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Cats &, Oh No… Water

Have you ever seen a cat on the beach or swimming in a pool? Most people would probably say no. So have you ever wondered if there is any truth to the commonly held belief that cats hate water?

A good way to start is by looking at our domestic cats’ wild relatives. After all, many of our pets’ behaviors are remnants of their wild ancestors’ instincts. Regarding water, wild cats fall into two camps–generally depending on where they live.

  • Cats from warmer climates, such as lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars and ocelots, like water to cool off and are generally good swimmers.
  • Cats from colder climates, like bobcats, lynx and snow leopards, avoid water because getting wet would hamper their coats’ ability to keep them warm.

But, many cats do enjoy water, and have for some time. In ancient Egypt, hieroglyphics there depict cats hunting in marshes with their owners. Cats have been seen hooking trout and other fish out of streams with their paws. Cats have even been observed teaching other cats to fish.

However today, most domestic cats would rather not bathe in, swim in or otherwise interact with water. Fortunately, they do not need to. While other species of animals clean themselves with water, it is not necessary for cats to do so. Cats are inherently clean animals; they use their tongues, which have minute hooked shaped papillae, to assist in grooming out knots and keeping the coat clean, sweet smelling and in tip-top shape. In addition, many breeds have coats that trap water, so getting wet makes it hard for them to stay warm in cool weather.

Many other domestic cats will play with water, such as water left in a shower stall or dripping water in a sink–even with the water in their drinking bowl. Some will even sit on the edge of your bath and play with the bubbles, rubber duckies, or wet children. The key to getting a cat to like water is to introduce them to water when they are young and avoid using water as a punishment (that means no fun squirting them with water).

Cats are very individualistic. While most domestic cats naturally show indifference or even an aversion to water, there are exceptions and you will find individuals that actually like water.


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