BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

Why Do Cats Hate Water: Make Your Furry Pet Fall In Love With Water

cat hating water
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

If you’re a new cat parent, you must have been warned by your other cat-loving friends—cats absolutely detest water. If you’ve tried giving your feline pet a nice warm bath, you must have been surprised by your pet’s extreme reaction. Didn’t it make you wonder why do cats hate water so much?

Cats being cats, your pet probably has her own reason why she detests taking a bath-reasons that defy human logic. Understanding your pet’s aversion to water may help you stay calm and patient the next time you bathe your cat. And it may also help you find other ways to help keep your cat clean. More importantly, you won’t get torn into ribbons trying to bathe your cat.

In this article, we’ll first share with you some of the common reasons why cats don’t like water. But then again, there’s always an exception to the rule, so we’ll tell you about the cat breeds that actually love playing with water. Next, we’ll give you some tips on how you can persuade your furry companion to take a bath. Sometimes, though, a bath is simply not possible, so we’ll also give you some ideas for bath alternatives.

Feline Aversion to Water Explained

gray cat afraiding of water

Cats don’t really hate water—they just really don’t like getting drenched. And there are many reasons for this.

#1: Evolution

First off, it’s in the way they evolved. When cats were first domesticated thousands of years ago, bathtubs weren’t really in vogue yet. And those prehistoric cats were most probably not trained to go for weekly baths.

Historically, cats evolved in an arid environment. Picture the sand dunes of Egypt, and you can begin to imagine why fully immersing one’s self in a body of water is simply not a thing for cats.

Domestic cats definitely evolved differently compared to tigers and lions. Those wildcats enjoy taking a dip from time to time, but not domestic cats.

#2: Cats are Extremely Sensitive to Odors

In addition to evolutionary reasons, your cat also has personal reasons why she doesn’t like taking a bath.

Since cats have a very keen sense of smell, they can smell even the slightest amount of chlorine in tap water. Or your pet may simply hate the smell of the cat shampoo you’re using.

Water interferes with your pet’s scent markers. Cats have scent glands that are used for the production of pheromones. Cats use these for communication and marking. However, when they get all soaked in water, it interferes with this function.

#3: Negative Experiences with Water

wet kitten in water

Cats have good long-term memory. And if they experienced something negative associated with water, like being forced into a flea bath, you can be sure that they will remember that for a long time.

See Also: How Long is a Cat’s Memory

#4: Waterlogged Fur

Your pet’s fur also has something to do with why your cat hates being submerged in the bathtub. The top layer of cat fur is actually water resistant, but only to a certain degree.

When you fully submerge your pet’s body in water, it causes your cat’s fur to become soaked and waterlogged. That can cause a heavy and burdensome feeling, making your pet extremely uncomfortable.

Being weighed down by a waterlogged fur can also interfere with your pet’s agility. In addition, cat fur doesn’t easily dry and wet fur can make your cat feel cold.

Cat Breeds That Actually Love to Play with Water

The fact that cats hate taking a bath is widely known. But not all cats hate water, as evidenced by the numerous videos and pictures of swimming cats you can find online. There are certain feline breeds that are known for their love of water.

#1: Turkish Van

Turkish van swimming

This cat breed is known as the swimming cat. Turkish Vans are quite unique in that they don’t just like getting wet—they actually swim. These cats are highly active and very athletic, although their bodies are quite big and ungainly.

But swimming isn’t a natural skill for cats, so if you have a pool, you may need to take some precautions. During summer, though, it won’t be such a bad idea to buy your Turkish Van a kiddie pool that she can use to escape the heat.

#2: Turkish Angora

Turkish angora lying

Beautiful and very delicate looking, Turkish Angora cats also have a propensity for playing with water, just like Turkish Vans do. If you’ve got one, you may have experienced coming home to see your pet playing with the faucet in your kitchen sink.

#3: Maine Coon

Maine Coon swimming

These huge cats were popular as ship cats back in the 19th century New England. Perhaps because they’re accustomed to the sea, they’re no longer afraid of smaller bodies of water.

They do have a dense coat that helps repel water, so that’s probably one of the reasons why they’re not afraid of getting wet. Maine Coons are known for their gentle nature, although males will often show silly kittenish behavior. But that’s just part of their charm.

#4: Norwegian Forest

Norwegian Forest sitting in river

Just like the Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest cats also have thick coats and love to play in the water. Even better, these cats are known for their amazing fishing skills. If you have an aquarium at home, make sure your fish is well protected from your Norwegian Forest pet.

#5: Japanese Bobtail

Japanese bobtail

These cats were born on an island, so that may help explain why Japanese Bobtails often find it hard to refrain themselves from splashing about whenever they see water, be it your bathtub, aquarium, or koi pond.

Japanese Bobtails are quite intelligent; they can figure out how to turn the faucet on. So make sure you always check your faucets, just in case your pet has decided to run a bath for herself.

#6: Bengal

Bengal cats in bath

Beautifully exotic looking, Bengal cats are also known for their love of water, which may be a result of their genetic heritage. This breed was created by crossing a domestic cat with an Asian Leopard cat.

Perhaps because Bengal cats were bred from a wildcat, their bodies are extremely muscular and strong. Bengals are known for their grace, agility, and athleticism. They’re also very intelligent and active, although you may find them too active for your own peace of mind.

#7: Manx

Manx cat

Another island-born cat, the Manx hails from the Isle of Man. If you have a Manx cat, you may be pleasantly surprised if you find your pet wanting to join you while you’re taking a shower.

Manx cats are very alert and have extraordinary hunting skills. You won’t need a watchdog if you’ve got a Manx; your feline pet will take care of any intruders.

How to Convince Your Furry Pet to Bathe

kittens in the sink

Unfortunately, not all cats are like Turkish Vans that willingly go into the water by themselves. In your pet’s case, you probably need to coax and bribe your cat every time she needs to take a bath. Here are some tips for you.

  • The earlier, the better. Cats are creatures of habit, and it’s better to start the habit while your pet is still young. If you acclimatize your pet to taking a bath while she’s still a kitten, the more likely that your pet will learn to get used to it.

  • Help your cat get comfortable in the space where you’ll bathe her. This can be a plastic wash bin, in the bathroom sink, or in your bathtub. If you’re just starting to train your pet, don’t fill the space with water yet.

  • Just place some of your pet’s toys in there to encourage your cat to get in. Give your pet a treat if she went in on her own.

  • When your cat is already used to getting in the tub and playing there, try filling the tub with just an inch of water, just enough to get your cat’s paws wet, nothing more. The idea is to get your pet accustomed to the feel of water. Don’t forget the toys, and make sure you use praises and words of encouragement.

  • Once your pet is comfortable with splashing about, try adding more water. If your cat doesn’t object to the added depth, or if your pet still feels comfortable playing in the water, then it might be time for a real bath.

  • Before you soak your pet in water, make sure you prepare everything beforehand so that you’ll both be done with the bath as quickly as possible. Prepare the towel for drying your pet, place the cat shampoo by the tub, and make sure your cat’s favorite toy is in there, too.

  • Cats get cold easily, so you need to make sure that the water is warm. Gently ease your pet into the water, starting with the paws first.

  • By now, your pet should already be accustomed to the feel of water on her paws, so she shouldn’t be panicking. To keep your cat calm during the bath, talk to her in a gentle tone.

  • Stay calm yourself while you’re bathing your cat. Your cat will feel nervous if she can sense you’re nervous. Even when your cat is struggling to get out of the tub, try to use as little restraint as possible. If you’re too forceful, your cat may remember bathing as a traumatic experience.

  • Make sure you use a mild cat shampoo. Shampoos formulated for humans can irritate your cat’s skin or may even cause an allergic reaction. If this is the first time you’re bathing your cat, only use a medicated shampoo or flea shampoo if your vet says it’s ok.

  • Lather the shampoo from your cat’s head going to the tail. Make sure you massage your cat’s skin gently while working the shampoo into your pet’s coat. After applying the shampoo, rinse at least twice. This is to ensure that no shampoo residue remains on your cat’s coat and skin.

  • After bathing your pet, make sure you towel her dry. If you’ve got a microfiber towel, use that one since it’s very absorbent and it can help dry your cat more quickly. Your pet may feel cold while bathing, so make sure you provide a warm place where she can curl up and get warm after the bath.

  • If you’re using a blow dryer, make sure you keep it on low and don’t place it too near your cat’s fur. Your cat’s skin is very sensitive, and she can get burned by the heat coming from the blow dryer. Try to use a blow dryer that isn’t too noisy to operate, since your cat may become frightened by the noise.

See Also: How to Bathe a Cat

Alternatives to Bathing

bathing a kitten

There are times when a bath isn’t good for your cat, like if your pet isn’t feeling well, or if only a small area on her fur is dirty or sticky. In cases like these, you shouldn’t force your cat to bathe. Here are some alternatives to help keep your cat get clean.

#1: Sponge Bath

Sponge baths are great for when your pet’s fur is dirty or sticky. Simply apply cat shampoo to a sponge or a piece of cloth then wipe it on the dirty spot or all over your pet’s body.

Rinse the sponge, then wipe your cat again to rinse off the cat shampoo. Once you are done, towel dry your cat.

#2: Waterless Shampoo

Waterless shampoo for cats

You can buy a waterless shampoo specially formulated for cats at your local pet store or maybe at your vet’s. These are really convenient since you can just lather the shampoo onto your pet’s fur and there’s no need for rinsing.

#3: Grooming Services

If your cat’s reaction to taking a bath at home is too extreme, or if you can’t give your cat a bath because you’re busy or are not feeling well yourself, having a professional groomer do it for you is a great option.

#4: Brush Regularly

brushing orange cat

Cats are typically fastidious, even obsessive, groomers. They normally clean themselves off all the time, so you may not need to give your cat a bath often. However, if your cat has dander, you may want to bathe your cat more frequently.

Brushing your pet’s coat regularly can help with this problem. Your cat produces natural oils. These get distributed across your pet’s fur when you gently brush your cat’s coat. These oils actually help naturally lessen cat dander.

Wrap Up

cat hating bathing

Do you know of any other ways to train a cat to love bath time? If you have any other tips, please share them with us. Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions. Once you deem your cat ready for a bath, you may also want to know how to make a DIY cat shampoo.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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