At face value, this cat obsession with water makes no sense. Cartoons, after all, have spent many decades teaching us that cats hate water. And most cats don't like baths. But some cats are positively mad about water, doing everything from drinking it from faucets to swimming in it.
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Do cats like water?
Many cats love water, at least to drink. This is especially true of running water. Some will only drink from water that's moving, to the great annoyance of their owners. But why do cats like running water so much more than, say, water in a bowl?
The answer probably lies in survival instincts. Cats tend to seek out fresh, clean water over stagnant water, probably because fresh water is less likely to contain harmful bacteria than stagnant water is. Plus, running water just tastes better.
Because they descended from desert dwellers who got most of their water from the prey that they ate, cats can be pretty picky about the water that they drink. And cats are sensitive to the smell of water, which can quickly get stale if their bowls aren't changed frequently enough or cleaned regularly. Plus, running or moving water is just more fun.
Cats are curious about water
Does your cat paw at her water dish? Many cats do. We don't know for sure why, but there are a couple of possible explanations.
If your cat tends to paw at the water dish before drinking, she might be checking the water level before diving in. Since the bowl's water level varies throughout the day, as well as from one day to the next, your cat might just be gauging how high the water is. Some cats find it uncomfortable to get their whiskers wet and their fur soggy, so they don't want to shove their face into a water bowl that's filled to the brim.
Cats play with water
Let's face it: water is a fun toy. Cats love anything that moves, and water is very good at moving. Your cat might enjoy batting at running water from the faucet because it's shiny and reflective, and because it moves quickly, much like their favorite toys do. And though they probably don't enjoy being submerged in water, the feeling of running water against their paw might be surprising and interesting, prompting them to do it again and again.
If your cat is obsessed with running water, she'll probably enjoy a cat fountain. Cat fountains are stimulating, and also encourage your cat to drink more. Plus, they can save you from constantly cleaning up spilled water.
Some cat breeds adore water
Although all cats descend from desert-dwelling ancestors who didn't have much regard for water in the wild, some breeds in particular evolved to be quite fond of water. Several cat breeds will even go swimming if you let them.
So if you're wondering what cats like water, then look no further than domesticated breeds like the Turkish van, Turkish Angora, Japanese bobtail, American bobtail, Abyssinian, Manx, Norwegian forest cat, and Maine Coon. You'll also find that exotic hybrid cats like the Savannah and the Bengal are fans of splashing around in puddles of water too.
Cats learn to love water
In addition to those cats descended from water-loving breeds, cats can develop a natural affinity for water if positively exposed to it from a young age. Not only can they learn to play with water and drink enough water to stay healthy, but you can also teach them that bathing is pleasant too. This is important because it teaches young kittens that bathing is something good and not scary, especially if you ever need to wash anything yucky off of your cat as an adult.
- Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University: Tips and Tricks to Get Your Cat to Drink More Water
- Woman's Day: 10 Cats That Like Water — Yes, Seriously
- Petful: 10 Cat Breeds That Actually Like Swimming (As Told in GIFs)
- Hill's Pet Nutrition: Why Do Cats Hate Water?
- Purina: Why Do Cats Hate Water?