Why Do Most Cats Dislike Water?

Why Do Most Cats Dislike Water?
© Getty Images / kevinjeon00

By Roxanna Coldiron, Martha Stewart

Our cats are well known for their aversion to water. Giving your cat a bath in the sink often results in several scratches and water everywhere. "Although there are some cats that enjoy water, most tend not to," explains Dr. Deborah S. Greco, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, senior research scientist at Purina. "One of the main reasons is attributed to their evolutionary history. Cat's ancestors lived in dry arid places, which means rivers or oceans weren't obstacles they had to face."

Here, we asked Dr. Greco for her insight into why this behavior is so common and how we can more sensitively give Kitty a bath.



It harkens back to their ancestors.

Modern cats are not introduced to water. The only experience that domestic cats in the city may have with water would be related to the weather—a rainy season. Unlike some of the big cats in the wild today that live near bodies of water and will occasionally swim across a river or go fishing in a lake, domestic cats are not forced to contend with water in a human-occupied environment. "There is not much in their ancestors' past to prepare the modern cat for the bath tub, which helps explain why their first reaction is to escape the arms of an owner trying to get them in it," says Dr. Greco. However, it is possible to train a cat to tolerate bath time if you are able to start with them when they are kittens, or with lots of coaxing and treats for more grown-up cats. It just takes some patience.



Cats need hydration.

Your cat may not be getting enough water. "Cats tend to be poor drinkers," Dr. Greco says. "In the wild, cats evolved to get most of their water from their food because they primarily ate fresh prey. Because of this, cats didn't have to physically drink water as much as they do today." The physiology of cats also contributes to their poor drinking habits; they're only able to lap up about 3/100s of a teaspoon per lap, which is significantly lower than how much dogs are able to lap. "And because their eyesight is adapted for distance vision versus near vision, cats poorly visualize the water in a bowl—they prefer fresh, moving water, and are sensitive to both the presentation and taste of water as well as the smell," explains Dr. Greco. "Even though we might not detect them, the chemicals in tap water give it a particular odor that they may not find appealing."

What can you do if your cat may not be getting enough water? First, Dr. Greco suggests speaking to your veterinarian. Your cat may benefit from hydration supplements like Hydra Care from Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Supplements ($14.99, proplanvetdirect.com). Another way to entice your cat to drink more water is to install a small fresh water fountain. The moving water will get the cat's interest, and the fresher water will appeal to their tastes.

You may also be advised to feed your cat more wet food, which has hydration included with the meat that Kitty craves and resembles their natural diet of raw meat in the wild. The vet can help you to determine the best course of action based on your cat's lifestyle and needs.

See more at Martha Stewart

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