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Can cats swim? Do they like water?

We’ve heard a lot about cats’ aversion to water, perhaps so much that we no longer question it and assume that no cat likes to get wet, but what if it’s just a myth? Is it true that some cats like water and fun activities like swimming? Can cats swim?

If you’re wondering whether or not your cat can swim, here are some valuable facts to help you figure out whether or not cats can swim, why they’re said to dislike water, and how you can make bath time easier for both of you.

OK. But can cats swim?

Yes, most cats may hate being in the water, but if they were in such a situation, any cat would instinctively start swimming or paddling toward the shore. Although cats are not the best-adapted animals for the aquatic world, their paws are small and don’t make it easy for them to move through the water.

Every cat has a unique personality. Therefore, any cat could be a water lover and an Olympic swimming representative of cats. However, there are some breeds that, by their origin, are known to love water and everything related to it:

  • Abyssinian
  • Turkish Angora
  • Turkish Van (known as the swimming cat)
  • Maine Coon
  • Bengal

Why don’t cats like water? Here are 4 reasons

Although, in theory, domestic cats should like water by ancestry, the reality is that this is not the case. Although the big cats enjoy the water and are excellent swimmers, like the tiger or the jaguar, you have to look at where each one lives. Big cats live in the wild. They get wet in the rain and cool off in a mighty river while your little Simba lives in a house indoors, possibly in a city, and rarely goes outside; logically, he is not used to the water.

Besides the fact that most domestic cats find their home in a dry place, other reasons may cause a cat to dislike water.

can cats swim - don't like water

1. They can’t stand not being in control

It’s not that cats are little furry control freaks, either. Cats don’t tolerate not feeling in control of their stability or an environment they can’t handle, for example, the ocean or a large swimming pool. As a cat parent, you will know that cats are routine animals that do not enjoy change, let alone one that simultaneously involves many different sensations. Cats are used to walking on flat, firm surfaces, being dry and warm, and running to hide and get away from what they don’t like, and in a body of water, they can’t do any of that.

A cat that feels out of control may panic and, instead of trying to swim to safety, may sink, not knowing how to react. This problem doesn’t happen to all cats, but with these temperamental little guys, you can never know how they will act in certain situations.

2. Their coat gets heavy

Another reason not all cats enjoy being in the water is because of their fantastic coat, which gives them warmth and protects them from the cold or the intense sun rays. When it gets wet, it becomes a heavy burden.

When the cat is wet, especially with double fur, it will feel cumbersome and difficult to move. If we add that cats have tiny paws that don’t help them to swim, we can understand that most cats consider swimming an extra heavy sport, and it is better to avoid such a strenuous activity.

3. Cats hate being cold 

Cats have a higher body temperature than humans, usually between 100 F degrees. Therefore they are much more susceptible than we are to temperature changes, especially when it is cold. Very few cat breeds have a waterproof coat; the coat of the vast majority of cats gets wet instantly, causing water to get quickly onto the cat’s skin.

As you can imagine, a wet cat gets cold quickly and can take a long time to dry completely, which is why most cats won’t even consider taking a dip in the pool, only to freeze afterward.

4. They don’t like the smell of water

But the water is odorless and tasteless! Or so we thought.

A cat’s sense of smell is more powerful than ours; they can perceive our scent from meters away and even distinguish the aroma of another cat’s pheromones from several meters around. It is not hard to believe that they can also perceive the smell of drinking water and non-potable water, which, although we don’t notice it, contain certain chemicals to treat it, such as chlorine.

Cats don’t tolerate smells they don’t like, and even less so if that terrible smell permeates their precious fur. It’s a hard pass on the pool or the beach for them.

How can I get my cat to tolerate water?

It’s not a magic formula, but there are certain things you could try to see if your cat accepts water with a better attitude, for example, at bath time. The first and only rule would be not to rush your cat because it won’t go well. Everything is on its own time and if the cat wants it.

can cats swim - tolerate water

Getting a cat used to water is better to start when it is still a kitten, so it will be easier to train. Always use warm water and take care of the temperature of the room. This way, the cat won’t feel cold. Start with some water, maybe a few drops that wet the floor, but don’t exceed the height of the cat’s paws, and to distract him a little, you can place his toys inside the bathtub or even give him some food.

Next time you can start the same way and raise the water level a little more, respecting if the cat prefers to go out. This way, he will not associate the water with a forced activity. With a bit of luck, patience, and many attempts, you can get your cat to accept entering the water or a wet space without complaining and scratching.

Try it and let us know how it went. Maybe your cat will be the next Olympic feline swimming champion.

Can cats swim? Final words

Now that you know the answer to can cats swim, you also know that not all cats like water, but those who do usually enjoy it a lot. There are many reasons cats don’t enjoy swimming or being in the water, from their coat to their sense of smell and even their body temperature.

However, getting them used to it with patience and training is possible. In any case, if your cat falls into the water, do not despair. As we have seen, they have a natural ability to swim that will help them get to safety. And if you want your cat to enjoy bath time as much as possible, don’t forget to use only warm water and have some toys or food on hand to distract him.

Do you have a cat that loves swimming? Please share it with us in the comments!

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