Why Does My Cat Hate Water?

But loves drinking from the faucet? 🚿

cat wearing shower cap

Have you ever tried to give your cat a bath and ended up with scratches all over you and water everywhere?

If you have, you’re probably familiar with most cats’ aversion to water. But why do they hate it so much?

Cats have a number of reasons for not liking water. But the good news is that you don’t need to bathe your cat often unless she gets into a big mess.

The Dodo spoke to LeeAnna Buis, a certified feline training and behavior consultant with Feline Behavior Solutions, to find out everything you need to know about cats and water.

Why don’t cats like water?

It may seem like cats hate water just because they can be picky, but there are actually a bunch of reasons why cats don’t like water.

Water weighs them down

One theory for why cats hate water is that it makes their coats heavier, which can be uncomfortable and even dangerous.

“Their coats can become quite heavy when soaked, and they take time to dry, which is uncomfortable and can impact a cat’s body temperature,” Buis told The Dodo.

Having heavy, wet fur also slows your cat down and makes it harder for her to get away from predators. While there’s obviously nothing hunting down your cat at home, it might just be instinctual for her to think that way.

It messes up their hair

Cats are super neat, and they actually spend about 30 to 50 percent of their day grooming. So they might hate getting wet because it means they’ll have to do a ton of grooming later.

“Most cats also take grooming very seriously,” Buis said. “A wet, disheveled coat is difficult to control and can leave the cat doing a lot of intense grooming to remove the water.”

It’s an instinct

Cats’ wild ancestors lived in dry climates and didn’t spend a lot of time in the water, so cats might just be unfamiliar with it.

“The ancestors of today’s house cats were desert dwellers,” Buis said. “So it’s just not in most cats’ genes to want to get wet.”

They've had bad experiences

Your cat may have had a bad experience with water as a kitten, which could make her scared of water as an adult.

Falling into a bathtub, pool or lake could make your cat scared of water or wary around it for life.

They don’t like slipping

Cats also might not like the feeling of slipping and sliding on the floor of a bathtub.

When cats are in the bath, their feet can easily slide out from under them, and it can be difficult to move around. This makes them vulnerable to predators, which can naturally make them uncomfortable.

Are there some cats who like water?

Every cat is different, so your cat might love playing in the water, but there are some types of cats who generally like water more than others.

“Certain breeds, like Maine coon, Bengal and Norwegian forest cats seem to really enjoy water,” Buis said.

This may be because certain breeds have more water-resistant coats, but in general, it comes down to the individual cat’s personality and past experience with water. If your cat spent most of her kittenhood safely playing in water, for example, there’s a good chance she’ll enjoy it as an adult.

Why do cats like running water?

Even if your cat doesn’t like getting in the water, have you ever noticed her try to play with the water coming out of the faucet while you’re washing the dishes?

A lot of cats actually like running water. One reason for this is that it’s just fun to them and seems like a toy.

“Running water can be a source of entertainment and hydration,” Buis said. “A stream of magic, sparkling goo that goes right back to shape after you swat it with your paw is pretty interesting.”

It also may be an instinct for cats to prefer running water. Still water can be contaminated, so wild cats will drink from rivers or streams rather than still pools of water.

“It’s also a fresh water source, something most cats are instinctively drawn to,” Buis said.

If your cat loves running water, or if you’re trying to get her to drink more water, you can buy her a vet-recommended cat water fountain.

How to wash a cat without water

Cats can keep themselves clean, so you really only need to give your cat a bath if she gets extremely dirty or gets something potentially toxic on her fur. You may also need to help your cat groom herself if she’s old or sick and isn’t able to do it herself.

“You only really need to bathe your cat if they get into something that they shouldn’t ingest, like oil or chemicals, or something you really don’t want tracked through the house, like a litter box mishap,” Buis said.

If you need to clean your cat, there are some ways to do it without water to avoid the hassle of trying to get your cat in the bathtub.

“There are dry shampoos and cleansing cloths available that can help,” Buis said.

Try Burt’s Bees cat dry shampoo from Amazon for $3.19

And try Burt’s Bees cat wipes from Amazon for $3.13

And keep in mind that if you do need to wash your cat, you shouldn’t use any products that are heavily scented.

“A cat’s scent is very important to them,” Buis said. “Washing it away or adding new scents, like those from shampoo, can be stressful.”

How to get your cat to like water

If your cat is able to groom herself and doesn’t get into any messes, you shouldn’t need to get your cat into the water. But if you need to give your cat a bath occasionally, you can train your cat to be more comfortable getting wet.

Introduce your cat to water slowly, and don’t force her to go in if she doesn’t want to.

“[You should do it] slowly and with lots of rewards,” Buis said. “Don’t go straight for a full bathtub. Take baby steps, starting with just a stream of tap water they can bat or a shallow bowl they can dip a paw in to retrieve a toy, and very slowly progress to more exposure over time, never pushing past your cat’s comfort level.”

And check out this cat who’s obsessed with water.

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