Can Cats Be In Water?


Cats have a reputation for disliking water and avoiding it at all costs. Yet many cat owners have experienced their feline friends showing curiosity, and even enjoyment, around water. From splashing in puddles to experimenting with running faucets, some cats defy the stereotype of cats hating water.

The relationship between cats and water is complex and ranges across a spectrum. While most cats prefer to stay dry, under certain circumstances, they can take to water and may even learn to swim. With proper training and precautions, some cats can be conditioned to enjoy baths, pools, and other water activities.

This article dives into cats’ mysterious connection with water. We’ll uncover why cats are often averse to getting wet, while also exploring examples of water-loving felines. From fishing cats to pool-swimming cats, we’ll show how some kitties can thrive around water.

Can Cats Swim?

Most cats are able to swim if needed in a life or death situation, although they generally try to avoid getting in the water. Cats have some natural advantages that enable them to stay afloat, such as their light bone structure, quick reflexes, and ability to spread their toes to paddle (

While cats are capable swimmers, they typically do not enjoy being in the water and lack endurance in swimming. Domestic cats are not adapted for swimming the way some wild cat species like tigers, fishing cats, and jaguars are. House cats tend to panic when placed in deep water and can only swim for short spurts before needing to rest (

So in summary, cats can swim and paddle to survive if needed, but they are not natural swimmers and do not have the strength or stamina for extended swims. Their lack of aquatic adaptation means most house cats try to avoid getting in deep water.

Why Don’t Cats Like Water?

Cats tend to dislike and avoid water primarily because their fur takes a long time to dry, and remaining wet for long periods can lower their body temperature and make them uncomfortable or sick (1). Their natural instinct is to stay dry, as evidenced by their constant grooming habits. Additionally, domestic cats do not have any biological need to swim or interact with water in the wild, unlike some big cats that regularly swim (2).

On an evolutionary level, cats likely developed an aversion to water partly because their wild ancestors like African wildcats inhabit arid, desert regions and have no need to swim or get wet (1). Other experts believe the dislike stems from house cats’ limited experience around water bodies early in life compared to dogs. Without positive exposure, water remains an unfamiliar substance that makes cats anxious. Cats may also dislike the sound of running water or its unpredictable, chaotic movements (2).

Whatever the exact roots may be, most house cats will go to great lengths to avoid getting wet. Bathing cats is notoriously difficult as a result. However, with slow introduction and positive reinforcement some cats can learn to accept or even enjoy water.



Bathing Cats

Bathing cats can be a challenging task for many cat owners. Cats are meticulously clean animals that groom themselves multiple times a day, so they often do not need baths as frequently as other pets. However, there are some circumstances where bathing a cat is necessary for their health and hygiene. Here are some tips for successfully bathing your feline friend:

Choose a cat-friendly shampoo to avoid irritating their sensitive skin. Look for a gentle, soap-free formula made specifically for cats. Avoid using human shampoo on cats. According to groomers, cat shampoo is safer if ingested during the bath.

Set up the bathing area in advance. Have towels, treats, cotton balls, and all supplies ready before starting. Choose a room with a door to contain splashing.

Use lukewarm water to wet your cat. Cats prefer warmer bath temperatures. Thoroughly wet their body while avoiding their face.

Lather the shampoo gently into their coat, massaging it in with your hands. Focus on dirty areas but avoid getting soap near their eyes.

Rinse thoroughly to get all traces of shampoo out. This prevents skin irritation and residue they may lick off later.

Dry your cat with towels immediately after the bath. Absorb excess water gently to keep them from getting chilled.

Reward your cat with treats and praise for being cooperative. This positive reinforcement makes future baths easier.

With some preparation and patience, bathing your cat can be accomplished smoothly. Proper technique and cat-safe products keep your kitty clean while respecting their sensitive skin and temperament.

Cats That Like Water

Certain breeds of cats enjoy interacting with water much more than the average house cat. The Turkish Van is known as “the swimming cat” and will happily join their owners for a dip. They have a unique partial water repellent coat that allows them to swim without getting weighed down (1). The Turkish Angora is also an avid swimmer and has a silky coat that doesn’t soak up water (2). Other water loving breeds include the playful Bengal, the fluffy Maine Coon, and the energetic Norwegian Forest Cat. These breeds likely developed their aquatic tendencies in their native environments over many generations. While not all cats of these breeds will voluntarily swim, they are generally more inclined to play in, splash in, or relax around water compared to other domestic cats.

Swimming with Cats

Swimming can be a fun activity for some cats, but there are important precautions cat owners should take when allowing their cats to swim. Cats have some natural swimming abilities, but they tire easily compared to animals that are adapted for swimming like dogs. It’s important to never leave a cat unsupervised around water.

When introducing cats to water, do it slowly and let them set the pace. Don’t throw a cat into water or force them in against their will. Let them get used to the feel of water by first placing their paws in or letting them sit on the edge of a pool or bathtub. Provide ramps or steps so they can exit easily. Stay within arm’s reach of cats when they are in water in case they start to struggle.

Do not allow cats to enter pools with automatic covers, as they can get trapped underneath. Chlorine and other pool chemicals can irritate a cat’s eyes and skin, so provide ample washing facilities. Use life jackets designed for pets when taking cats boating or near rough waters. Keep a close eye out for signs of fatigue or distress. Cats’ safety should always come first when engaging in any water activities.

While some cats learn to enjoy the water, others prefer to stay on dry land. Never force a cat into an uncomfortable situation. With proper precautions, swimming can be a rewarding experience for both cats and their owners.

Life Jackets for Cats

Cat owners who want to take their cats out on the water may want to invest in a cat life jacket for added safety and flotation. There are a few options on the market designed specifically for cats:

The SurferCat Life Jacket is designed for cats under 15 lbs and features an easy to grip handle, reflective strip, and adjustable velcro straps for a secure fit. It’s constructed from neoprene for comfort and buoyancy.

The Paws Aboard Neoprene Life Jacket is another popular option made from breathable neoprene. It has adjustable straps and a grab handle, plus a D-ring for attaching a leash.

No matter which life jacket you choose, make sure to get the right size for a proper fit. Always supervise cats when in water and never leave them unattended, even with a life jacket on.

Water Therapy for Cats

Water therapy, also known as hydrotherapy, can provide many benefits for cats. The properties of water can help cats by providing buoyancy and resistance which reduces stress on joints and encourages mobility. Water also provides gentle resistance that can help build muscle strength and endurance over time.

Some key benefits of water therapy for cats include:

  • Improved mobility for cats with arthritis or joint problems
  • Building muscle strength after an injury or surgery
  • Weight management by providing low-impact exercise
  • Pain relief by taking pressure off sore joints
  • Increased flexibility and range of motion
  • Cardiovascular conditioning

Water therapy is often used for rehabilitation and recovery in cats, but it can also be used for general conditioning and health maintenance. Sessions typically take place in a special tank or pool with warm water. The water provides a soothing environment for cats to move freely and exercise without putting too much stress on their bodies. With proper technique and precautions, water therapy can be a beneficial therapy option for cats under veterinary supervision.

According to vets, water therapy is generally safe for cats when done properly ( Most cats don’t instinctively take to water, so introducing it slowly while making the experience positive and rewarding is important.

Cats Fishing

Some cats have a natural instinct for fishing and catching live prey from rivers, lakes, and oceans. There are many stories of domestic cats who surprise their owners by proudly bringing home fish they’ve caught. While not all cats are adept fishers, some breeds like Turkish Vans and Turkish Angoras were originally bred near water and are comfortable swimming and fishing.

One viral video featured a cat named Oliver who jumped into a harbor, swam over to a dock, and pawed a fish out of the water before carrying it away in his mouth. Experts speculated Oliver honed his fishing skills by observing humans catch fish near his home. There are also videos of house cats eagerly pawing at live fish in tanks or ponds in an attempt to catch their prey.

Cats likely rely on their lightning-fast reflexes and excellent underwater vision to spot and snag fish. Their stealthy movements and patient waiting give them an edge when fishing. While cats aren’t equipped with retractable claws for grabbing fish like some mammals, their fierce paw swipes and bites help them catch their aquatic prey. Once a cat latches onto a fish with its teeth, it’s unlikely the fish will escape.

So if your cat starts displaying a keen interest in water, beware that you may come home to find a fresh catch of the day! With their skill and determination, some cats seem wired for fishing.


In summary, cats are often believed to dislike water, but the reality is more nuanced. While most felines will avoid getting wet, some breeds like Turkish Vans, Maine Coons, and Bengals actually enjoy swimming and playing in water. With proper introduction and training, many domestic cats can learn to tolerate, if not enjoy, some water activities. However, forcing cats into water should always be avoided, as this will only make them more fearful. With patience and care, cat guardians can find safe and enriching ways to engage their felines’ curiosity with water and promote their confidence and wellbeing. Whether teaching them to accept baths or even go fishing together, integrating water positively into a cat’s life is possible. With the right approach tailored to each individual cat’s personality, even those initially afraid of water may surprise us by their aquatic adaptability.

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