Yesterday my daughter asked me the question “Why don’t cats like water?” Only cats can answer that question, and they’re not talking. What we do know is that certain large species of cat do in fact like water. Lions, tigers, jaguars and ocelots all enjoy a dip. Cats from cold climates would prefer to avoid getting wet. This makes sense from an evolutionary point of view. A cat’s fur acts as insulation, keeping it warm, getting the coat wet would destroy this.
It is also not implausible to imagine that the type of prey the cat eats would play a role in his like or dislike of water. Cats feeding on mice and other small ground-dwelling animals would not need to hunt in the water, and therefore no reason to go in it.
Cats are extremely clean animals, spending hours a day grooming their coat. The tongue contains minute hooked shaped papillae to assist in grooming out knots and keeping the coat in tip-top shape. Unlike other species of animal (such as humans) who clean themselves with water, it is not necessary for the cat to do so. The tongue is usually all that is needed to keep the cat clean and sweet smelling.
Are there any domestic breeds of cat who do like water?
Not all cats dislike water. Some do like it. The Turkish Van is one such breed of cat. Its nickname is “The swimming cat”.
Bengal cats also enjoy the water; maybe it’s a throwback to his Asian Leopard Cat ancestry?
Some cats will tolerate water but would prefer not to get dripping wet. It is common for a cat to drink water out of the shower, getting his paws wet in the process.
Does my cat need a bath?
So now that we have established that most cats don’t in fact like water, what about the question of regularly bathing them? It isn’t necessary to bathe a cat unless it is a show cat or has managed to get something on his coat (oil, poison etc.) that needs to be removed for the safety of the cat. Most cats are perfectly capable of maintaining a clean coat by self-grooming alone. Of course if you want to give your bath, by all means, do, but it is advised to limit how often you do this so that you don’t remove the beneficial oils from the skin and the coat, always use a shampoo for cats and if possible, introduce the cat to water from an early age.
Some people claim that allergies to cats can be reduced by regular bathing.