Why Do Cats Hate Water So Much? Top 3 Reasons Explained!

Orange Devon Rex cat with glass of water by window

If you’ve ever tried to bathe your cat, you probably know just how much cats hate water. Most cats very distinctly hate water and getting wet in just about any situation, even if it’s a situation they put themselves in.

As in all things, there are cats that love the water and swimming. Some cats even love water enough to jump in bathtubs or swimming pools with people. These cats are few and far between, though (I’ve never met one!). Why do cats hate water so much? It seems so strange for them to hate something that is also required for keeping them alive. There are a few good explanations for why your cat hates water, though.

Top 3 Reasons Your Cat Hates Water:

1. Your Cat’s DNA

The first reason your cat hates water is their heritage. The predecessors to domestic cats lived in arid desert environments where large bodies of water would have been non-existent. It’s built into your cat’s DNA that they should be uncomfortable with more water in one place than you might find in a desert.

orange and white cat standing in desert
Image credit: Cole Keister, Unsplash

2. Your Cat’s Coat

It’s likely that cats are extremely unhappy with the effect of water on their coats as well. Cats are known for their fastidious nature and frequent grooming. If you’ve ever seen a wet cat, you know how uncomfortable it looks to be covered in all that wet fur. As a human, it can be uncomfortable to be soaked, so imagine how uncomfortable it would be to be covered in fur that isn’t intended for exposure to moisture.

Cats’ coats are not made to repel water in the same way that some dog breeds’ coats are, so when cats are exposed to water, they are likely to become soaked, heavy, and cold easily and quickly. Cats have a higher body temperature than humans, so it’s important for them to maintain their body temperature at this higher baseline.

grey striped cat climbing ladder out of pool
Image credit: Diana Orey,Unsplash

3. Your Cat’s Aversion to Uncomfortable Experiences

Cats are extremely particular animals, as we all well know. They typically do not like new and unfamiliar experiences. Getting a bath or otherwise being exposed to water is likely an experience that your cat is not used to, which can make their desire to fight when exposed to water quite high. Many cats enter a fight or flight mode when exposed to water due to their discomfort with the experience, which can lead to both of you being injured.

Cats also don’t like feeling like they are not in control of their environment. Cats are agile animals that are often in excellent control of their bodies, as well as managing their environment. Cats can jump, climb, and shrink their way throughout their environment in a way that few other animals can. If your cat is suddenly in a bathtub or rain storm, then they won’t feel like they are in control of their current environment, which can lead to a sense of panic.

The more your cat has negative experiences with water, the more likely they are to fight it the next time they are exposed. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how hard you work to make water an enjoyable thing for your cat. If your cat fights you during a bath, this can lead to an aversion to repeating the situation, even if you worked to bathe them gently, made the environment calm, and slowly and calmly helped them through the experience.

cat lying by the sea
Image Credit: birgl, Pixabay

Why Do Some Cats Like Water?

It’s not really clear why some cat breeds tend to enjoy water, although it is consistent enough among multiple breeds that it likely has a strong genetic link. Bengal cats are well known for their enjoyment of swimming and attempting to join their humans in the bathtub or shower.

Other cat breeds that are known to like water are Turkish Vans, Maine Coons, and Abyssinians. The Maine Coon and Turkish Van both have a water-resistant coat that is similar to water-resistant dog coats. Maine Coons were long kept on ships as pest control.

In Conclusion

In general, cats just do not like water, although there are some exceptions in individual cats, as well as breeds like the Bengal and Maine Coon. In my experience, very few cats will enjoy getting wet!

Your cat’s dislike of water is likely multifactorial, combining two or more reasons for disliking water. While it isn’t in the DNA of domestic cats to be comfortable with water, there are other reasons they are likely to be water averse. Disdain and distrust of change and new situations, a history of negative experiences, feeling not in control of their environment, and a sense of discomfort associated with a wet coat are all viable reasons that your cat may hate water.

Featured Image Credit: Külli Kittus, Unsplash

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