Why Do Cats Hate Water?

Most cats dislike being submersed in water.

Most people who have shared their lives with cats have found out that our feline friends are not crazy about baths. In fact, some of them get downright angry about that tub full of water, and they won't hesitate to claw their way out of the situation. This begs the question: Why do cats hate water?

Cats Like to Experience Life on Their Terms

It may surprise you to find your kitty dipping his paw into his water bowl and then shaking it out, climbing on the counter to explore a leaky faucet, or actually begging you to turn on a tap so he can drink right out of it. Some cats even put their heads in the water and play a bit. Why would your cat do these things, but hate to be bathed?

Cats don't like surprises. They like to approach experiences with their own timing and ability to change their mind at any time. When you grab your cat and stick him into a tub full of water, he hasn't had time to decide if it's something that's safe or not. His fight or flight mechanism may kick in, causing him to wildly try to escape, or he may yowl in frustration and anger through the entire bath.

Cats are Sensitive to Smells

Cats can smell the chemicals in tap water much more acutely than humans can. Some cats don't even like to drink tap water because of their sensitivity to its odor.

Cats' Coats Get Heavy When Wet

The top layer of a cat's coat generally has some water-resistance. However, if the coat is completely drenched, it becomes quite heavy. This probably makes the cat feel like he isn't as maneuverable or fast as usual. Cats like to know that they can get out of a situation any time they need to, so feeling heavy and slow is an unwelcome sensation.

Cats Get Cold Easily

Cats maintain a higher body temperature than humans, and it's harder for them to get and stay warm. Being draped in heavy, wet fur is cold.

Water Was Not a Big Part of Most Cats' Evolution

Most domestic cats descend from felines that lived in arid regions. Water simply may not have been a big part of their evolutionary consciousness. Some cats that came from watery areas do seem to like water. In fact, the Turkish Van is known for loving to swim and play in water. These cats come from an area of Turkey with a large lake, and cats there would swim out to meet the fishing boats that their humans worked on. They ate fish and kept rodents off of the boats. There are also some jungle cats that fish for food. These cats will sit on the edge of water waiting for a meal, and some even sit in the water.

Can You Teach Your Cat to Enjoy Bath Time?

It may be possible to help some cats learn not to hate baths. Following are some steps for acclimating your cat to water. During every step, use praise and treats to reward your cat for participating.

Don't use human shampoos, flea shampoos, or medicated shampoos unless your veterinarian recommends one. Use a mild shampoo made for cats.

If you can't get your cat to accept baths, the good news is that our feline friends shouldn't need them too often. Cats are usually fastidious groomers and also tend to stay out of messy situations. If your cat suddenly stops grooming well, it may indicate that he isn't feeling well. See a veterinarian if this occurs. If your cat does get into something sticky or stinky and won't tolerate a bath, here are a few options:

With some patience and understanding on your part, your cat can learn to love baths. Or maybe tolerate them. Or maybe still not accept them at all, but at least you'll understand why.


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