Can Cats Swim?

Do cats and water really not mix?

can cats swim

In the summer heat, there’s nothing like a quick dip in the water to cool off. But if you’ve got a feline friend, then you know most cats seem to hate water and will do anything to avoid it.

This might have you wondering: Can cats swim if they ever need (or want) to?

We spoke with Jamie Fischer, a veterinary nurse with DodoVet, to find out if cats can swim like dogs do.

Can cats swim naturally?

While it’s widely believed that cats and water just don’t mix, both domestic and wild cats can actually swim.

“All cats can instinctively swim if they have to or like to,” Fischer told The Dodo. “Wild cats, like tigers, hunt in the water and use the water to help regulate their body temperatures.”

Why do cats hate water?

Even though your cat knows how to swim, you might get the impression that it’s not his favorite activity. It may be difficult to say for sure why a lot of cats hate water, but there are some theories.

“It could be due to a number of reasons, such as a negative experience with water [like] a forced bath as a kitten or falling into the pool,” Fischer said. “Another theory is that cats evolved from desert climates and didn’t have a lot of exposure to rivers, lakes, etc. Or perhaps it is due to them just not liking having a drenched and heavy coat!”

But this disdain for water doesn’t apply to all domestic cats.

“In fact, some breeds of cats love the water, such as Maine coon, Bengal and Manx breeds,” Fischer said.

(But it's important to note that every cat is different; some of these breeds may prefer to stay on land.)

Can you train your cat to like the water?

If you want to try to encourage your cat to enjoy the water, just make sure you’re never, ever forcing him to do something he doesn’t want to do.

That being said, doing so gradually and using positive reinforcement can help your BFF create positive associations with the water.

“If you are trying to train your cat to enjoy swimming or playing in the water, make sure to do so slowly,” Fischer said. “Give them opportunities to enjoy it themselves and offer lots of positive reinforcement, such as extra pets and treats, when they willingly give it a try.”

Where should you take your cat swimming?

If your cat does like to swim, it’s important to know which places are OK for a quick dip and which ones to avoid.

“Just be sure to do so in a safe environment, such as a home pool with easy exits for your cat to get out when she is ready,” Fischer said. “I would not recommend swimming with your cat in a river or lake as currents or large bodies of water can be more risky environments for a small cat.”

So if you’ve ever wondered to yourself, “Can cats swim?” now you have your answer! Just remember to never force your BFF to go swimming with you if he’s not feeling it.

Want access to a vet 24/7? With DodoVet, you can connect via video chat, phone or text with an empathetic veterinary expert who can help you be the best pet parent you can be. Say goodbye to Dr. Google and have all your pet parent questions answered anytime, anywhere. Learn more here.

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