Why Do Cats Hate Water?

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
They just don’t mix – put the two together and it probably won’t end well. But why do cats hate water so much? We have a few theories.

It’s well known that the majority of cats don’t like water, especially when it comes to being completely drenched in water to take a bath. But why is it that your cat hates water? Here are a few theories we dug up.

Cats Don’t Associate Water with Happy Times

Some scientists think that housecats hate water because their owners have basically been protecting them from the elements since their ancestors were domesticated. Add to this the fact that they only typically only encounter water when they are being sprayed with it after doing something wrong, when they are being given a bath without a choice, and when they are exposed to the harsh elements of a rainstorm outside, and it really is no wonder that cats prefer staying dry as much as possible.

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His Ancestors Were Desert Cats

Another reason why the modern housecat doesn’t like water could be because his ancestors were desert cats who didn’t really have to deal with the element too much in their natural environment. As a result, these cats didn’t have to adapt to tolerate water either, so your pet cat feels the same way towards it as his ancestors did.

The Smell of Tap Water

Some cat experts feel that, because felines have such a keen sense of smell, they can pick up on the unattractive and unnatural scent of chemicals that are commonly found in tap water. So while you may see an outdoor cat who seems fine with being a little wet from the rain or who may even be checking out a small puddle and getting himself wet in the process, the same cat may not enjoy the smell of tap water, which lacks the natural and earthy smell of rain.

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Waterlogged Fur

Your cat’s top layer of fur has some degree of resistance to water, but it isn’t enough when his entire body is being soaked. Therefore, another reason that cats may hate water is because their fur becomes waterlogged, and this is quite uncomfortable for them.

Once your cat’s fur becomes totally drenched with water, it will make him feel weighed down, compromising his agility and making him vulnerable in the process. Every cat owner knows that cats hate being trapped and feeling as though they can’t get away, and a coat that’s totally wet basically creates this feeling.

Not All Felines Hate Water

Not all cats have negative feelings towards water. For example, the Turkish Van breed really loves it. This may be because the breed’s ancestors enjoyed diving into water to cool themselves off when the Lake Van region in Turkey would become extremely hot in the summer.

There are also some big cats, particularly those who live in dry and hot areas of the world, who enjoy swimming. And the Asian Fishing Cat is actually a skillful swimmer who is able to grab prey by diving into water. But there are other big cats, like leopards and lions, who avoid bodies of water because of predators, such as crocodiles, that could be living within them.

Also, some cats like just a little bit of water, such as the amount that comes out of your faucet. You may have seen videos online of cats getting their paws and heads wet by playing with the water coming out of a faucet in the kitchen or bathroom. But even though cats seem to be fascinated by water and can tolerate small amounts of it on their fur, they tend to have a different feeling towards it when they’re placed in a tub to be bathed.

Remember, every cat is unique, so while there is the generalization that cats hate water, not every feline feels the same way.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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