Welcome to another installment of “Debarking Pet Myths,” our monthly series that addresses common myths, misconceptions and old wives’ tales about dogs, cats and their nutrition.
For most cats, “bath time” means getting as far away from the water as possible while making as much noise as possible. But there are actually some cats who love water. We’ll find out who they are and what it could mean if your cat develops a sudden interest in water.
Why Do Most Cats Say No, No, No to H2O?
There are a few reasons why most cats won’t have anything to do with water (other than drinking it). First, if we look waaaaay back in history, the ancestors of cats were desert dwellers, so swimming really wasn’t a high priority for them. Next, cats are obsessive groomers and spend hours keeping themselves clean, so they don’t usually end up dirty, stinky and in need of a bath like their canine friends do. Grooming also adds scents to cats’ coats so that they can mark their territory by rubbing themselves on objects (or people). So a bath would wash away their natural scent.
Who Are the Cats Who Like Water?
The cats who do like water probably fit into one of these three categories: curious cats, copycats and swimming cats. Curious cats are the ones that love watching the faucet run, splashing in their water bowl and generally having fun playing with water — without actually getting very wet. Their curiosity may also include flushing the toilet in the middle of the night, scaring their owners. Copycats are the ones who surprise you in the bathroom. They like to do what their owners do, including taking a shower. Swimming cats are the ones who will deliberately get wet and seem to have a natural affinity for water.
Cat Breeds That Love Water
According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association, some cat breeds are known to like water more than others, including Turkish Van, Maine coon and sphynx. Turkish Van cats love water, which is why they’re sometimes called “swimming cats.” Water doesn’t make them uncomfortable since they don’t have an undercoat and they have a water-resistant coat thanks to the cashmere-like texture of their hair. Maine coon cats love to be in or around water. You’ll likely find them in the shower with you or “helping” to wash the dishes. Sphynx like (or tolerate) water probably more out of necessity and early desensitization to water as kittens rather than actually enjoying it. They require periodic bathing because they lack hair that would normally absorb body oils.
Can Cats Be Trained to Like Water?
It is possible (but challenging) to train your cat to like water, particularly if they are still a kitten. As with most experiences, if a cat is bathed often as a kitten, they tend to like (or at least tolerate) water better than an adult cat with no previous water exposure.
A Sudden Water Interest Could Be a Concern
If your cat was a typical “water is my nemesis” cat and is now more of a “show me the water” cat, you may want to have your veterinarian check them out, particularly if they’re an older cat. Health issues that are associated with increased thirst, like hyperthyroidism, diabetes and kidney disease, could be the underlying reason behind your cat’s change of heart about water. If your cat is showing signs of increased thirst, like drinking from the faucet, drinking from a sink or toilet or drinking more than a cup of water per 10 pounds of body weight each day, it’s a good idea to take them for a health check. If you’re concerned about how much water your cat is drinking, this article explains how to measure their water consumption.
It’s true that most cats have a strong aversion to water, but not all of them. It depends on their breed, their water experiences as kittens and, of course, their individual personalities.