Since it is thought that most cats hate water, there is a general consensus among pet owners that cats don’t swim. And, If your cat freaks every time they hear the bath being filled, chances are, you probably don’t relish the idea of testing this theory. 

If you have ever watched Animal Planet or a documentary about big cats like tigers, though,you probably have witnessed these big cats swimming across channels of water in the wild. This begs the question… do cats really hate water? Can they swim?

The question of whether whether or not cats swim, or should, is something we get often at Evendale-Blue Ash Pet Hospital. Let’s clear up the mystery once and for all!

The Question of Whether Cats Swim

The simple answer is, yes. Like their wild counterparts, cats have the encoded instinct to swim. Domestic cats have the capability of swimming, should they need to do so. And, actually, they may even like it. The myth of cats hating water is an old one, one that is generally assumed by most people.

There are some cats, though, that enjoy being in water or are curious enough to attempt swimming. Why do these cats enjoy swimming while others fear H2O? Much of this has to do with being acclimated to water at an early age.

If you expose your kitten to swimming and being in water during a bath, they will get used to the feeling. Some cats really enjoy being bathed, believe it or not. And some cats, such as the Abyssinian, are well adapted to water and have webbed-like paws that help them navigate swimming more easily. 

It’s  generally speculated that cats disdain water because it can interfere with the hunt. Water weighs down fur and makes it harder for cats to make a quick escape from something threatening or for them to attack prey. This slowing down of their natural sprinting ability is one of the reasons why it is thought that cats don’t like to be submerged in water.

Lastly, cats are fastidious creatures and want their fur to be clean and dry. The thought of being in water, mud, and debris may be a definite no-no for fussy kitties.

Cat Swimming 101

Getting your cat to swim relies on helping them become comfortable around water. If you have a backyard pool, there are some simple ways to teach your cat to swim.

  1. Hang out with your cat around water. Bring your cat by the pool with you, but just allow them to walk around the perimeter where you are swimming and sitting in the water. Have some treats with you, so you can entice your pet to come closer to the edge. Do this for a few weeks as your cat gets more curious about the water.
  2. Bring your cat into the shallow end of the pool by holding them. If your cat remains calm, walk around in the water, allowing their tail or belly to graze the top of the water.
  3. Take your cat to a step and sit them on it in the water. See how they respond. Some cats may immediately jump out. That’s fine, as they need additional time to adjust to the feeling of being under the water.
  4. Once your cat is used to water, see how they do in deeper areas. Let your cat’s body dip into the water when in the pool together. Gradually, let them go. Watch them swim, while keeping them close enough to the edges to get out of the water when they have had enough.

This process may take a few weeks, especially if you have an adult cat who has never been introduced to swimming. A few precautions to take include:

  • Always supervise your pet around a pool or other body of water.
  • Consider installing a pet ramp that attaches to the side of the pool, for easy access to escape if they fall in.
  • Bring drinking water for your pet. Don’t allow them to drink pool water since it contains chemicals that can harm them.
  • If you take your pet to a lake, keep them on a leash and next to you while you swim. Don’t allow them in moving bodies of water, like streams and rivers, where they can be swept away.
  • Keep your pet up to date on parasite preventatives.
  • Some cats can be fitted with a life preserver for extra protection in the water.

Would you like more information on the ins and outs of how cats swim, as well as swimming safety for your feline? Please give us a call. We hope you and your cat have a wonderful and safe time enjoying the water.