Pet Myths: Do Cats Really Hate Water?

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PetMD Editorial
Published: August 29, 2017


By Megan Sullivan

Many people are under the impression that cats and water don’t mix. But do cats really hate water? And if so, why do cats hate water?

According to our veterinary experts, it’s complicated.

Dr. Carlo Siracusa, clinical assistant professor of behavior medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, says that cats have a complex relationship with water. “The majority of them like to interact with water,” he says. “However, if you take a cat that didn’t have any contact with water and sop the cat in water, he will probably have a fear reaction.”

For the most part, cats are averse to getting wet, says Dr. Katy Nelson, a veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Washington, D.C., and a medical advisor for petMD. “They do a nice job of bathing themselves—they don’t need you to come along and supplement that for them—and they’re just usually pretty finicky about their own appearance and about controlling their own situations,” she says. Unless it’s their idea, cats typically do not enjoy when humans put them into the bathtub or spritz them down with water.

On the other hand, many cats are attracted to running water and may even prefer to drink from a faucet. From an evolutionary standpoint, moving water is more likely to be fresh and uncontaminated, Dr. Siracusa explains. The reflection may also catch a cat’s eye. “When you see small and big cats playing with water, they like to make little splashes and see what happens, so they might have developed an attraction for water that is not just standing still because it makes them safer.”

Rather than completely hating water, cats may simply dislike the loss of control that comes with getting wet. “When it’s their idea, they’re probably a pretty big fan of it,” Dr. Nelson says. “But if you’re looking for somebody to go swimming with you, get a Lab.”