4 min read


Why Cats Don't Like Water



4 min read


Why Cats Don't Like Water


It's no secret that most cats don't like water. Even the mere mention of a bath will send many cats running for the hills. But what is it about water that makes felines so afraid? We've done some digging on this subject, and the answer to that question might surprise you. We'll discuss the history and science behind cats' hatred of water and give you tips on how to bathe a cat that doesn't want to get wet.


Signs a Cat Doesn't Like Water

When a cat doesn't like water, they make it known. Cats may become aggressive, clawing, biting, and flailing when confronted with bathtime. 

Most felines simply try to escape the situation in whatever way they can. Cats may dash off and hide or try to claw their way out of the situation. If you do get bitten or scratched when trying to bathe your cat, don't take it personally — they are simply trying to get away from the perceived threat. 

It's important to mention that not all cats react in an aggressive manner. Some cats will only hunker down and yowl when being bathed. Other cats may begin to tremble and hyperventilate, which can be a scary sight for pet parents — but rest assured your kitty is physically fine, just really fearful.

However your cat acts, it's important that you keep a calm demeanor. Getting upset or agitated when your cat reacts this way will only make the situation worse. Talk to your cat in a gentle reassuring voice and give them lots of pets to comfort them during bathtime.

Body Language

Signs a cat doesn't like water include:

  • Growling
  • Cowering
  • Scratching
  • Head Turning
  • Back Hair On Edge
  • Biting
  • Wiggling
  • Ears Back
  • Whale Eye

Other Signs

Other signs a cat doesn't like water include:

  • Aggression
  • Running Away
  • Hyperventilation
  • Trembling

The History Behind Why Cats Don't Like Water


Historically, cats have never been fans of water, even big cats like lions and tigers. The modern domestic cat descends from a Middle Eastern ancestor, the Near East Wildcat. The Middle East has very few water sources and rarely sees rain, so the cat's ancestors weren't accustomed to interacting with water aside from drinking it. This may very well be the root of cats' hatred of water. Modern-day domestic felines don't seem to have grown out of this disdain for liquids, so next time your cat refuses their bath, you can blame it on their roots.

The Science Behind Why Cats Don't Like Water


There are a few theories as to why cats don't like water. Some experts think that cats dislike how water weighs down their coats. Cats are very nimble creatures, and having a soggy coat can inhibit their dexterity.

Large bodies of water are unfamiliar to most house kitties, so being met with a bath could come as a scare to them. New things are often scary for cats, and when the only interaction with water they've ever had is with their water bowl, of course they would be scared of the tub. 

Another possible reason cats object to water is because it messes up their careful grooming. Cats put a lot of effort into grooming. In fact, cats spend 30% to 50% of their day preening their fur. A bath or a rain shower could undo hours of hard work put into their coat. 

Other experts suspect that cats don't like bathtime because they are sensitive to the chemicals in the water. Like dogs, cats have a very strong sense of smell, and the chlorine in the water and chemicals in the shampoo could overwhelm them. 

Some cats don't like getting wet simply because they don't want to be cold. Fur, especially long fur, can take a long time to dry, which can make cats very uncomfortable. 

Traumatizing experiences with water in the past can also make cats dislike water. An accidental fall in the pool could be traumatizing enough for cats to make them want to avoid water for the rest of their life.

You may wonder why a cat who enjoys pawing at a stream of water coming out of a facet is so scared of bathtime or rain. This may be because cats are afraid of interactions with water they don't have control over. Cats are often fascinated by the sounds, reflections, and sensation of playing with running water. Still, the thought of being submerged and having no control over it is terrifying to some.

How to Bathe a Cat That Doesn't Like Water


Regardless of whether your cat likes water or not, they'll need a proper cleaning from time to time. So how does one clean a cat who hates baths? Well, you have a few different options.

Cat wet wipes are great for cleaning and deodorizing the top layer of a cat's fur. Simply rub them on your cat as you pet them, making sure to get behind their ears and around their hind end. Cat wet wipes will do the trick for most jobs — though, if your cat is oily or really dirty, you might have to bring out the big guns.

Waterless foam cat shampoo is another option that can tackle trickier jobs. You simply spray the waterless foam on your feline and brush it through their coat. This process can be pretty time-consuming, but it works almost as well as water and traditional shampoo.

If a water bath is your only option, try investing in a cat grooming bag. These zip-up or velcro around your cat, and it makes it nearly impossible for them to scratch you during the grooming process. Typically, grooming bags are made of polyester mesh so that you can shampoo your cat with it on them. 

Give your cat lots of treats and praise when grooming them to forge positive associations. The more pleasant you make the experience the more they will be willing to tolerate grooming later on. 

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Written by Emily Bayne

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 07/09/2021, edited: 07/09/2021

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