Why do cats hate getting wet?
Why do cats hate getting wet?

Why do cats hate getting wet?

23rd Nov 2023

Whether you’ve seen it happen on an internet video-clip, a cartoon, or in real life, a cat accidentally slipping into a full bathtub or over-stretching and ending up in the fishpond, has an almost universal reaction that all of us can picture. The panic, the terror, and the ungraceful dart to the nearest exit for dry land. Like most mammals, cats have the natural instinct to be able to swim, but unless an emergency, most will choose not to!

The ancestors of domestic cats lived in dry arid places and so had very little interaction with bodies of water. This means that they had no evolutionary reason to become comfortable with water and instead they developed a “fear of the unknown”.

On a practical level, getting wet for most cats is a nightmare. Their coats are not typically waterproof, instead they are absorbent and very slow to dry. Not only is this very uncomfortable, but it also makes them slow and less agile, making them an easy target for predators that would usually struggle to keep up with a nimble cat.

Cats like to be in control. Their movements in water can be erratic and in addition to this, surfaces can become slippery, making them feel like they are not in full control.

Cats also avoid water because they are self-groomers. They spend a large portion of their time carefully grooming themselves. Any water touching their fur will undo their good work and wash away their scent and pheromones. Cats have a very keen sense of smell and even the chemicals in tap water smell strongly to them, so it is quite understandable that they would not want to douse themselves in it!

However, not all cats hate water, and some breeds actually enjoy it. The Turkish Van is a breed famous for its love of water and swimming. As they have a waterproof coat, they are well adapted to hunt the fish in their namesake, ‘Lake Van’ in Turkey. They also swim just for fun. Other breeds that are known to voluntarily enter the water are Norwegian Forest Cats, Maine Coons, Bengals, and Abyssinians.

Members of the big-cat family living in hot climates also like to take a dip in water to cool off, or to hunt. Tigers have evolved to live in jungle environments and are particularly capable swimmers. Their webbed paws and muscular bodies help them to move through the water with ease.

Your cat may be curious to bat or play with the water in your home or garden, and this will do them no harm. Of course, let them play and explore at their own pace but never force them into water.