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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

Cats are afraid of water? True in part, but is that true for all of them? Can cats swim? Do cats need to be bathed? All questions about cats and water are answered here.

Can cats swim?

Yes! In principle, every cat can swim. Healthy cats are even quite good swimmers. But most cats avoid to stay longer in the water. Why it is like that, is not finally clarified, but there are some theories about it.

Why are cats afraid of water?

  • Cats were once desert animals. So in the past they didn’t have the possibility to swim in wide waters. That is why it is rather unnatural for domestic cats. In addition, they obtained a large part of their liquid needs through their food. If one thinks big cats, as for example tigers, one sees the affinity and also skill in the water.
  • If their fur gets wet, it soaks up to the skin with water. This does not feel good for the house tigers, because on the one hand it makes them heavier and less agile, and on the other hand they can get chilled in the process, because until they are completely dry it takes a while.
  • Their own odor is partially washed off. Spreading their scent in their territory is important for cats to feel comfortable.

Which cats like to go into the water?

Not all cats are afraid of water, some even find it really great. Many cats watch the movement of water or are attracted to the splashing of the faucet. Some breeds also like to go for a swim. These include the Bengal cat, the Turkish Angora, the Main Coon or the Norwegian Forest Cat. Probably because they come from areas where there is a lot of water and thus they could develop better hunting techniques.

Green Rubin - Katzenangel

Die nachhaltige und langlebige Katzenangel aus Sisal und Holz.

Does my cat need access to water?

Yes, to drinking water always! But some breeds even need a water basin. In the Austrian Animal Husbandry Ordinance under paragraph it says: “As enclosure facilities, a grown floor and sand are to be installed in the outdoor enclosure. Climbing, scratching and hiding places are to be provided. Water basins are required for Bengal cats, fish cats and tube cats.”

What are alternatives to swimming for cats?

However, most cats only swim when they have to. Some hate water and want nothing to do with it. But many cats like to play with it.

You can put a shallow bowl of water in front of your cat for a change of pace or to cool him down, and put balls and other toys in it. A little splashing around is a lot of fun for some pussycats. You can also distribute pieces of wood (or other floating things) on it and fill them with treats. Your cat will then have to fish for them. A drinking fountain is also gladly accepted by many cats.

Should I bathe my cat?

Cats are very clean animals and keep themselves clean. If a bath is necessary, for example because she got very dirty or the vet ordered a medical bath, make sure to make it as comfortable as possible for your cat.

Place your pet on a non-slip surface and run her some warm (about 38°) water. Shower with a gentle stream and leave the head out if possible. If you can avoid the shower you can also use a damp cloth, this is more comfortable for most cats.

It is best to accustom your cat to the water slowly, for example with the help of clicker training, so that this experience is pleasant for him. If you force your cat to take a bath, this can not only disturb his trust in you, but also make it more difficult to catch him the next time he tries it.

young blue tabby maine coon cat playing with water in a metal bowl outdoors in the garden on a hot and sunny summer day


Cats are divided on the subject of water. Some cats even like to swim, while others prefer to just get their paws wet and some may not like the cool water at all. Don’t force them to do anything, but try out what your cat likes. Who knows, maybe there is a little water rat in your cat.