Is It True That Some Cats Like Water?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

It is true that some cats like water, although any individual cat may have a differing opinion. Individual domestic cats may take a shining to water, and several cat breeds are actually famous for enjoying getting wet. Among the big cats, many species also enjoy water, sometimes actively playing with it and using it to cool off in hot weather.

A cat enjoying some water.
A cat enjoying some water.

House cats do not enjoy water as a general rule for a variety of reasons. Many breeds have coats that trap water, so getting wet ruins the ability of the cat to keep itself warm in cool weather. Cats also do not like being splashed with water around the face, as it can hurt their sensitive ears and potentially cause an infection as well. Some domestic cat breeds, like the Bengal and the Turkish Van, are famous for liking water, however, and they will play with it and sometimes even swim. It is possible that these cats like water because of the areas where they evolved, where they may have been forced to swim to find food.

Lions generally like water.
Lions generally like water.

Among the larger cat species, there seems to be a clear split between cats that like water and cats that don't. As a general rule, those that evolved to live in colder climates do not like water, because it interferes with their thick layers of insulating fur. Tigers, leopards, and lions generally do like water because they are used to hot environments where a swim might be a desirable way to cool off.

Though they sleep and eat in trees, leopards swim in bodies of water to keep their body temperature down.
Though they sleep and eat in trees, leopards swim in bodies of water to keep their body temperature down.

Biologists have watched tigers swim in hot weather, and some captive big cats with access to deep water will swim in it. Several cat species have also adapted skills that allow them to fish, suggesting that they spend a fair amount of time in the water. Many big cats like water in both stationary and dynamic form, enjoying waterfalls and ponds with equal relish.

When domestic cats enjoy spending time in water, it is often a cause for discussion because of the popular misconception that cats hate water. In fact, most cats will exhibit at least mild curiosity around water, especially when they are introduced to it as kittens and when they are not forced into sinks, tubs, and showers. If you have a bathtub and a cat, you may have noticed that the cat will play with the stationary water in the tub while people bathe, for example, and many cats like running faucets.

Some cats like water to a whole new level; in Peru, a cat name Nicolosa took to surfing in 2008, attracting a great deal of public comment. According to the cat's surfing instructor, she started surfing voluntarily, and she prefers to ride on the front of the surfboard, while a human navigator takes care of the boring details like paddling out and catching waves.

Tigers have been observed in the wild swimming during hot weather.
Tigers have been observed in the wild swimming during hot weather.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I have found that orange tabbies, by and large, like water. I have had two and both of them (1 male, 1 female) like or liked water. My current female orange tabby also plays fetch. Both were at one point strays so I do not know what their heritage was but tabbies are different from any other cat I have ever had.


Wow another article trying to force evolution down people throats. Evolution doesn't exist. It has been disproven in the bible many times. If evolution was real, how come cats that swim don't magically grow fins and gills, huh? Explain that!


What a dumb article. The part about incorporating evolution. Come on, these hardcore evolution people try to tie everything back to evolution because it was real big back in their day. And it would be called a zoologist, not a biologist. And the ear infection part --really? Who knew water in the ear could cause an infection? Just another stupid internet article. There are more breeds that do like water also.


I have a sister (longhair) -brother (shorthair) named "Alpha" and "Omega" now 5 years old. Since they were old enough to explore outside and in. They both love to have water poured on them from a watering jug.

Any time you go outside, they are right there staring at the jug, and will not stop until they have been doused. They do this in the middle of winter and are bummed when it's frozen. I guess it comes from infancy when they shared a box. In order to clean the mess I would hold them under the utility sink faucet for cleanup. I laugh at Alpha and Omega.


I have a kitten who absolutely loves water. His water bowl is currently in the bathtub, due to the amount of water that ends up on the floor when he's playing in it.

Whenever I'm doing the dishes, he jumps on my back, crawls up to my shoulder, and tries to jump into the soapy water. So far I've deterred him from it, lol.

When taking a shower, he constantly pokes his head in, then out, from behind the curtain, until he makes up his mind, then he jumps in and out of the tub. I have to keep the toilet lid down otherwise he'll be "swimming" in the water. I've never had a cat who likes water to this extent!

So far, if there is anything to do with water, he'll be right there. Is this normal?


We have a 20 week old Himalayan girl kitten and she loves water, ice and tubs. She also wants to get in the freezer and refrigerator and dishwasher often. This takes much supervision. Is this normal for Himalayans? Right now she is playing with our sink on the kitchen island. She can play with water for hours.


I have a cat (Himalayan) who loves water. I had to put his water bowl in the shower because he splashes it all over. He loves it when i put ice cubes in it and he bats them around. He pokes his head in the curtain when i shower and he jumps up on the sink when i brush my teeth.

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