Why Do Cats Hate Water?

May 31, 2024 | Cats & Kittens | 4 comments

Written by: Dmytro Kovalenko. Explore our editorial process.

Have you ever wondered why do cats hate water? It’s a common question for cat owners why your feline friend despises water passionately.

This curious behavior often baffles us, especially when compared to dogs who might leap joyously into a pond. Let’s discover the cat’s behavior and aversion to water.

The Evolutionary Perspective

A desert heritage: the story begins in the arid landscapes of the Middle East, where many of our domestic cats’ ancestors roamed. In these dry environments, large bodies of water were scarce. Cats evolved to get most of their moisture from their prey, reducing the need to find water. This evolutionary path led to a lack of familiarity and comfort with water.

Survival instinct: cats are also instinctively cautious. Water can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous. This instinct may explain why even a small puddle or a bathtub can seem threatening to a cat. Their survival instinct tells them to avoid what is unknown and could be hazardous.

Behavioral Reasons

Cats don`t like wet fur. These animals are meticulous groomers, and their fur plays a vital role in their temperature regulation and sense of well-being. Getting wet:

  • Weighs down their fur, making it uncomfortable and harder to move.
  • Takes a long time to dry, which can be especially problematic in colder environments.
  • Interferes with their natural insulation and scent masking abilities.

A cat may have a negative experience dealing with water. Sometimes, a cat’s aversion to water can be attributed to a negative experience. If a cat has had an unpleasant encounter with water, such as being forced into a bath or caught in a heavy downpour, it may develop a lasting dislike.

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The Exceptions

Interestingly, not all cats hate water. Maine Coon and Bengal breeds, some of the cutest cat breeds, are known for their more water-friendly attitudes.

Adaptation and exposure. Cats exposed to water gently and gradually from a young age may not exhibit the same level of aversion. Positive experiences can sometimes override their natural inclinations.

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Practical Tips for Cat Owners

If you need to introduce your cat to water, whether for a bath or another reason, it’s important to do so gradually and gently. Start by letting your cat explore the water on their own terms. Use a shallow water dish and let them investigate it with their paws. Gradually increase their exposure over time, and ensure the experience is positive. Use treats and praise to reward your cat for calm behavior around water.

Many cats are excellent self-groomers, so regular bathing is unnecessary. However, there are alternatives to keep your cat clean without the stress of a bath.

  • Wipes: use cat-specific grooming wipes to clean your cat’s fur and remove dirt and dander.
  • Dry shampoo: apply dry shampoo for cats to absorb oils and refresh their coat.
  • Brushing: regular brushing can help remove loose fur and dirt and prevent matting.

In addition to grooming alternatives, providing your cat with a cat tree can help them stay active and fulfill their climbing instincts, offering a great way to keep them engaged and healthy.

cats hate water

Consider installing a cat camera to monitor your cat’s behavior around water or during daily activities. This tool helps ensure your cat is safe and not engaging in stressful activities when you’re not around.

While it’s true that many cats dislike water, this behavior stems from a blend of evolutionary, behavioral, and individual factors. Remember, every cat is unique, and while some may never enjoy a splash, others might surprise you with their aquatic antics.


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Can a cat’s aversion to water be changed over time?

Yes, a cat’s aversion to water can sometimes be mitigated with gradual exposure and positive reinforcement. Start by introducing your cat to water slowly, using shallow dishes and letting them explore at their own pace. Reward calm behavior with treats and praise. Over time, this can help some cats become more comfortable around water, though it may not work for all.

Are there any health benefits to bathing a cat?

Occasional baths can benefit cats with skin conditions, allergies, or excessive dirt and oil buildup. Regular grooming alternatives like wipes, dry shampoo, and brushing can also help maintain their coat and skin health without the stress of a full bath.

How do I know if my cat is stressed by water?

Signs of stress in cats around water include hiding, hissing, growling, attempting to escape, excessive grooming after contact, and changes in behavior such as increased aggression or anxiety. If your cat exhibits these signs, it is best to avoid forced water exposure and consider alternative grooming methods.

Do certain environmental factors make cats more tolerant of water?

Cats introduced to water in a positive and controlled environment from a young age are likelier to be tolerant of it. Warm water, a calm atmosphere, and gentle handling can make water exposure less stressful.

Can swimming be safe for cats that enjoy water?

Swimming can be a safe and enjoyable activity under supervision for cats interested in water. Ensure the water is clean and the environment is secure, and always supervise your cat to prevent accidents. Some breeds, like the Turkish Van and Maine Coon, are more naturally inclined to swim, but it’s important to respect individual preferences and comfort levels.



  1. M

    some cats like to bathe and water does not deter them

  2. WaterWaryWill

    My cat absolutely despises water! It’s interesting to learn the reasons behind this behavior. Do you have any tips for bathing a reluctant cat?

  3. Tom H.

    Maybe I’ll try a few of the tips next time I need to give him a bath

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