breeds

But there are cats that don't show fear in the face of the water; even more, they are willing to explore and tame this chaotic element. In most cases, it is linked to certain breeds. The connection with water is even reflected in the names of such breeds. 

So, the Turkish Vans really appeared on the shores of Lake Van, the Manks - on the Isle of Man (and any island, by definition, is surrounded by water). The homeland of Japanese bobtails is the islands of the Japanese archipelago; Norwegian forest cats are the pride of the sea country of Norway. Maine Coons originate from coastal Maine, and it is sometimes mentioned that among their ancestors were ship cats that accompanied sailors on long sea voyages. If this is not just a legend, then how can one not love water with such a story?

Many wild felines are also not afraid of water, and this quality was transferred to the breeds bred with their participation. These are the Savannah (a hybrid with a serval) and the Bengal cat (a hybrid with an Asian leopard cat). "Water loving" are also Turkish Angoras and American Bobtails.

But why do cats hate water but love fish?

Since ancient times, cats have adapted to survive by eating what was left after people. Now there is food for cats, diets, and delicacies; 5–6 thousand years ago, there was a tail from a fish, and "on holidays," a bone with meat. Of course, cats have always hunted, but the lack of protein in the diet has always been an urgent problem. 

Unlike omnivorous dogs, cats are carnivores. They are instinctively interested in rodents, fish, and birds, as the inner voice says, "it's good to eat." In addition, for everyday life, a cat needs taurine, which is not synthesized in the body but is found in fish and offal.

Taurine is an amino acid that helps regulate your cat's heart rate, digestive tract, reproductive function, and eyesight. Fish is an excellent source of protein for cats. 

However, sometimes fish can contain large amounts of mercury and toxins, becoming a source of helminth infestation. In addition, a diet consisting only of fish can lead to hyperthyroidism and diseases of the genitourinary system, including urolithiasis. In rare cases, cats can be allergic to fish, so the introduction of fish into the diet should be gradual and careful.

How to teach a cat to accept water? 

Follow these simple rules: 

  • Place a large container of water in your pet's favorite room. 

Moisten his paws, and touch with wet hands over the coat. If he starts to resist and run away, do not scold the cat, and do not continue. Sooner or later, the animal will begin to show interest in the water container on its own. 

  • Turn on the faucet in the kitchen or bathroom. Running water attracts cats. 

  • To make your cat more interested, place toys in the water. 

Over time, he will get used to it, start playing with the toys, and wet his paws. Show the animal that swimming is not scary. Cats bathe on their own, and the bath is a foreign and strange object for them. 

  • Pick him up and put him in an empty tub or shower. 

When the animal gets comfortable, gradually begin to fill the container with warm water. Most cats will start to panic, so stop the procedure and try again after a while. 

  • Attract your pet with treats. 

If he refuses to be in the bath or shower, give him his favorite treat. Praise and pet your cat after a visit to the bathroom. Be calm, and do not yell if the cat breaks out. If you do so in the future, the procedure will be associated with stress.


Cats hate water for several reasons g including genetic, biological, psychological, and instinctual reasons. How you might conclude it yourself: there are a lot of reasons for this hatred. But still, it doesn't mean that all cats are like that or that your cat's attitude can't change. Chances are still small, but not zero. So, if you want to change this situation, you can patiently work towards enhancing it.