Why Cats Hate Water

Wet Cat

Cats are notorious for their intense hate of getting wet. But where does this dislike of water come from? And do all cats share this opinion of water?


When kitty’s fur becomes completely drenched, she is weighed down and her agility is greatly compromised. Felines don’t like feeling trapped or unable to escape, and wet fur makes her less spritely, increasing her sense of vulnerability. Although her fur’s top layer does have a degree of water resistance, it’s not enough to keep her dry when she’s been thoroughly dampened.

The Nose Knows

Some owners may be surprised when their cat seems to enjoy splashing in puddles outdoors but shun tap water. Fluffy’s sense of smell is finely honed to detect the difference between earthy natural water and chemical-laden water from the faucet. The odor of tap water is a turn-off and makes her resist becoming wet from unnatural sources.

Unfamiliar Territory

Cats in the wild are able to choose whether or not to dunk themselves in water or allow the rain to wet their coats. In the world of domestication, however, they don’t typically take plunges into full bathtubs on their own. Felines are very much creatures of habit and aren’t fond of surprises, so a new experience such as being wetted down will make them skittish and desperate to get away.

Beat the Heat

While the great majority of kitties will resist getting wet with all the razor-sharpness of their claws, some cats actually do enjoy taking a dip. Felines living in a dry, hot climate like the desert get some relief from all that baking by cooling off with a swim or soak. Just like people, though, they don’t like getting wet when it’s cold outside, because maintaining their body heat becomes almost impossible.

Gone Fishing

In areas of the country where bodies of water are plentiful, feral cats direct their hunting instincts to fish for their dinner. Some kitties will even sit in the water to improve their chances of scoring a catch, or at least hang out at the water’s edge. Big cats who live in the jungle, like tigers and lions, spend much of their day cooling off in the water and are skilled swimmers.

A Toe at a Time

Most domesticated cats are a bit curious about water and will stick their paw into a sink or tub full of water. Some may even put their head under a running faucet to get a drink. But there is a vast difference between getting a part or two wet and being completely submerged, especially when getting dunked is against their will.

When Wetting is Necessary

In almost every cat parent’s life comes a time when kitty is so dirty that she needs help with cleaning herself. An adequate wash job can be accomplished without completely submerging her by wiping her down with a warm damp washcloth. Protect yourself with long sleeves and dishwashing gloves, and scrub her gently one section at a time in a draft-free area. Have a big fluffy towel handy to wrap her in once the cat wash is done, rub her down good, and use a blow dryer on low to finish drying her coat if needed.

It’s pretty much guaranteed she won’t enjoy the process, but with patience and a firm grip, you can finish the job unscathed.

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