Cats are notorious for hating water. Luckily, bathing a cat is rarely needed. But have you ever wondered why they hate water so much? There are probable behavioral and possibly biological reasons for this.
Some cats actually like the water!
Cats are funny creatures, some actually do like water! It is not uncommon for some owners to mention their cat’s affinity for it. Splashing and pawing at streams of water probably have more to do with the play on light and shininess of the water than anything else.
Some breeds of cats are actually known for enjoying swimming, such as the Turkish Van, which has been nicknamed “the swimming cat” for that reason.
Three reasons why most cats don’t like the water
1. Behaviorally cats are generally less tolerant of change and new experiences than, say, the dog. A cat that has never been exposed to water probably won’t like the feeling of having their body drenched in it. A cat that has regularly been exposed to water as kitten may be more accepting of it.
2. Cats are also very fastidious creatures. They spend a lot of time grooming themselves and likely aren’t big fans of having anything that doesn’t smell “normal” on their fur. In their eyes, you’re creating more work for them by bathing them.
3. There are likely biological reasons as well. Even though many cats love the taste of fish, they are not ocean or river dwelling creatures historically. The domesticated cats are descendants of felines that typically live in dry arid areas. They have never learned to swim because there was no evolutionary need for it. This behavior, or lack thereof, has stuck around in our modern day cats.
For these reasons, never force your cat to swim if they don’t like it.
Tips if you must bathe a cat
Bathing is rarely needed for cats either. If your cat does need to be bathed for medical reasons, or if they became overly dirty for some reason, there are some ways to make it a little less stressful.
Fill the tub first, the sound and splashing of running water will make things worse. Line the tub with a folded towel (which will of course become wet) so they feel like they have something to grip onto. A slippery tub floor will also cause more stress for the cat. Use a container to carefully pour water over, versus using a faucet. Lastly, be really careful around the face and eyes!
By Dr. Fiona, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a U.S. dog and cat health insurance agency, since 2005.