It’s a common belief that cats and water don’t mix. Pet parents dread giving their cat a bath, cats hate getting sprayed with water from a spray bottle, and getting caught out in the rain with their cat is a pet parent’s worst nightmare.
But is this hatred for water an actual fact about cats or is it a generalization based on half-truths? A lot of cat owners believe it’s the latter since their cats are actually curious about water and enjoy getting wet.
To get to the bottom of this belief, let’s explore your cat’s relationship with water.
The Root of Your Cat’s Aversion to Water
There’s no single explanation for why some cats are so skittish when it comes to a little H2O, but there are theories that may explain the behavior. Some experts believe that the average cat’s distaste for water does not actually stem from an innate fear, but from being sheltered from water for many decades.
Since cats were domesticated, their owners have largely sheltered them from the elements, meaning cats were not exposed to water aside from a few bad experiences, like being bathed for the first time. Because cats have very little exposure to water throughout their lives apart from these negative or stressful experiences, it’s understandable that they would develop an aversion to water.
Others believe this aversion goes back even farther, to the days of cats roaming the wild. Many cat breeds lived in desert climates without a lot of natural bodies of water, so they weren’t as exposed to it. And, although some cats would swim in water to cool off, many breeds stayed away from water to avoid water-dwelling predators.
Finally, others think that getting wet makes it difficult for cats to maintain their coats, which, as we know, they do meticulously each day. Wet fur is hard to dry and keep orderly and can make your kitty feel cold and heavy, which is why getting wet might be such a nightmare for cats.
With all that said, not all cats will dislike water. Some will actually be perfectly fine getting wet, while others will get very distressed upon being soaked.
Your Cat Might Still Find Water Interesting
Cats are naturally curious creatures, however, so you’re likely to discover that your cat is extremely interested in water—but only on its terms. It may stick a paw in your bath, hop in a damp tub after a shower to catch a drip or try to play with a gentle stream of running water in your sink.
Of course, for other cats, this interest may go further, tempting your cat to leap into puddles or stick its head under the faucet while it’s on without fear.
In general, though, it appears that more cats like to play with water than they do actually getting wet.
This curiosity may be something you can leverage to make situations with water much easier on your cat (and on you), such as bath time. Acquainting your cat with water (preferably from an early age) may make it less traumatic for your cat to endure a bath if or when it needs one. When cats get used to being around or in water in non-threatening situations, they may be calmer in water in the future.
Your Cat’s Relationship to Water Can Make Bath Time Easier
With a better understand of your cat’s relationship with water, you might be able to use this information to make baths easier on everyone involved.
Remember that bathing cats is not something you need to do regularly. Cats do a good job cleaning themselves the majority of the time. However, if they roll in dirt or get into something that they won’t be able to clean off on their own, a bath might be necessary.
To make this process easier, keep in mind that most cats dislike being fully submerged in water. If you try to dunk your furry friend in a bathtub filled with water, it is likely to be very scared and try to get away.
To make it easier on your cat, only fill the tub with an inch or two of standing water—enough to use to get your cat wet while also allowing the majority of its body to remain above water. With that water, use a cup to gently wet your cat’s body and to rinse away soap suds.
Of course, nobody likes being forced to do things we hate, so if your cat struggles, fights and appears deeply distressed, don’t force it. This is likely to only make your cat’s aversion to water worse.