Why Do Cats Hate Water? 5 Reasons Behind Your Cat’s Fear Of Water

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Why Do Cats Hate Water

Domestic cats are well-known for their aversion to water, but not many know why. So why do cats hate water? Is there a scientific explanation behind your feline friends’ hydrophobia?

It’s true that mixing cats and water, more often than not, leads to chaos. But weirdly enough, despite their dislike for it, you’ll also find many cats pawing their water bowl or playing with running or dripping water.

This makes us wonder why our pet cats are so scared of it in the first place. If you’re a pet parent with a cat that hates water, you’ve come to the right page.

Here you’ll discover the whys behind your pet cat’s love-hate relationship with water, if there are cat breeds that actually like water, and more.

Why Do Cats Hate Water? 

It’s rare to find cats that like to get wet and enjoy taking a nice dip in the pool or ocean. The most cats do near water is to play with it with their paws, batting it like crazy. 

Many cats are indeed fascinated by water, but when it comes to giving your cat a full bath, cats can’t help but go berserk at the sight of a bathtub. And so we ask, why do cats hate water?

While understanding this behavior fully requires more studies, experts suggest five good reasons for your cats' hostility towards this nearly colorless, often tasteless, transparent binary compound known as water.


We can blame your kitty’s aversion to water on evolution. Wild cats, modern cat’s ancestors, lived in dry arid places with arid desert climates, which means rivers and oceans were not a common sight.

In addition, wild cats evolved with poor drinking habits since they get most of their water from their food.

Given their limited exposure to various bodies of water, cats didn’t see the need to look for water sources and learn how to swim, and this characteristic has been passed on to most modern cats.

Makes Them Feel Uncomfortable

Remember how meticulous cats are? Besides taking naps, most domestic cats spend their waking hours grooming, removing all the excess oils in their skin and coat. This makes the coat of your pet fluffy and less water-resistant (unlike dogs).

Given their fastidious nature and non-waterproof fur, you can imagine how your pets will feel when they get their coat wet.

Yes, wet fur makes a cat extremely uncomfortable, and the length of time it takes for it to dry doesn’t help one bit. Besides that, the wet coat also weighs them down – something a nimble predatory animal like your cat doesn’t find amusing.

Loss Of Control

Being the control freaks they are, your pet cat may also feel anxious when things don’t go their way.

Since your pets don’t control the bathing process, your cat may feel distressed and vulnerable. This helps explain why the first reaction of your cat after seeing a bathtub full of water is to scratch their way out of your arms and flee.


Like humans, negative experiences (like being sprayed by water without warning or accidentally falling in a full bathtub) can result in trauma.

If your pet cat or kitten had such a frightening encounter with this element, you could expect your kittens to be scarred for life.

They Can Smell The Chemicals

You might not notice it, but your cat – with its 200 million odor receptors – can sense the chemicals in tap water.

While cats love to get their paws wet while batting the tap water from your bathroom faucet, swimming into a tub filled with chemical-smelling tap water is a major turn-off for them.

Why Do Cats Hate Water? 5 Reasons Behind Your Cat’s Fear Of Water 1

Why Cats Paw Their Water

Now that you have an idea why cats hate water, you might be wondering why your cat doesn’t mind getting their paws wet.

Most cats indeed despise taking a bubble bath, but pawing it and seeing the water move seems to satisfy some of them. Why is that?

Cats Prefer Moving Water Over Still Water

For most cats, moving water looks clean and fresh compared to stagnant water. That’s why many cats drink from a running faucet instead of their water bowl.

And if they have no choice but to drink in a bowl, cats tend to paw the water before drinking it to imitate the movement of running water.

The Bowl Doesn’t Fit Your Cat’s Whiskers

Your cat’s whiskers are highly sensitive. As such, a narrow bowl that does not have enough space for your cat’s whiskers will make your cat uneasy. That’s why cats will start pawing the water and lick their paws instead.

For Exploration

Your cat is a curious animal who loves to explore stuff, water included. And since water looks so captivating, especially when light hits its moving surface, cats can’t help but touch it and play with it with their paws.

Feelings Of Insecurity

A cat may opt to paw the water whenever they’re feeling self-conscious. This allows cats to escape whenever needed. 

Are There Any Cat Breeds That Like Water?

Despite your pet cats’ ancestors’ past, certain breeds enjoy water and actually enjoy swimming or having a quick dip in the pool. 

Yes, you read it right. So if you love to keep cool by taking an occasional swim, there are certain breeds that you can bring along with you in your cool water-dipping summer adventure. This includes the following:

Interestingly, most of these breeds share a common feature. Besides their love for water, these cats are often equipped with waterproof fur. So taking a quick swim isn’t really a problem since these cats don’t mind getting wet fur.

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I Need To Bathe My Cat! What To Do?

Cats spend a lot of their time grooming themselves, which makes regularly bathing your cat unnecessary. However, there are cases wherein cats need to be bathed. This can be a big problem if your cat isn’t a water-loving kitty like a Turkish Van and if your cats dislike water. 

So what can you do as a fur mom or dad when your cat needs help cleaning themselves? Here are a few tips to keep your cat calm during the whole bathing session. This might also help you finish the task with little or no scratches.

Get Everything Ready & Within Hands Reach

Since bathing your cat has to be quick and stress-free, it’s best if you have everything you need within reach. This includes:

  • Towels (at least 2)
  • A container big enough for your cat with a skid-proof bottom
  • Damp washcloth
  • Cat-friendly shampoo and conditioner
  • Plastic pitcher or sprayer
  • Cotton balls
  • Some treats
  • A few of your cat’s favorite toys

Get Someone To Help You (If Possible)

If there’s another animal lover like you in your home who can help, ask for their assistance. This will definitely make your job a lot easier.

If there’s no one around, don’t worry. You’ll do just fine on your own. Just make sure to wear long sleeves to keep your arms protected if your cat has a fit.

Your Cat Must Be Bath Time-Ready

If you know how to clip the claws of your cat, do it. You might also want to file their nails. This way, you won’t have to worry about getting scratched if your kitty panics.

Brushing the fur of your cat beforehand also helps big time since you don’t need to worry about tugging on all the matted hair while bathing your cat.

Besides getting your cat’s fur and nails ready, it’s essential to schedule your cat’s bath time when they’re feeling calm and tired – preferably after playtime or after eating.

Bathing cats with lots of pent-up energy equates to trouble, so get the timing right.

Choose The Pour-Over Method

Suppose your cats hate water; filling the kitchen or bathroom sink with water is a bad idea. Instead of filling it up to the brim, put just a few inches of lukewarm water and use a pitcher or a gentle sprayer to wet your kitty’s fur. 

To avoid slipping (another thing your cat hates), place non-slip mats at the bottom. This will make your cat feel more secure and at ease.

Make The Experience Quick Yet Fun

Besides putting a few of your feline friend’s toys in the sink, you might want to reward your cat with some treats. You can also make their dinner extra special by adding their favorite treats to their pet food. 

Why Do Cats Hate Water? 5 Reasons Behind Your Cat’s Fear Of Water 3

Food For Thought

It’s true, most cats hate water, and that’s alright. Despite the climate changes and the like, a modern cat can survive without the need to swim. That’s that. Then again, there are exemptions to the rule, and that’s no biggie.

As fur parents, all we want is for our pets to live happy and healthy lives. If your cat doesn’t need to swim to be satisfied. That’s understandable.

On the one hand, if the behavior of your cat is already affecting the quality of his or her life,  consider this a red flag.

Your cats’ quirky behavior should never stand in the way of your kitty’s overall health and well-being. If such is the case, get in touch with your vet right away.

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