Why Are Cats Afraid of Water?

So, your family dog most probably likes to play in the water as most do. You may be wondering why cats are afraid of water because they don’t seem to like it at all.

Even an accidental squirt of water or even as small as a drop of water on your cat’s fur will likely send it scampering off to get away from the moisture.

The domesticated cats that we love today have a long lineage of being from cats in the wild. Most cats in the wild were in dry climates, so your cat may have just inherited this trait through her bloodlines over many hundreds of years.

Other cats may have had a scare and fallen in the water and now they steer clear of it.

Why Does My Cat Hate Water?

It may seem odd that cats really don’t like water when you see them dip their paws into a glass of water or they may even paw at a faucet with dripping water.

They do this to discover what the water is and cats are very curious as well. Most cats will just not stand for a bath though, and it’s a rare occasion when they actually need to be bathed.

why are cats afraid of water

Water is Unfamiliar to Cats

Cats see water as an unfamiliar mystery because our domestic cats that we cherish as house pets don’t need to catch fish in a stream to eat.

Instead, the humans in the household will provide both food and clean drinking water for their cats.

Your cat’s ancestors lived in a dry and arid climate, much like a desert, and they didn’t see rivers, oceans, or the sea.

Water Makes Cats Nervous

Your cat likely spends many hours a day meticulously cleaning her fur. They are expert groomers and do this to remove any excess oils that are produced by the skin and then distributed throughout their coats.

This grooming process makes your cat’s fur more fluffy than a dog’s and it also makes it less water-resistant when it’s compared to the coat of a dog.

Since they groom diligently, they don’t want water on their fur in order to mess it up. Wet fur makes a cat very uncomfortable and nervous and it also takes a long time to dry, as well to increase the amount of uncomfortable time being wet or damp.

The wet coat also seems to weigh down a cat and they don’t find this a bit amusing at all.

Lack of Control

Cats like to be in control of everything in their surroundings. When things surprise them or don’t go as expected, your cat will get anxious being the control freak that they are.

Cats can’t control when their humans give them a bath, so they will likely scratch you in the beginning, tuck their tail and run when they see a sink or bathtub full of water for the first time.

Cats Can Be Traumatized by Water

If a cat accidentally gets sprayed by water or falls into water in a bathtub, sink, or fish tank, it can experience deep trauma because it’s a negative experience that scares them.

They may also be worried when falling into the water because they don’t know how to get out of it. Most cats that have bad experiences with water will hate it for life.

Cats Can Smell Chemicals in Water

Your cat’s sense of smell is very good with 200 million odor receptors in that small little nose. Cats can smell the chemicals in the tap water of your home and have an aversion to them.

Cats may play with water dripping from a faucet with their paws, but they don’t want to be dunked in a large amount of water in your bathtub because they don’t want to mess up their perfectly groomed and sweet-smelling coat.

Why Do Cats Paw in Water?

Cats will often put their paws in dripping water from a faucet or even their water dish.

This is quite different than taking a bath though. Being that cats are so curious, they somehow love the look of moving water.

Maybe because it looks more refreshing to them over water that is just sitting in their dish.

Many cats paw at the water in their water bowl before they drink from it. This can be because they just love the movement of water or they may be moving it to aerate it with their paw so they don’t drink stagnated or still water.

Why Does My Cat Dip Her Paw in the Water Bowl?

Some cats will paw at their water bowl before drinking from it if the bowl is too small to fit their whiskers.

Your cat’s whiskers are very sensitive and they don’t like to have them bent or touching items. Your cat may be telling you her bowl is too narrow if she dips a paw into the water and then licks her paw to get a drink.

If your cat is insecure, it may paw at the water bowl as well. If you’ve noticed, your cat paws at things that make them self-conscious, such as a new toy or another four-legged family member, before playing with it.

What Cat Breeds Like Water?

Some cat breeds are said to like water. However, just because you get a specific breed of cat, doesn’t mean your particular cat will enjoy the water.

It really just depends on your individual feline friend. Some cats even like to swim in a pool in your yard to stay cool in the heat of summer.

Cat breeds that are more predisposed to liking water include the Maine Coon, the Abyssinian, the Turkish Van, which is also called the “swimming cat,” the Turkish Angora, and the Bengal.

The Highlander, Japanese Bobtail, and the Norwegian Forest Cat are also known to enjoy the water.

You may wonder why these particular breeds of cats like water. It’s because they all have something in common with each other–a double coat or waterproof fur.

The coast closest to the skin protects the skin from water, while the longer outer coat will get wet. This keeps the skin of the cat from actually getting wet, so they don’t mind dipping in a swimming pool.

What Happens if I Have to Give My Cat A Bath?

Most of the time, your cat won’t even need a bath or help with grooming needs. You can brush your cat to keep the fur nice and soft without any tangles to help her. However, if she gets into something very sticky or smelly, you may need to help to clean her up.

The best area to bathe a cat is in a door-closed room, a laundry room, or a bathroom. This keeps your cat from clawing and scratching you and trying to run away. If they know the door is closed, they are more apt to succumb to a nice bath.

Step-By-Step Cat Bathing 101

There is a specific process you should follow for the least stressful bath for both you and your cat. Following these tips will help to make the situation more bearable for your feline friend and keep you from being bitten and scratched to death in the process.

Step 1: Toenails

Trim your cat’s toenails so that if you do get scratched, it won’t be as deep. Thoroughly brush your cat so to get her really clean and remove any loose fur and mats before the bath.

The best time to bathe your cat is when she is calm and quiet. You can play with your cat first to wear her out or give her some catnip so she is docile. If someone is around to help you while you bathe your cat, enlist their help as well to make the process faster and easier.

Step 2: Toweling

Place a folded towel in the container, sink, or bathtub where you will be bathing your cat. Cats like to have traction so they feel more in control than they would otherwise with their feet slipping and sliding around. A rubber bath mat also works well for bathing a cat and giving it traction.

You only need about three to four inches of water in your bathing area of choice. The water should be barely warmer than lukewarm because cats have a higher temperature than humans do and you don’t want to overheat them. Get your helper if you have one to hold the cat for you.

Step 3: Pitcher

Use a plastic cup or pitcher to gently pour water over your cat until she is thoroughly wet. Then add some cat shampoo to her and lather her up well. Rinse your cat with water until all the soap is removed from her fur. For super sticky items, you may need to apply shampoo a second time.

Step 4: Soap & Shampoo

Clean your cat’s face with a washcloth using a drop or two of cat shampoo if necessary. Don’t pour water over your cat’s face, just wet the washcloth with water to clean her face. Dry your cat thoroughly with several large towels so she will finish drying more quickly.

Step 5: Lure With Treats

Give your cat lots of praise and some tasty treats for being cooperative. Close the door to the room and make sure it’s warm in the room while she dries out completely.


To answer your question of why cats are afraid of water, it can be because of genetics, an accident they had from falling in water, or the smell of tap water that gives your cat an aversion to water.

If your cat likes water to play in, it still doesn’t mean that it wants to be dunked underneath the water, so please don’t try that or you could traumatize your cat.