Do Cats Really Hate Water?
Strictly speaking, cats don’t hate water because of the water itself, they just don’t like to take baths or get their fur wet because most cats don’t need it, it’s not part of their adaptive survival as felines.
We, humans, take baths for hygienic purposes and to refresh ourselves. Most cats don’t need either one, because they can groom themselves and do a pretty good job at this, to the point of getting themselves almost wet clean. Cats don’t need water to refresh themselves either because they have an adaptive system to deal with changes of temperatures, so if a place doesn’t offer the ideal temperature for the cat, the feline will have ways to handle it. For example, when it’s too hot, they look for areas with shade or with cooler temperatures, such as tiles in the bathroom where they can rest and cool off. In summer the cat’s fur gets thinner and shorter. They also tend to drink more water.
Domestic Cats’ Ancestors Can Tell Us More
If we look back at the origin of the domestic cats, their ancestors, the wildcats, came from dry and arid areas so in their DNA doesn’t exist the instincts of swimming because, due to their environment, they developed a pack of survival techniques to live without the dependency of water to eat or cool off. The Wildcat’s sub specie from what the domestic cat descends is most likely African wildcat, based on genetics, morphology and behavior (source: Wikipedia). The exception are the cats which DNA comes from other subspecies who’s origin are different than the African wildcat so their instincts work based on what their environment offers from the origin. But most domestic cats come from the African wildcat.
Why Do Cats Freak Out With Water Then?
The answer is that cats don’t hate water as an element of nature. As all living creatures cats drink water and some cats love playing with it too. What cats hate is being forced into it and especially being immersed in it because taking baths is not an adaptive way in their life and because they don’t like being forced to do anything. That’s why they freak out.
Cats like to do their own thing always. They don’t mind touching water when they are curious about it. Actually, my cat usually sneaks-in after I take a shower and steps on the wet floor to end up shaking her paws and leaving. And she has repeated this behavior, which means she doesn’t hate touching water with her paws that much as long as SHE decides to do so.
To find out if my cat really hates water I decided to do an experiment which was getting my hand wet and touching her with love to see her reaction (on a warm day of course). She didn’t mind it that much. But the story would be different if I try to put her in the bathtub full of water or under the stream in the sink. She would hate me for sure.
The Surprise Factor
Cats are not a fan of surprises. They like to be in control about their environment and they don’t like anything that suddenly shows up and water is not an exception to this. So if you suddenly spray water to your cat, your feline friend will hate it as much and will hate if you suddenly make a loud and weird noise. Trying to re-educate your cat by spraying water at your kitty will not only create a distance between you and your cat, but it won’t help to re-educate your feline friend. You can modify your ca’s behavior with positive reinforcement and with distraction more than anything else.
So, In Simple Terms, Cats Don’t Hate Water. They Hate:
1. Being forced into water because they are not used to it, mostly they don’t need to and because their African instincts tell them, they don’t bath, ever.
2. Sudden water. As they hate any sudden things.
Look at my cat being scared when she saw a sudden stream of a water fountain made for cats that drink from faucets. She didn’t expect that stream and she freaked out.
What To Do If You Need To Bath Your Cat
Some breeds, such as the Sphynx need to get their skin clean from oil build up that is prone to bacteria formation. You must bath these cats once a week. Also, some breeds with extreme long hair may need a bath as well. If your cat belongs to a breed that needs baths or if you simply want your cat to get accustomed to baths without stressing, this is the way to do it for a smoothly process:
1. The sooner you start, the better. Never teach new tricks to old cats.
2. Make the area where the cat is going to be bathed, a fun place where your cat doesn’t feel threatened.
3. Put a rubber mat at the bottom of the tub or container where it will be the bath.
4. Put a little warm water in it and place a ceramic small stand or similar in the water. Place your cat’s favorite treat on top of this object.
5. Repeat this until your cat gets in the water to get the treat. Repeat adding more water.
6. After a while your cat will associate water with treats and will feel good about it.
7. Once your cat gets used to be in a fair level of water, slowly pour water on its body with someone else providing treats. Try to be gentle, but fast, don’t stretch the process.
8. If you are going to use special feline soap, put just a tiny bit on it. If you put too much it will take longer to rinse it off and we want to make the first bath a quick process.
9. As your cat gets used to baths you can use more soap.
10. Use an ultra absorbent towel to dry your cat. If your cat doesn’t hate paper noise, you can use an ultra absorbent paper towel to finish drying faster.
That’s it! The tricks to get your cat to take a bath. I hope your cat won’t have to go through a bath, but if he needs it, make the process the nicest thing to remember in his feline memory.
In case your kitty gets in trouble and steps on dirt or suffers a sticky “accident” when doing its business, you may need to bath your cat, but in this case you can’t train your cat, you need to take action right away. What I recommend in this case is wipe clean your cat with a dump cloth and rinse your kitty the same way. If your cat is adult and has never taken a bath, don’t force him for a simple accident.
I hope I answered your question of why cats hate water. Simply leave your cat to approach water on its own and never force your pet into taking baths or expose them to sudden water. Your feline friend will not only appreciate it, your cat will trust you and respect you as well.