Why Do Cats Not Like Water?

cats and water don’t mix. While there are exceptions to every rule, most felines exhibit an aversion to water, showing signs of fear or discomfort when faced with a bath or unexpected wet encounter.

But why do cats typically dislike water? This article delves into the reasons behind this feline aversion, drawing on scientific, historical, and behavioral factors.

The Evolutionary Perspective

Cats, unlike their canine counterparts, are not natural swimmers. They evolved in dry arid climates and, unlike many animals, did not need to adapt to water environments. As solitary hunters, their hunting tactics evolved around land-based pursuits.

In terms of survival and evolution, cats had no necessity to interact with water, which could explain their instinctual aversion to it.

Fur and Thermoregulation

A cat’s coat, dense and insulating, plays a significant role in its discomfort with water. When thoroughly soaked, a cat’s fur becomes heavy and hampers its mobility. Furthermore, it takes a long time to dry, leaving the cat feeling cold and uncomfortable for extended periods.

This discomfort associated with wet fur and the subsequent drop in body temperature can cause cats to detest water.

The Sensory Overload

Cats have an acute sense of touch, with higher nerve density in their skin compared to many other mammals. This sensitivity means that the sensation of water on their fur can be overwhelming or uncomfortable, leading to their dislike of being wet.

Additionally, their keen sense of hearing makes the sound of running water potentially alarming.

A Matter of Control and Safety

Cats are creatures of control, keen on maintaining their personal safety and comfort. Water experiences, like baths, often occur against their will, making them feel anxious or threatened.

This loss of control, coupled with the fact that water can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous, can foster a cat’s negative association with water.

Cats Clean Themselves

One of the most distinctive behavioral traits of cats is their self-grooming habits. Cats spend a significant portion of their time grooming themselves, using their tongues and teeth to clean their fur and remove loose hair.

This meticulous cleaning process helps them regulate body temperature, stimulate circulation, and even serves as a method of relaxation.

As such, they don’t require additional cleaning through bathing as frequently as some other pets might, reinforcing their general aversion to water-based cleaning.

Cultural and Breed-Specific Differences

While it’s common for domestic cats to show a dislike for water, it’s important to note there are exceptions. Certain breeds of cats, like the Maine Coon or Turkish Van, are known to be more comfortable with water.

These breeds have historical and geographical associations with water and have developed physical traits, like water-resistant fur, that facilitate better interaction with water.

In some cultures, cats are also more regularly exposed to water from a young age, fostering a higher tolerance.

Building Positive Water Associations

While cats have an inherent aversion to water, it’s possible to build positive associations with it, especially if this process begins when they’re kittens.

Using warm water, providing firm footing during baths, and incorporating positive reinforcement like treats can help ease a cat’s fear or discomfort with water.


The feline aversion to water is a multi-faceted issue rooted in evolutionary, physical, and behavioral factors. While the saying “as nervous as a cat in a hot tin roof” doesn’t mention water, it captures the essence of how most cats feel about getting wet deeply uncomfortable.

But, just like their independent and unique personalities, cats’ attitudes towards water can vary greatly. Understanding the reasons behind their general dislike can help cat owners make the necessary adjustments to ensure that any necessary encounters with water are less stressful for their furry companions.