Why Are Cats Afraid of Water? Here Are 8 Reasons Why!

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

why are cats afraid of water

In movies, memes, and real life, cats are seen to be afraid of water. This is common knowledge, but why are cats afraid of water when we see their giant cousins like tigers happily swimming in lakes?

Cats don’t like water because their coat’s oily nature does not mix well with it. It might be because of their genetic history, their natural desire for warmth, sensitive nose, fear of the unfamiliar, or conditioning to be afraid of water.

Why Are Cats Scared of Water


Cats can be afraid of many things, like cucumbers. There are even cats afraid of water bottles. But for now, we’ll focus on their relationship with water only.

1. Cat’s genetic history

One of the possible reasons why cats are so scared of water is because of their genetic history. Many domestic cats you see today descend from wild Arabian cats.

The Arabian cats were constantly surrounded by dry landscapes and rarely had any vast bodies of water to influence them. Because they were not accustomed to water, cats may have developed a natural fear of it.

2. Cat’s unique oily fur

A more simple explanation would be a cat’s coat. Felines care a lot about their fur (up to 50% of their day is self-grooming), and unlike other animals, their coat is waterphobic.

So, what does water do to a cats fur? When their oily coat is soaked in water, the two will clash due to the hair’s oily nature, and the hair cannot quickly get rid of the liquid. The cats would be irritated with the water clinging uncomfortably to their body.

3. They favor balance

Cats are generally creatures of grace and balance. Being known to land on their feet from extreme heights, cats prefer their surface to be solid and easy to move around.

However, water is the complete opposite. When cats cannot find their balance, fear strikes them as their control is lost, along with their mobility.

4. Cats afraid of unfamiliar things

Like many living creatures, cats are afraid of unfamiliar things. If they’re scared of water, that probably means they have not yet been adequately introduced to it.

The most that cats might have familiarized themselves with would be a small dish of water or a cup. So, if they’re suddenly shown a whole tub or sink, they’ll become afraid of the possible unknown dangers.

5. The cat was conditioned to fear water

Why don’t cats like water? A fear of water can come naturally, but there are cases when cats are conditioned to have it.

For example, the owner may have used a water bottle spray to ‘discipline’ their cats whenever they disapprove of something (e.g., jumping on the counter or stealing human food). This punishment makes cats hate getting wet.

The more they’re punished in such a way, the more a cat will associate water with adverse situations. So, when they come across it, they will most likely become afraid.

6. Cats don’t need to consume much water

Surprisingly, cats don’t consume as much water as you think (only about 0.7–0.9 ounces of water per 1 pound of weight). Unless a cat’s diet often includes dehydrated food, they probably won’t need to drink at all.

7. Cat’s need for warmth

Cats dislike water because their temperatures noticeably drop when they get wet. A cat needs to be around 98.1 to 102.1 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why they need to stay warm. You may have seen felines lying next to a fire or on a car hood; that’s how much they like heat.

8. They want to avoid smells or contamination

Cats have sensitive noses. A cat’s nose is, of course, more sensitive than a human’s, but surprisingly, it is also more potent than a dog’s.

When cats smell water, they may think the chemicals in it are dangerous or simply dislike the scent of soaps you put in the bath.



How do I get my cat to not be afraid of water?

The best way to do this is to introduce cats to water at an early age. Don’t douse them in water right from the get-go. Instead, sprinkle water at small places like their paws and make your way up to their upper body.

Cats afraid of everything need to be treated patiently. Make the bathtub a safe and fun place for them, and give them treats and positive words when they get themselves in water. It’s essential to use warm water as well.

Why do cats hate baths?

Cats hate bathing in water true or false? Generally, it’s true.

Cats not like baths because of the reasons we mentioned above. When bathing your cat, do it slowly and carefully in a way that won’t cause them discomfort.

Do all cats hate water?

Not all cats hate water. Some members of the feline family tree are good swimmers who gladly dive into still water. Still, there are also domesticated cat breeds that naturally approach water without fear.

Most cats hate water, but cat breeds like Sphynx, Siamese, British shorthairs, and Burmese are known to be breeds that love water.


Why are cats afraid of water? It could be their genetic history, or it could be due to the influence of their surroundings.

Now that you know the reasons to answer this question, you can use this knowledge to make life comfortable for your cat. Of course, it’s possible to train a cat to love water, but don’t be upset if they don’t enjoy bath time. After all, it’s natural for cats not like water.

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