Cats are fascinating animals with unique personalities. One thing most cats have in common, however, is their nearly universal dislike of water. My own cats take off like rockets when even a drop of water falls on them. But why is this?It seems strange, considering that water is necessary for life. Luckily for those of us who want to better understand our feline friends’ behavior, experts do have several solid theories…
Many experts believe that because they have historically lived in arid climates, cats therefore have had no real reason to learn how to swim or to even adapt to water. It is possible that, despite millenia of domestication, this trait has never quite lost its hold over our beloved felines.
Another common theory is that cats are just not exposed to water very often, so being splashed or taken off guard can be incredibly unpleasant. To be fair, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed being splashed randomly, either. Kristen Hall-Geisler makes a good point in her article in How Stuff Works about how humans may be worsening their natural fears:
We also use water for punishment, which is not going to endear cats to being wet. When they jump on the counter, or lick our bowl of yogurt, or scratch the arm of the couch, we often spray them with water. It works because it’s an unpleasant surprise. It’s cold and uncomfortable, so they stop the behavior we don’t want them to do and run off to stare at us disdainfully from a distance.
In her blog post entitled 3 Reasons Why Cats Hate Water (And Why Some Like it!), Dr. Fiona Lee tells us that many times, bathing a cat will leave behind foreign scents. Cats are fastidious animals, so they need to work even harder after a bath to get rid of those smells, which again, is important both to avoid being discovered by predators and to prevent signaling to their prey that they are coming.
Some cats do like water
I know we’ve talked a lot about cats despising water, but there are actually some breeds that enjoy it. Big cats like tigers are huge fans, often going for a swim. But some small cat breeds–including Maine Coons, Bengals, and Turkish Vans–tend to be less afraid of water, and will even sometimes enjoy taking a dip as well. You can also condition cats to be less fearful of water. Kristen Hall-Geisler suggests that the best time to acclimate cats to water is during their socialization period, before they are 16 weeks old.
Hallie (Hal) Robcke is a Public Relations major at Pace University and a pet mom to 2 cats and a German Shepherd mix. In her free time, when she is not chasing my cats off her counters, she likes to read, travel, and spend time with her family.