Save MORE On Subscription Orders

Free Fedex 2-DAY Shipping Orders $100+

Why Do Cats Not Like Water?

Reading TimeReading Time:

Why Do Cats Not Like Water?
Why Do Cats Not Like Water? | Innovet Pet
We all know cats are associated with a hatred, even a disgust for or horror of, water. Our own cats and cats in videos can be seen running from and completely freaking out in the presence of water, but there isn't much discussion about why. Unless it's just to exclaim how weird, funny, or frustrating it is. Their hatred of water is certainly curious. Making us ask, "What is up with cats anyway?" But having a grasp of why cats hate water can help us be more understanding when dealing with them.

Do cats really hate water?

Do cats hate water?

Yes, indeed. It is not at all surprising if the typical cat runs or leaps away from water like this life-sustaining substance is a monster. It can be quite amusing, to watch them twist and scramble like we do when we encounter a spider's web, but if you really need to give the cat a bath and are struggling to do it, then you've got a frustrating battle on your hands.

Why do cats hate water? | Innovet Pet

Why do cats hate water?

Well, no one's been able to ask a cat why they hate water and receive a response, so we can't have their input, but people have come up with some educated theories and they make a lot of sense. When you get done reading them, it'll be perfectly understandable that cats hate water.


The original cats, the Arabian Wild Cat, evolved in the deserts of the Middle East, where they didn't need to like or even know about water. Their unique makeup was built to serve the needs of their arid environment.

An animal that encounters water a lot, or even needs it for their survival, will evolve to interact peaceably and even usefully with their environment. Much that makes up animal behavior today, including our pets, was determined when they originated and as they have evolved through the years.

Drowned rat

Evolutionary influence goes beyond behavior too. Cats don't just have a mental aversion to water because it is foreign to them, their bodies are not equipped to handle it well.

The cat's coat evolved in certain ways that are not conducive to water living. While many animals have coats that are water-resistant, so the animal moves well and maintains their body heat even when wet, cats do not. They rely on their agility to do the things they need and want to do, and being wet lessens their freedom of movement, making them agitated and fearful. They also can't regulate their temperature when wet. Temperature regulation is crucial for any cat, but it was of particular importance to our cats' ancestors in the desert who had to develop ways to deal with both extreme heat and cold, in a dry environment.

Aversion to change

Cats are stressed out by change. This makes them unlikely to develop new preferences in comparison to other more adaptable animals.

Control over grooming

Cats groom themselves. It's one of the convenient things about them; they self-clean. In fact, they are fastidious about grooming and this system of perfect cleaning that they have evolved is crucial to their health. Think about how much you'd hate it when you have a very important and detailed system for health and safety and someone thinks they know better, and acts on it, against your will, or something accidentally interferes with it. You'd be incensed and maybe panicky.

Water plays no part in their grooming, as they evolved cleaning themselves without it. And as we said above about temperature regulation, their coats are not made to be wet. A wet cat has a heavy, icky coat that feels cumbersome and may even be dangerous if they get cold. Worse yet, their only method of fixing it is to lick all that water away. That would require hours of intense grooming. You'd hate it if someone or something made you all of a sudden have to engage in emergency hours-long maintenance to preserve your health.

Why Do Cats Not Like Water? | Innovet Pet

What's that smell?

Cats use their smellers a lot. Their sense of smell is so important to them that they will sniff their food before eating it and if it doesn't meet their approval, they'll not eat. That's not finickiness for the sake of being finicky, it is an evolutionary advantage that protects them from bad food and other harmful things. That is also why dogs have such a strong sense of smell, their sense of smell developed as a way to interact well with their environment. That's why all of us have senses.

The cat sense of smell is so strong that they are keenly aware of the smell of tap water, the house they live in, and themselves, and this awareness of smell impacts their impression of their environment.

They expect themselves to smell a certain way, like how we get used to our own scent, and when they get wet, they don't smell the same anymore. This gives them the sense that something is wrong and causes them anxiety.

They can smell the tap water and all the chemicals and weird smells in it that we don't notice or get used to. If your cat goes up to some water, sniffs it, and backs away or even makes a face, it isn't your imagination, they might as well be saying, "Ewww," or "what is this?!"

And the water doesn't just mess up the natural balance of their coats, the smell lingers on them for long after they've gotten wet.

The cohesive answer

To sum all of this up, cats hate water because they weren't evolved to deal with it and it consequently impairs their ability to move freely, throws off their temperature regulation, causes them stress, smells icky to them, and makes them feel disoriented. With that information in mind, it's no wonder they hate it!

Do all cats hate water?

The question was bound to come up, particularly if some readers know of or have a cat that doesn't mind or even likes water. They're raising their hands like, "my cat likes water!" Some cats like to drink water from the sink, will play with water by pawing at it, and some even swim, on purpose and with gusto. You may see cats lounging in the sink in water or delighting in a bath.

Most cats detest water, but not all. Cats that like water either have behavior traits that override their natural evolutionary tendencies, in other words, personality wins out, or they were descended from cats who evolved around water. That did happen. It's just not nearly as common a line.

While water is hampering, cold, and stinky to cats, it also shines and moves. These are two things that cats do like. Some cats will be so drawn to the latter or not as bothered as the average cat by the former that they play freely with water.

When in the act of playing, rather than being accidentally or unwillingly exposed to water, the cat is in control. They are making the choice, and an enjoyable choice, to engage with the water and so don't feel helpless or anxious.

Some cat breeds are more likely to have a positive relationship with water and may even swim. Bengals, Maine Coons, and Abyssinians are well known water lovers. There is also the Turkish Van breed which evolved a waterproof coat and webbed paws.

Bengals are believed to be descended from the Asian Leopard which is and was known to clean their paws in rivers and streams and drink from the water. Maine Coons are thought to be descended from either the Norwegian Forest Cat or the Turkish Angora, the Turkish Angora also being a likely ancestor of the Turkish Van. The Norwegian Forest Cat traveled with the Vikings on their ships and so became accustomed to water. The Turkish Van evolved around Lake Van and so needed to adapt to an environment with water as well as extreme heat, using the water to keep from overheating. Abyssinians have a less clear connection, but it is believed that they shared a similar path as the Norwegian Forest Cat and learned to deal with water by traveling on ships with British soldiers in Ethiopia.


How to give a cat a bath that hates water

Why Do Cats Not Like Water? | Innovet Pet

There is no guarantee that you can make your cat like water, or even tolerate it, but you can make it much more likely by being considerate of their dilemma and tweaking bath time accordingly.

If the time hasn't passed, get them used to water when they are kittens or very young and more adaptable. Encourage them to be around and interact with water and maybe give them a bath if you fully intend to give them baths later.

Make sure it is reasonably warm in the room and/or house so the cat won't feel chilled or downright cold when they get wet.

Don't plunk them in a tub-full of water. Sit them in the empty tub and run small amounts of water as needed to clean the cat.

Purchase a faucet hose or shower attachment so you can direct water with more control to your cat's body rather than just running the faucet and eliminate you having to keep making the cat stand under the faucet.

Or use a pitcher to direct water onto the cat in smaller amounts and a more flexible way.

If your cat won't tolerate any running water and the need for the bath permits, you could try cleaning them with a wet washcloth.

Make sure to use a dime-sized amount of cat-friendly shampoo, or another amount if the shampoo suggests, and lather it in. Make sure not to get shampoo in their eyes, ears, nose, or mouth. Try to get all the shampoo off the cat as leftover shampoo can cause skin irritation and it will taste funny to the cat throughout the day when they groom.

Give them a treat to make a positive association with the bath.

Dry them off with as absorbent a towel as you have or buy absorbent towels for their baths. You can blow dry them on a low setting, if they aren't freaked out by the noise. Just make sure the air isn't too hot for kitty, and don't blow air directly in their face.

If you try all of these tips and your cat still hates the bath, you may have to take them to the groomer or vet for necessary baths.

Cat died after bath

That's a horrible thought, but 70 people look it up each month, so it definitely bears some consideration. Baths are supposed to be safe for cats and will not directly kill them. Most of the time, the pet owner is in much more danger than the cat because the cat claws them so terribly trying to get away.

But some people do sadly report that their cats die shortly after a bath. There are various potential reasons for this, that the cat became so stressed out they had a stroke or heart attack, that they were allergic to something in the shampoo, or they suffered hypothermia. Sometimes the cause is never known, and it is possible it was a coincidence.

If you are nervous about giving your cat a bath, do not force your cat to endure a bath they have a strong or violent aversion to. Encourage them in the ways mentioned above to undergo a bath without stressing them out, make sure they are warm but not roasting, and keep up with regular vet visits to ensure the cat doesn't have an underlying problem that may cause sudden death from a bath or another stressor.

There may be other alternatives to giving them a bath or if they absolutely must have one, you could always go the groomer or vet route as mentioned above. They will be better able to bathe the cat in a way that will lessen their stress and catch the odd health problem that may arise.

How CBD Oil May Help When Cats Hate Water

No, CBD oil doesn't magically make cats like water like a potion might. It is possible that it could help your cat deal with anxiety from necessary bathing or to prevent the need for a bath by treating skin conditions and pest allergies without shampoos.

CBD oil is commonly used as a natural way to manage anxiety and depression. If your cat suffers from either of these conditions, they will likely have a more lasting or severe reaction to bath time stress. A treat given around bath time to both reward them and help ease their anxiety may help, or you might give them CBD oil regularly to address persistent anxiety and cat depression.

Cats don't normally need baths, but when they do, it's often to manage a skin problem with a shampoo. You might avoid the need for shampoo by tackling their problem with a topical CBD oil lotion or balm. These topicals may soothe itch and irritation, reduce inflammation, help prevent and eradicate infections, and ease pain.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is a substance found in hemp and marijuana and contributes greatly to the health benefits of both plants. Hemp contains much more cannabidiol than marijuana and virtually no THC, so many CBD oil manufacturers choose hemp as their source.

Scientists have proven that humans, cats, and many other animals have an endocannabinoid system that creates and uses its own cannabinoids. This system maintains a careful balance that impacts how most bodily organs run via CB-receptors connected to the organs. External cannabinoids like cannabidiol work in the body much like its own cannabinoids, helping it overcome deficiencies and give it a boost so the body can maintain its crucial homeostasis.

CBD oil is considered safe and side effect free. There are no known instances of an overdose, but a pet can suffer lack of appetite, diarrhea, or sedation when given excessive quantities. You will need to tell the vet you are giving the cat CBD oil before they perform any procedures or prescribe any medication as CBD oil impacts the way doses work in the body and they need to be calculated differently. There are also mixed scientific results concerning whether CBD oil has a restorative effect on the liver or a negative one similar to alcohol and acetaminophen in humans. You might ask your vet about risks versus benefits.

Innovations from Innovet

We invent creative, natural, and eco-friendly solutions to pet problems. If you are searching for, "Why do most cats hate water?" you may just be curious or you may be struggling to bathe your cat. We have some CBD oil, balm and an anti-pest product line that may keep you from having to bathe kitty. You might also want to try our CBD oil tinctures to address cat anxiety and depression. If your cat has any problem that can't be managed with traditional means or natural alternatives, contact us to see if we can't find an answer for your cat. We love to innovate for pets.


Are There Actually Cats That Like Water?
Do Cats Fear The Water?

Recent Posts

Idiopathic Hypercalcemia in Cats
Idiopathic Hypercalcemia in Cats
How to Trim Your Cat’s Nails?
How to Trim Your Cat’s Nails?
Why Do Cats Not Like Water?
Why Do Cats Not Like Water?
What Do Hairballs Look Like?
What Do Hairballs Look Like?
Can Cats Drink Milk?
Can Cats Drink Milk?
Is my Cat Overweight?
Is my Cat Overweight?
Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published