Caitlin UltimoBehavior / Pet Facts

Why Are Cats Afraid of Water?

Everyone knows cats hate taking baths. Not only are cats known to dislike baths, but also pools, oceans and pretty much any body of water. Try bathing a cat, and your efforts may be met with clawing, biting and threatening vocalizations. We can’t blame you if you’ve tried bathing a cat once and vowed it would be the last time, ever.

Then again, the idea that cats hate water is considered a stereotype by some experts. “Although it appears that the cats living in our homes don’t like water, it really comes down to personal preference,” says Jennifer Maniet, DVM, staff veterinarian at Petplan pet insurance. “There are some cats who truly enjoy splashing in the sink or tub, while there are others who are too afraid to dip their paws into a puddle.”

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Why don’t cats like water,” keep reading for some expert insight and tips for bathing a cat.

Dr. Maniet theorizes that this widely accepted belief came from the fact “that cats (similar to humans), fear what they don’t know or have never been exposed to.” Cats are unique in that they are completely capable of bathing themselves without the use of water (or humans!), so submerging them in a bath may come to them as an unwelcome surprise. As creatures of habit, this new (and very wet!) experience can cause your cat to use their claws to try to escape as soon as they possibly can.

Another theory for the age-old question, “Why don’t cats like water,” is the idea that they may have had a negative experience with water in the past. If your cat was ever forced to take a bath, or had water splashed on him as a means of punishment, he may have a hatred of water engrained in his personality. This doesn’t have to be forever, though. With a little cat love and proper training, you can ease your cat into being a real water bug!

According to Dr. Maniet, “Once a cat has more positive interactions with water, they may come to the realization that they enjoy it.” To get your cat comfortable with water, try acclimating him to the tub weeks before a bath so he can get used to the space. Once he’s decidedly relaxed, try filling up the sink or tub with just a small amount of water so he can get his feet wet. Scatter toys throughout the bath so he can have some fun with it. When he seems ready for the real thing, keep the bath quick and avoid using restraint. It is advised that you wear long sleeves and dishwashing gloves to prevent injury in case your cat resorts to aggressive behavior.

If you are confident that giving your cat a bath is out of the question, there are other ways to keep your cat clean when his self-grooming methods aren’t cutting it. Vet’s Best Waterless Cat Bath is a no-rinse natural cat shampoo that moisturizes the skin and coat while soothing dry, itchy skin. This leave-in formula with foaming action is a quick and easy solution for cats that hate getting wet, but need to get clean. If you’re on the go, try Nature’s Miracle Pet Bath Wipes to keep your furry friend smelling fresh, moisturized and free of allergy-causing dander.

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