maine coon cat playing with water in metal bowl outdoors

Owning a cat can be quite an experience at times. Sometimes their peculiar behaviors are easily explained. For example, we know that their natural hunting instincts make them great mouse catchers. Other times, we are perplexed and wonder why they are showing displeasure.

Take water, for instance. Many cats hate water and avoid it at all costs! Here are four reasons for this behavior.

The 4 Reasons Cats Hate Water

1. It Is a Scent Thing

Cats have an extraordinary sense of smell. In fact, their smelling capabilities are 14 times greater than humans. There are chemicals in water that we may not smell, but cats may find these odors offensive. Since they are also excessive groomers, they are very particular about their cleanliness and spend a large amount of time keeping themselves clean and odor free. So, they are likely to avoid getting wet to keep from smelling like the chemicals in the water.

Cats also communicate with others and mark their territory by releasing pheromones. If you put your cat in water, it will remove this scent, and your furry friend will not be happy.

Bengal cat playing with water in the bowl
Image Credit: kalyanby, Shutterstock

2. Fear of the Unknown

Cats prefer to be around things that are familiar to them. There are times when your cat may express fear of things that are strange or unknown. For example, your feline might engage in water fights with your faucet or paw at its water bowl. And yet, a larger body of water like a pool or bathtub does not suggest playtime for your furry friend. Fortunately, cats are impressive groomers and most often do not require bathing.

3. Evolution

It is in a cat’s nature to generally be leery of water. Domestic cats have evolved in arid climates and so they were not exposed to large bodies of water like lakes and rivers. The relative dearth of water sources in their environment meant they were not encouraged to learn to swim. They spent their days napping in the sun. There are exceptions to the rule, however.

Yes, there are large wild cats like tigers and lions that enjoy cooling off in the water on a sizzling summer day. There are also domestic breeds, like the Maine Coon cat, Abyssinian, and Norwegian Forest cats, that love to take a swim. These cats love to swim alone but also like to take a dip with their canine companions.

tigers playing in the pool
Image Credit: Sayantan Kundu, Pexels

4. Cats Do Not Like Wet Fur

We all know cats like their coats to be clean. We also like petting their meticulous coats. A cat’s wonderful fur is not so wonderful when it gets wet, however. In fact, the feline coat is like a sponge. It soaks up the water and takes a long time to dry. The wet fur can weigh your cat down and affect its ability to move around freely.

In addition, we all know that cats like to be warm, and a wet coat can make them feel cold and uncomfortable.

Bathing a Cat

If you find yourself in a situation where it becomes necessary to bathe your cat, here are some tips to help you avoid traumatizing your precious kitty.

  • Prepare ahead of time: Prepare for the bath by getting together the grooming supplies, toys, treats, rinsing container, and towel. Place a towel or rubber mat in the sink or tub, if possible. This added security may help to ease your cat’s stress. Place the drying towel on a heated towel rack if you have one. Cats do not like to be cold, so it will add comfort to an unpleasant experience.
  • Create a calm atmosphere: Fill the sink or tub with water (keep the water level to a minimum) prior to bringing the cat into the room. You do not want to stress the cat out with sounds that may be alarming. Close the bathroom door, avoid loud noises, and calmly reassure the cat.
  • Be gentle but firm: At this point, your cat will not be happy and will try to run away. Firmly keep the cat in place but do it gently to avoid unnecessary stress. Continue to praise and assure the cat without wrestling and stressing it out. Take your time, pay attention to the cat’s body language, and give positive reinforcement with treats.
  • Rinsing your cat: Avoid using the shower head to rinse the soap from your cat. The force of the spray and the noise may cause stress and fear. Use a jug or a large cup and be sure to rinse slowly, and thoroughly to avoid skin irritation. It is also important to be sure all the lingering shampoo is removed, so the cat does not lick it up when it is grooming itself. Since cats have sensitive whiskers, eyes, and ears, be sure to avoid wetting their heads. Doing so will only make your kitty mad.
  • Towel Dry: Another misstep when bathing your cat would be to come at it with a blow dryer. Gently dry the cat with a soft (hopefully heated) towel. Put your furry friend in a warm cozy room until it is dry.
  • Give your feline treats and leave the room: Your cat now needs time to chill and recover from its recent misery. Give it treats and leave the room. This will give it time to calm down and relax.
  • Spend time with the cat: If you both survived the ordeal, engage in playtime, and restore happiness in your home.
smiling wet tabby cat wrap in towel after bath
Image Credit: KDdesign_photo_video, Shutterstock


There you have it! Four reasons your cat may hate water. Fortunately, many cats are kept indoors, and they are excessive groomers. That is why they rarely need to be traumatized by getting submerged in large bodies of water. In situations when a cat may have a medical condition or injury that prevents them from self-grooming, be calm and gentle so the experience will be less stressful for you and your pet.

Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock