Why Do Cats Hate Water?

Angry grey cat with amber eyes getting a bath
© BBbirdZ/Shutterstock.com

Written by Austin S.

Updated: October 15, 2022

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It is popularly known that cats are clean creatures and one would expect them to jump into their bathtubs for washing. 

But the reality is, It’s a common struggle for most pet owners to get their cats into the water or give them a proper bath. 

Yet, they are often seen playing with water droplets and putting their paws in water bowls but always flee when it’s time for a bath. Why do they do this? Why do cats hate water? There are several possible reasons, including: the experiences of their ancestors, their keen sense of smell, and that they just don’t like the feel of it.

In this article, we’ll take you on a journey to understand why your feline friend is always fleeing and resisting baths. 

Reasons Why Cats Hate Water

Their Origins

The history of cats shows they weren’t naturally water-loving creatures. A larger percentage of the domesticated cats are descendants of the Felis silvestris lybica. The Felis silvestris was a small wildcat that lived in the desert environments of the Middle east.

While it existed, there were limited water resources. It wasn’t prone to playing or spending time in the water and preferred to lick its fur to clean and regulate its body temperature. Often, the Felis silvestris preferred to keep its paws and coats dry by sunbathing.

If you had noticed, you’d know your feline friend sometimes prefer stretching out in sunny spots while they nap.

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It Makes Them Feel Heavy

Cats are naturally very active creatures who love to run, leap and play a lot. But getting wet weighs them down and makes them feel heavy. It feels like a burden limiting their motion.

You can imagine what cats go through. It’s synonymous with carrying a soaking wet blanket on your shoulders till it dries up. The heavy wet towel is their fur, and they have no choice but to bear it till it dries. 

The weight that comes with having wet fur is what your feline friend is trying to avoid. Another thing is that dogs can easily shake off water from their skins while cats can’t do this as effectively.

Cats’ ancestors could go fishing without having to dip themselves in water. They’d rather fish from river banks. This behavior can be seen in your feline friend who likes to tap its fish you out of the water

So, with this historical background, it is clear rivers or oceans, or water bodies generally weren’t an obstacle that faced cats’ ancestors. So they had no need to evolve to survive and develop water-loving traits.

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Cats, generally, aren’t fond of things they are unfamiliar with, and they don’t get really curious. So they decide to avoid things they are not used to.

Modern or domesticated cats are not used to bodies of water larger than that in their water dish. So, a pool or bathtub and an attempt to put them in could initiate flight responses in your feline friend.

Cats love to be clean, and a bath would certainly be helpful. But your feline friend would rather stick to grooming itself with its tongue. This isn’t strange to your cat, unlike an entire body bathing.

Cat’s Unique Odor

Cats have a keen sense of smell. They relate to and understand their environment through their nose. A study revealed that cats’ noses are more sensitive than humans and even dogs.

Cats can also sniff out drugs, bombs, and medical conditions, even better than dogs, but they are rarely used because, unlike dogs, they are difficult to train.

Cats use their olfaction to analyze their surroundings, communicate with one another, and detect prey and predators. But most importantly, cats have a scent that is unique to them, and they Identify themselves with this scent.

Cats rub their scent on everything that belongs to them, even you. This scent is to tell other cats you and all other things with its scent belong to it, and they should keep off.

Also, due to their sensitive nose, cats can detect chemicals in the tap water, and since these chemicals smell nothing like a familiar or recognizable smell, this makes bathing a NO for them.

So, getting in the water or taking a bath has a high tendency to wash this unique scent off its body. Although it can lick itself to put on this odor again, your feline friend would rather avoid the stress and stay away from water baths.

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Lack of Control

Cats love to be in control of their environment and situations. This principle explains why cats would rather play with any dripping tap within their reach or even dip their hand into the full tub playfully. They can easily control the amount of water that would touch their bodies and where the water would touch in this situation.

But being dipped into the tub or a pool, with water getting into their eyes and every other part of their bodies at once, is not a situation they’d like to remain in or get themselves into.

Previous Negative Experience

Your cat’s fear of water may elicit a previous negative experience with getting wet. If being squirted with water guns or being sprayed with water was used as a punishment procedure for wrongdoings. Your cat will automatically consider water a sequel to being punished, and he’d want to stay away.

It is better to train your cat by rewarding good behavior with treats than to punish your cat for misconduct. Using the former builds a healthy relationship between you and your feline friend.

Also, if the first few times you tried bathing your cat didn’t go well, or it was generally stressful for your cat, it is most likely your cat would try to flee at the sight of the bathtub.

So, if the first bathing session didn’t go well, try to appease your cats with treats and learn how to bathe properly, if you need to. 

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Are There Any Cat Breeds That Like Water?

So, since cats’ historical background says they aren’t naturally water-loving, does that mean all cats breeds hate water? The answer to this question is simply No. 

There are a few reports of some cat breeds who are prone to seek out water and would love to get into one willingly if needed. They included:

These cat breeds are known for their natural outgoing, adventurous personalities. Some of them have a unique fur texture that is built to be more water-resistant than the average cat’s.

However, it is more important to consider your cat’s personality rather than the breed when it comes to submerging them in water.

Can You Train Your Cat Not to Hate Water?

Not all cats hate water, but all cats can swim, mainly as a survival instinct. But, can you train your feline friend to like water?

Well, as much as you fantasize about taking your cat for a swim or giving it that good bath. Unless your feline friend expresses an interest in playing in the water, not with water, it is best not to force them and let them retain their disinterest in being submerged in water.

There are many other things you can train your feline friend to do that you and your cat would enjoy. Trying to overcome their fear of water may not be considered ethical.

Is It Okay to Bathe My Cat?

To be candid, washing cats is unnecessary except if they get into mud or have a major stain. It’s a regular human routine to take baths every day, and cats do the same by licking their fur. Cats can be found licking their fur several times a day.

Cats are clean creatures, and they clean their bodies by licking off the dirt. However, this licking isn’t fully effective as their tongues can’t touch every part of their body.

So, in this case, if your feline friend doesn’t hate water, it is okay to give him a bath sometimes, once or twice. But if your feline friend hates water, you can get a wet brush and try brushing the parts her tongue can’t clean.

However, if you want to train your cats with bathing, it’s best to start when they are kittens. End every bathing session with treats. So, it starts to consider its bathing session as a time to get some rewards. 

Also, if your cat is an adult, it’s best to get a professional groomer or visit a veterinary clinic to get your pet cleaned.


Your cat resisting baths means it hates water, or it’s scared of it. It is advisable not to force your cat into the water as this might be stressful for you and your feline friend.

However, if your cat shows positive interest in water, introduce it into the tub carefully and always make an easy escape route if it loses interest and decides to jump out of the pool.

In the end, we are just trying our best to understand these fascinating creatures. To assist you with that, we have more posts about cats’ behavior for you to check out:

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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

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