One of the age old questions asked by cat owners is: what is the deal with cats and water? Most felines seem to hate water, but do any actually like it? Because we are used to cats hating water, it's easy to assume that's how they all feel, but the truth isn't quite as cut and, well... dry. When you try to give a cat a bath, you may get quite a grumpy kitty, while other times, cats might enjoy or even play in the water.
Water doesn't sit well in kitties' coats.
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One of the main reasons cats don't love the water is because their coats aren't designed for water the way a dog's is. As any experienced cat owner knows, cats spend a lot of time grooming themselves. Cats groom their coat not just to keep it clean, but also as part of their socializing. Their rough, scratchy tongues make the perfect grooming tools, and you'll often find a cat spending a lazy afternoon grooming themselves in a sunny spot. For most felines, this grooming is enough, so they don't need to be doused in water to get clean.
And getting fully drenched in water isn't compatible with cats' coats, because they don't have water resistant coats like dogs do. According to Kelley Bollen, the director of behavior programs for the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, cats' coats don't dry very quickly when soaking wet, so cats may just feel uncomfortable when they're wet. She added, "I also think because cats are 'control freaks' and like four feet on a solid surface, they do not appreciate the sensation of floating in the water."
Because cats spend so much time grooming themselves, they typically don't need a bath as often as dogs do, which means they don't have as much opportunity to get used to bath time. Make sure to introduce them to bath time slowly. If you do need to bathe your cat, pour water gently over your kitty – the pressure of shower heads and faucets can startle your kitty. As you and your kitty learn to trust each other around bath time, you'll find they can get used to and even sometimes enjoy taking a bath.
Though most cats definitely don't like water, some breeds really do.
It's too much of an oversimplification to claim that all cats hate water. Some cats actually like water. Some cats will play in the water. And there are even some breeds of cat that are more prone to have a love of water than other domestic cats. Two breeds known to have more waterproof coats and an affinity for water are the Turkish Van and the closely related Turkish Angora cats. These kitties may both be better suited for swimming because of their waterproof coats, but they may also have gotten used to the water because of generations of swimming. Maine Coons tend to enjoy swimming for the same reasons.
Bengal and Savannah cats are both closely related to wild cats, so they tend to like water, much like their wild cousins. And some cats became accustomed to water due to their habitats. Norwegian Forest Cats learned to fish kin lakes and streams, and Abyssinians were ship cats, so they got used to water on their long journeys.
Cats may not like being submerged, but they can be very entertained by water.
Many a cat owner has been perplexed by the fact that, though their kitty would be very upset to be fully submerged, they can't seem to keep their cats away from water. Cats tend to be fascinated by the water in the bathtub or the water coming out of the faucet. They may even enjoy playing with it, which seems counterintuitive when they panic as soon as they fall in or get too wet. Cats love to explore and observe their world, so they're often fascinated by mundane things around the house. So, they're totally entertained observing and exploring. They also like to feel like a part of the family, so they try to do humanlike things to fit in.
So even though most kitties may never be the type of pet that leaps into the pool to chase after a toy, there are still plenty of cats that tolerate and even enjoy water. If you want a cat that likes water, you can choose one of the breeds that tend to enjoy water more than others. Or, if you just want your cat to be comfortable in the bath, just remember that a slow adjustment and working to make water a positive experience can help your cat feel comfortable, whether they're wet or dry.