A cat watching the water drip from the faucet of the kitchen sink

Why do cats hate water?

Cats are notorious for hating water. Luckily, bathing a cat is rarely needed (and when it is, a waterless cat bath can be a great option). But why do cats seem to hate water so much?

Bathing a cat at home

Six reasons why most cats don’t like the water

Fear or discomfort

Cats are creatures of mystery…and habit! A cat that has never had a bath may not like the feeling of having its body drenched in it. A negative experience with water once could set up a conditioned fear response that will stick with that cat for life.

Giving Water to Cat

It may genuinely fear the newness of the experience and the physical sensation. A cat that has regularly been exposed to water as a kitten may be conditioned to be more accepting of it.


When wet, a cat’s coat weighs more than normal. This can limit their movement and reflexes, which may make them feel vulnerable. It simply may make your cat feel unable to protect itself.

Close-up of domestic cat

In addition, water makes surfaces slippery. Your cat may not feel like it can grip or balance when in the sink or tub, which can make it feel threatened.

Try using a wet towel in the base on the tub or sink for the kitty to grip onto to minimize this sensation.

Grooming preferences

Cats like to feel clean. They spend a lot of time grooming themselves, as much as 50% of their day! It would seem that most cats aren’t big fans of having anything that doesn’t smell “normal” on their fur.

Cat and Pet grooming in beauty salon.

Water and solvent based shampoos can strip the natural oils on the their fur. In their eyes, you’re creating more work for them by bathing them, when they would (for the most part) rather bathe themselves.

Dry time

If you’ve ever bathed a cat, you know it can take quite a while for their fur to dry after a bath. Some cats may not want to get wet because they know how long it takes for their fur to dry, leaving them soggy and unhappy.

Washing an unhappy cat. The cat runs away from the water.

Damp fur is cold too! Your cat may have a period of feeling chilled after being submerged in water.


Cats are sensitive to smell14 times more sensitive than humans. Your water may have chemicals (or even minerals) that your cat doesn’t like the smell of, like chlorine or fluoride. Your cat may also dislike the scent of the shampoo you’re using, especially if the scent is strong.

Evolutionary landlubbers

There are likely biological reasons that cats don’t like water. Even though many cats love the taste of fish, historically, they are not ocean or river-dwelling animals. Domesticated cats are descendants of felines that typically lived in dry and arid areas.

They have never learned to swim because there was no evolutionary need for it. This behavior, or lack thereof, has stuck around in our modern-day cats.


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