Discover Why Cats Have an Aversion to Water: Unveiling 6 Surprising Facts

Cats have a reputation for disliking water and often avoid getting wet. Although it is rare for cat owners to need to bathe their cats, if necessary, a waterless bath is a suitable option. However, it is important to understand why cats dislike water in the first place.

Six reasons why cats don't like water

1. Fear or discomfort

Cats are mysterious creatures with established habits. Cats may dislike the feeling of being drenched in water, especially if it is a novel experience. Previous negative experiences with water could cause cats to develop a deep-seated fear that will last a lifetime. Interestingly, kittens that are exposed to water and bathing from an early age are more likely to be accepting of it later in life.

2. Vulnerability

When wet, a cat's coat is heavier than usual, which could hinder their movement and reflexes, making them feel vulnerable. Even the surfaces can become slippery, and the cat may struggle to grip or balance to move away from water. The solution to this is using a wet towel at the base of the sink or tub for the cat to grip onto and minimize this feeling.

3. Grooming preferences

Most cats enjoy feeling clean and tidy. They spend a considerable amount of time grooming themselves during the day. Cats may not like their fur smelling different after being washed with scented shampoos. Water-based solutions can also strip away natural oils from their fur, resulting in dissatisfaction. Cats would prefer to groom themselves rather than having humans do it.

4. Dry time

After a bath, a cat's fur can take a long time to dry, leaving them feeling soggy and uncomfortable. Some cats may avoid getting wet simply because of this discomfort, resulting in a highly unpleasant experience for them. Additionally, damp fur can cool the cat down, making them feel cold.

5. Chemicals

Cats have a highly sensitive sense of smell, 14 times more sensitive than humans. The water we use can contain minerals and chemicals, such as chlorine or fluoride, that cats dislike the smell of. Using fragrant shampoos can also be a significant turn-off for cats.

6. Evolutionary landlubbers

Cats' evolutionary ancestors were not ocean or river-dwelling creatures, so they do not have the knowledge of how to swim. Domesticated cats come from felines that lived in dryer, arid regions, making swimming unnecessary. As a result, cats may not like the sensation of being in water.

Let's not forget: some cats like water!

Cats are curious animals, and some may even enjoy water. Some cat owners may post photos of their cats playing in or around water on social media. However, their attraction to water may reflect the play of light and shininess in the water more than anything else. For example, the Turkish Van breed loves to swim.

Tips for bathing a cat

While bathing cats is typically unnecessary, there are ways to make it less stressful for them if you need to do it. For example, after a skunk attack or for medical reasons, give your cat a calm bath.

The Classic Bath

Before starting a bath for your feline friend, it's crucial to prepare the space. Begin by filling up the tub or sink with water, being careful not to turn on the faucet because the sound and splashing of running water can be distressing to cats. To give your cat something to grip onto and prevent slipping on the tub floor, line it with a folded towel. Using a container to pour water over your cat instead of the faucet can make the experience more pleasant. Always be cautious around the face and eyes during the bath as they are sensitive areas.

Water-Free Bath

If your cat has a severe aversion to water, using a waterless bath could be a solution. Look for cat-friendly wipes, dry shampoo, or foam to gently massage into your cat's fur. After this, use a towel to remove any remaining product. While it may not get your cat as clean as a classic bath, it can be a useful alternative in some situations. Always use products specially labelled for use on cats to avoid any negative reactions.

From Pets Best

While we can't assist you in the act of bathing your feline, Pets Best is dedicated to ensuring that your cat is protected from any medical conditions that may require more frequent bathing. Our cat and kitten insurance policies cover chronic conditions and can be tailored to your pet's unique needs. Our policyholders also have access to a veterinary expert 24/7 through our Pet Helpline service.


1"Why do cats hate water,"Don Vaughn, Brittanica,,is%20also%20the%20shock%20factor, accessed October 13, 2022.

2"Cats Licking Too Much," Cornell Feline Health Center,, accessed October 13, 2022.

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