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Can cats swim?

Cat in the water swimming advice

Cats are capable of swimming but don't particularly like it.

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What does your cat make of the water? If you’re anything like most feline fans out there then you probably answered “not much”. Read on for all the info you need on swimming kitties.

By Natasha James

If you’re the proud pet parent of a feline friend then chances are you may have noticed that cats tend not to be quite as easily pleased as dogs. Nope, if your moggy doesn’t like something then you can be sure that you’ll know about it. And, generally speaking, water features quite highly on lists of things that most cats don’t like!

Cats are known for their aversion to water and thankfully, we very rarely need to bathe them. But can they swim? In short, the answer is yes, cats ARE capable of swimming, they just choose not to!

Do cats like to swim?

Cats behaviour proves that they are complex creatures and while many will have an aversion to water, there are another handful that do enjoy it. Most cats will be able to swim instinctively if they fall into water but it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to them and they may still be at risk of drowning so, for owners, practising water safety is important.

In typical, contrary cat style, there are a few cat breeds that are known for their love of the water…

What kind of cats can swim?

Water-loving kitties include Bengal cats, Maine Coons, Turkish Angora, Japanese Bobtail, American Bobtail, Manx, Norwegian Forest Cat, American Shorthair, and Turkish Van. But, if your cat doesn’t belong to one of the above breeds then they may even be afraid of water.

Why are cats afraid of water?

While many domestic cats will be curious about playing in water, swimming isn’t a natural pastime. Historically, cats evolved in dry, arid environments and their lack of experience with swimming and water may come from their dessert-dwelling ancestors. What’s more, cats just aren’t built to withstand the wet stuff, their coats don’t repel water like dogs’ fur does so their coat may hold water making them miserable when wet.

Cats are also fastidiously clean creatures, they spend all that time grooming so they really don’t appreciate it when they have to start all over again following a dip in the water. Yes, that’s right, after a bath, your cat will feel less clean!

Can you teach a cat to swim?

If you have a pool or you live near a body of water, it may make you feel a little reassured to know that your beloved pal could rescue themselves if they were to fall in. But as with teaching a cat anything, this has to be part of a longer process and dunking your cat in a bucket will win you absolutely no favours. Start the process by getting your cat used to the water…

…How do I make my cat like water?

Of course, you can’t force your cat to like anything but with a little effort, you can help them to become acclimated to it. Very gradually get them used to the feel of water on their fur, paws and eventually whole bodies. It is vital that this process is slow and consistent and if you notice your cat getting anxious, rewind and take things even slower.

Try clicker training and start by clicking and rewarding them when your cat reacts calmly to a little water, gradually building up this way. As the cat becomes comfortable with small amounts of water, increase the depth and amount of time they spend in the water. Cats need to feel in control so don’t force your cat to do anything it doesn’t want to do. Consider water temperature too, slightly warm water is likely to be much more pleasant than freezing cold.

So, I can’t force my cat to love swimming?

Your cat may never willingly jump into nearby lakes and ponds for a dip but there is the chance that they could have their lives enriched through playing with water. Consider filling the sink with warm water and placing a few toys on top. Or if that sounds too risky, make ice cubes with cat treats or chicken stock in, great for hotter days. It’s unlikely that you can turn your cat into a water lover (unfortunately, they just aren’t a natural mix) but your job is to keep them safe and respect their wishes. Cats are independent creatures and will want to make water-based decisions for themselves!