I’ve personally never met a cat who loves water, although I will admit I’ve seen plenty of those adorable videos of cats drinking from the tap or enjoying their time splashing around in the tub. While I think those videos are adorable, it seems like neither of my cats will ever get that comfortable.
Beau, our oldest, is absolutely terrified of water. If you turn on the tap and he’s close by, he will dart as fast as he can for safety, which can sometimes feel troubling since I don’t like to stress him out. Honestly, even the smallest amount of water terrifies Beau. If you don’t properly dry your hands after washing them and even one droplet drops onto Beau, he will run!
Kalista, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to mind water as much. More recently, Kalista has been spending time sitting by me while I take baths. While she doesn’t get in the water, she does sometimes dip her paw into it to make ripples. She also seems to enjoy the sound of splashing and will run into the bathroom anytime she hears me running the tub.
That being said, Kalista is a much bigger drinker than Beau is so perhaps there’s a correlation there.
But my cats aside, let’s dive into some scientific reasons why cats hate water!
CATS COME FROM THE DESERT
It’s easy to forget that our furry friends hail from warmer climates than most of us live in. That being said, it is hypothesized that cats dislike the sensation of water because they are not used to it.
This is also a hypothesis as to why cats don’t like to drink very much as the majority of the water they would come into contact with would be polluted by dead animals or other forms of debris.
Cats actually don’t need to drink a whole lot of water to survive, however, they are prone to dehydration or urinary tract infections if they don’t drink enough.
CATS HATE MATTED FUR
Another hypothesis was derived from the obsession cats seem to have with cleaning themselves.
Due to the fact that cats are constantly grooming themselves to make sure that their skin and fur is both clean and smooth, vets assume that cats take a strong disliking to rain/water as it causes their fur to matt.
For me, this hypothesis holds up, especially with Beau.
Beau was a stray cat who probably encountered a lot of rain while on the streets. That being said, Beau is also much more cleanly than Kalista is… to the point where he even makes sure to clean his sister if she smells.
Beau also hates his fur being tossed, although Kalista doesn’t seem to mind when we make her fur look like a mess. If you ever backcomb Beau he will immediately start grooming himself, while Kalista doesn’t. Interesting, eh?
CATS HATE BEING COLD
When I was growing up my mom used to tell me not to take a shower before bed or right before I was to go outside or I would get a cold. While that belief isn’t completely scientifically sound, my mom stood by it and even got me to grab food from the fridge or freezer anytime she had just taken a shower.
That being said, it is true that one can catch a draft or feel colder when they are wet, which may be one of the reasons why cats don’t like to be wet.
Think about where your cat is usually during the day, probably in the sunlight right? Well, the reason they love the sunlight is that cats are very susceptible to the cold, even with all of that fur!
Cats can even get cold in the summertime, which is an odd thing to think about.
If a cat’s undercoat gets wet it provides no protection from the moisture and can lead to hypothermia (which is fairly common in stray cats.)
If you are ever concerned about your cat being cold make sure to check their ears and tails. If either is cold then it’s a sign that you’re going to have to raise the heat in your home or provide a nice warm place for your cat to sleep.
WET FUR IS VERY HEAVY AND UNCOMFORTABLE
Have you ever gone swimming in a shirt or have you ever been soaked in the rain? Did your clothes absorb all the water and make you feel heavier?
Well, cats are the same way!
Due to the fact that fur is absorbent and retains water, it can safely be assumed that cats feel a lot heavier when they are wet, especially after a soak in the tub or in a rainstorm.
That being said, the extra weight will make it more difficult for your cat to jump or maneuver themselves around the house making water something they don’t want to be around.
YOUR CAT MAY HATE THE SMELL OF YOUR TAP WATER
This is a very interesting hypothesis that I was never exposed to until about 6 months ago when Beau refused to eat or drink.
Due to the fact that cats have a more acute sense of smell than we do, it can be safely assumed that cats can smell the chemicals that are inside of our tap water. If a cat suspects that there is something foul in that water they will refuse to drink or come near it (similar to cats and stagnant water).
That being said, this hypothesis was proven by Beau not drinking since the water was actually treated differently in the part of the city we moved to. Perhaps Beau noticed the difference and became hesitant of eating/drinking because of the chemical differences.
If ever you move and your cat becomes disinterested in drinking water, it would be wise to buy a case of bottled water. Trust me, I’m not a fan of bottled water, but it’s a good way to gauge whether your cat is sick or whether they are just not a fan of water from the tap.
CATS PREFER RUNNING WATER
You may notice that your cat will drink water from the tap, but not from a bowl… why is that?
Well, it also stems from evolution.
Cats, being the smart animals that they are, realized that stagnant water often made them sick. Again, this was due to the debris and carcasses that could commonly be found in stagnant water, so they began looking for running water from rivers (as the debris and other bacteria would travel downstream and not affect the cats.)
That being said, this is why water fountains are a great way to help encourage your cat to drink as it helps trick the cat into believing that it is a stream or running water.
On a less “evolutionary” point, cats also prefer running water just because of the noise it makes. Have you ever turned on a YouTube video with birds chirping or leaves crinkling to make your cat go wild? Well, sometimes dripping has the same effect for cats! Not only that, but it can also remind them that they are thirsty.
WATER CAN LEAD TO EAR INFECTIONS
Although not the most common, water can actually cause cats to get ear infections if it gets trapped in your cat’s ear.
This is due to the little space between the ear flap and the eardrum and due to how steep the canal is. If water gets inside… it’s going to be very hard to get it out!
CAN I GET MY CAT TO LIKE WATER?
You can definitely try to get your cat to like water, though I can’t guarantee it.
It is best to introduce your cat to water slowly by filling your tub with very shallow water, or introducing them to the water while it drips. Cats tend to do fairly well with dripping water as it creates a very stimulating sound and it’s actually why water fountains are such big winners when it comes to helping your cat drink more.
ALRIGHT, I WANT TO GIVE MY CAT A BATH, ANY ADVICE?
Introduce your cat to the basin or tub that you are hoping to wash them in while it is empty
Make sure that you provide lots of positive stimuli in and around the tub or basin.
If your cat seems comfortable in the tub or basin you can begin washing them with a warm cloth
- Make sure that you do not wash your cat in hot water as your cat can easily be burned or scalded
If your cat is comfortable with the warm cloth bath begin filling the tub with an inch of warm water
If your cat is comfortable with the water in the bath, you may choose to use a pitcher or a container to pour water onto your cat
Remember to thoroughly rinse your cat’s fur out from the shampoo or soap that you use.
Towel Dry your Cat Thoroughly
- Please never use a hairdryer as it has the potential to both burn/scald and scare your cat.
Reward your cat by petting them or giving them treats, toys or catnip
- It is extremely important to reward your cat after a bath as it will remind them that this is a positive experience.
ARE THERE ANY BREEDS THAT ARE MORE TOLERANT OF WATER?
Absolutely! The most tolerant of water seems to be the Turkish Van which has also been nicknamed “the swimming cat.”
While we can’t say for sure why cats hate water, there are some concrete guesses out there about why.
Personally, I feel like each cat likes or dislikes water based on their own experiences, however, one thing is for certain… if a cat is exposed to water from a young age they seem to be less bothered by it.
I will not go claiming that you can teach any cat to like water, however, if slowly introduced it should be possible to make any cat at least tolerate a warm wet cloth.
So I’m curious, how many of your cats like water? Did you have to teach them to like the water or were they born with an appreciate for water? Let me know in the comments below.