Why Are Cats Afraid of Water?


Your cat is so afraid of water because it is not accustomed to getting wet. Originally, most cat species grew up in arid and semi-arid areas, where water was scarce. Also, when it comes to house cats, they are always in the house. Since they are rarely rained on or exposed, they fear the exposure.

Note that it is only some breeds that are afraid of water. Some are not, especially those whose ancestry had water exposure. If you have a Maine Coon, Turkish Van, or Abyssinian breed, you will realize that they enjoy getting wet.

And it is not only about exposure;

So, Why is My Cat So Afraid of Water?

Do you know why cats are afraid (like to cucumber) of water and will not swim if they can avoid it? There are several reasons why your cat prefers to only play with dripping water and fight when it comes to a bath. Let’s skip into these fascinating facts;

  1. Ancestry

The most basic reasoning that animal behaviorists associate with the pets’ fear of water is their ancestry. Cats were initially wild animals, growing up in jungles that are in semi-desert areas. Therefore, water was never part of their environment.

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Cat Learns to Dance

Cats are carnivorous, and the little water that their bodies need is easily provided in fresh meat. If you have noticed, even today, your cat will barely touch its water bowl if it has a supply of fresh meat or wet cat food.

Therefore, cats were never part of the troop when other animals had to dip their feet and bodies in water to drink. The cats hence evolved in this nature.

Nevertheless, cats that have their ancestry linked to water, such as the Turkish Van that had access to the beach, really love water even to date. Others that had to travel across continents or were used in ships and dhows to get rid of rodents also interacted with water. Therefore, these breeds still have a better affinity to water.

  1. Cat Experiences with Water

It is common knowledge that people defend themselves against cats using water sprays. So, your cat came playing around you and, by sheer mistake, scratched you with its paws.

In retaliation, you immediately got a water spray and got the cat’s face all wet with the water.

Surprisingly, even if it was just a kitten, your cat never forgot. It took it seriously that water can be used against it.

And now that you want to bathe it with the same element used against it.

Another instance is that your cat may have had a traumatizing experience with water. It probably almost drowned in water as a kitten, and this terrified the feline animal. Or, it was rained on without shelter to the extent that it was terrified.

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 All these instances may contribute to your cat’s fear of water.

  1. Water Takes Time to Dry on Cats

Unlike other animals whose inner skin is resilient to water, the cat’s inner skin literally absorbs water. Thus, when the cat gets wet, it really takes a long time to dry.

Now take an instance where the cat got wet, and it was cold. It takes too long to dry, and it doesn’t take the shiver lightly. Therefore, next time it will avoid the water or the bath by all means.

  1. Water Makes the Cat Coat Heavy

As we have pointed out above, the cat takes a long time to dry. Even worse, the cat coat really gets soaked up in the water and weighs the cat down.

Consequently, the cat can neither play, run nor jump as it wishes. It makes the cat quite dull, an experience that cars do not appreciate. 

Then there is the fact that the added weight exposes the cat to predators. It will not run or jump as it should if a predator is in the area, hence risky.

  1. Bathing the Cat Takes Away Its Scent

Cats have a natural scent, which makes it easy for them to identify familiar cats and relatives. Though cats are lone animals, the scent assures them of a social life whenever they encounter familiar cats.

When you bathe the cat’s fur, you will remove this scent essential to the cat. It will take time for the cat to regain the scent, hence their fear of water.

  1. Water has Chemicals that Cats Smell.

Tap and swimming pool water have treatment chemicals. Sometimes we can smell the chemicals, but this is rare. However, for our heightened-smell feline friends, the smell is fresh and pungent.

The smell is contrary to the cat’s natural smell, and it can’t imagine exchanging its sweet scent for the strange chemical smell.

  1. You are Adding to Its Grooming Work

Cats will always bathe themselves with their tongues, even if you don’t. Their tongues are rough and sandpaper-like to allow them to clean and brush their fur.

When you try to bathe them, they know you are taking the scent they spread on their fur away. They will have to re-groom to get it back, so you technically add to their grooming tasks.

  1. The Cat Did Not Interact with With Water as a Kitten

If your cat were never introduced to a lot of water from a young age, it wouldn’t be easy to introduce the habit to an adult cat. It is just a strange thing to get all wet from water to resist the bath.

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After all, cats are quite cautious, and they will not do strange things that they are not sure about.

  1. Cats Like to Be Safe

Have you seen your cat obsessed with dripping tap water? Or, did you realize that the cat loves small water pools and can stand beside the pool for minutes or even hours? All this is because your cat is in control.

Cats want to run when necessary, and they will only love situations that give them this option. 

When you put your cat in a bathtub, you rob it of its freedom. If anything happens, the surface is too slippery to run, and its fur will be too heavy for a good jump.

Do Cats Really Fear Water?

A good number of cats really fear water, but this will depend on its previous interaction with water.

If the cat has been in a situation where they almost drowned or were threatened with water sprays, they may develop hydrophobia. However, cats who know water only to be a source of hydration, hygiene, and cooling will not have water problems.

Besides, even cats who will not appreciate a water bath will still play with tiny water droplets and pools. This means that the cats don’t fear water; they don’t like the large amounts of bathing water.

Cats Hate Bathing in Water, True or False?

True and false. Cats that are not accustomed to water tubs will hate bathing in water.  On the other hand, cats that grow up near beaches or bathing since kittens love bathing in water.

Thus, the answer will depend on the individual cat and its interaction with water.

Why Do Cats Hate Water But Love Fish?

Cats that hate water only love fish because it smells and tastes delicious to them. They don’t care or don’t even know that fish is a water animal. Besides, cats are carnivorous, and an opportunity at a soft delicacy will always be welcome.

Then some cats do not hate water. These cats, commonly referred to as fishing cats, will swim in the water and get the fish if they can catch one.

How Do I Get My Cat to Not Be Afraid of Water?

Sometimes you also want to have a good time with your cat at the swimming pool, like the dog owners. And even if you don’t want your cat to go to that extreme, it is hygienic to bathe your cat occasionally.

So, how do you get comfortable with your cat in water for either of these situations? Here are intrinsic tips that you should consider:

First, get your cat to love the bathtub. You can do this by bringing your cat to an empty bathtub and playing with it there.  Also, bring its toys as well to give it an enjoyable experience with the bathtub.

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Let the warm water flow into the tub for the cat to feel some wetness under its paws. If it continues playing and is not bothered, continue with the process.

Then, add warm water to the bathtub, preferably only enough to cover the cat’s paws. Watch the cat’s reaction as you play with the water and splash it around the tub gently.

Use a cup or a tin to wet his fur, and at this moment, he might not react as aggressively towards the act as before. However, if the cat still resists, do not force it. You’d rather have another day for the training rather than worsen its fear of water.

When your cat is finally ready, ensure that you use cat products for bathing the cat. These should be products that are friendly to the cat fur and those that will not be harmful to the eyes because the cat might not close its eyes.

Once you are done bathing, rinse your cat and wipe it with a soft clean towel. If you dry your cat, you will eliminate its fear of shivering from wetness. At the same time, the cat will not have to deal with a heavy coat, hence minimizing its fear of water.

Should I Bathe My Cat?

Cats are clean animals, and they know how to groom even without yourself. However, it is necessary to bathe your cat at least once a month so that you get rid of excess dirt. Though thorough, the cat saliva is not enough to eliminate all the dirt cats encounter indoors and outdoors.

However, ensure that you don’t scratch your cat too much to weaken its fur. Also, use cat bathing shampoo that will keep it clean and safe. 

Why Are Cats Afraid of Water?

Your cat is afraid of water because it dreads having to deal with a wet coat. It may also not have a background in swimming and bathing, hence the reaction towards a lot of water.

In a Nutshell;

Cats are afraid of water for different reasons or a combination of several. Majorly, they dislike water because they are not adapted to the element. 

However, it is possible to have your cat change its attitude towards water. If your cat is afraid of water, using friendlier approaches ensures that your cat finally has a different view of the water. After all, you will occasionally need to bathe your cat. And you don’t want it freaking to death in case you visit the country and it is raining outdoors, right?

Dinu Sri Madusanka

Dinu Sri Madusanka is a science graduate (B.Sc.) who is currently pursuing his Ph.D. He is a well-experienced writer with more than 7 years of experience. He interests in writing mostly animal welfare and advance technologies. Even though he is busy with research works, in his free time, he gives his contribution to several blogs by writing, reviewing, and analyzing information to provide more accurate and useful information for the reader. WalkwithCat is one of his major contributing places which is dedicated to improving the knowledge of cat parents.

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