Can Cats Swim? The Truth About Cats And Water

Russell Cargill

We all know the old myth that cats hate water, but is that entirely true? This preconceived notion isn’t always accurate. Sure some breeds love the water, but, if you’ve ever wondered can cat swim, the answer can be found below.

Despite the overwhelming assumption that cats hate water, yes, they actually can swim. While they might not gravitate to water in the same way dogs do, there are a few specific breeds that love being around water and are great swimmers.

So Can Cats Swim? The Short Answer

Yes, cats can swim! They’re born with the inherent ability to swim, and some breeds absolutely love the water such as Bengals, Maine Coons, and Savannahs. A significant factor in a cat’s willingness to venture into the water has to do with its genetic background.

How Do They Know How to Swim?

Think of cats like tigers, jaguars, lions, and leopards. While some of these breeds swim better than others, it’s a part of their normal lifestyle. In the wild, skills like swimming are passed down from generation to generation and are used for survival and hunting skills.

The behavior of our pets is often marked by the instincts of their ancestors. Cats that have ancestral roots in these big cats are often drawn to water.

For example, Bengal and Savannah cats are still a strong mix of wild cats that originate from warmer climates, and thus, they enjoy the water a little more than other breeds.

So Why Don’t They Swim More Often?

The dislike many cats have for water can actually be a product of their owner’s behavior or their overall environment. The preferences of a cat are largely shaped by past experiences that create positive or negative associations.

For example, falling into a bathtub full of water, and trying to scramble to safety is going to discourage the cat from exploring the water further. Let’s be honest we’ve all seen the videos.

In terms of owner behavior, many owners attempt to train their cats by spraying them with a water bottle. If the cat does something the owner doesn’t like, the cat is sprayed in the face as a form of discipline.

If you are looking to train your cat, you should explore positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement. My advice is to never use a spray bottle for disciplining a cat.

Can Cats Swim With Confidence Around Water?

Practice is one of the most critical factors in your cat’s comfort level with the water. You should never try to force your cat into deep water or water that they clearly aren’t ready to experience.

Give your cat as much time as they need to adjust to any body of water they have access to. Hopefully, with time they’ll start to enjoy the water as they please.

What Breed of Cat Loves Water?

The top breeds known for enjoying swimming are the Maine Coon, Turkish Van, Norwegian Forest, and Bengal cats. There are several videos of these breeds enjoying a leisurely swim.

Maine Coon

The Maine Coon cat, a descendant of the Norwegian Forest Cat, is known for its love of water. They have coats that naturally repel water and are particularly dense, further aiding their ability in the water.

Bengal Cats

Bengal Cats get their appreciation for water largely from their breeding. They descend from the Asian Leopard Cat, which both hunts and plays in water.

Bengal cats often display behaviors that connect them to their ancestry, so it’s not surprising that comfortability with water is common among these domesticated versions of the wild Asian Leopard.

Turkish Van Cat

The Turkish Van Cat is actually nicknamed “the swimming” cat and loves the water. This breed’s love for water derives from its ancestors, who could be found frequenting large bodies of water while stalking prey.

Turkish Van Cats are not out of their element in the rain but may see your shower as a worthy substitute. They will seek out water whenever given a chance.

Norwegian Forest Cat

The Norwegian Forest Cat is known for being a particularly good hunter in water. This cat likes to grab fish from streams and lakes throughout their natural habitat. They have a very high activity level and are an extremely playful breed.

How To Get Your Cat To Like Water

The easiest way to help a cat become comfortable with or at least tolerant of water is to start when they’re kittens. If you can show a kitten that water is something that can be enjoyed rather than feared, they are more likely to be willing to interact with water as an adult.

It’s important to follow a couple of very quick guidelines when introducing your kitten to water the first few times:

  1. Try not to splash too much. If you keep the noise level down and the stimulation to a minimum, the cat is more likely to enjoy the experience.
  2. Make sure the water is reasonably warm. You don’t want a kitten’s first experience with water to be ice cold.
  3. Do not force your cat into the water. If you scare them too much, they may never want to get in the water again. Also, make sure that you don’t expose the cat to water that is too deep or does not have an easy exit point.  

Can Cats Swim in a Swimming Pool?

You can certainly allow your cat to swim in a swimming pool when they are ready. A backyard pool is large and deep, so until your cat is very comfortable swimming, they should always be supervised and helped when they are in or around the pool.

Pools can become a hazard when introduced too quickly, so take care.

Many people wonder about the safety of saltwater or chlorinated pools when it comes to cats. You shouldn’t have anything to worry about here. Cats can safely use chlorinated and saltwater pools as long as the chemicals are not too severe.

As a safety measure, you should make sure that they have a bowl of fresh water to drink nearby for when they get tired or thirsty. Always check your pool is within safe PH limits for swimming.

Pool Safety For Cats

Even though you can allow your cat to swim in the pool, there are some dangers to keep in mind, and you should follow a few steps to ensure your cat’s safety.

  1. Make sure there is always a safe exit point. The cat should have an easily accessible ramp to use to get out of the pool. If the cat tries to get out and can’t, he or she may panic and become exhausted.
  2. If you have concerns about your cat becoming overwhelmed and unable to continue swimming, you can purchase cat life jackets as an added measure. You should also supervise your cat while they swim so that you can quickly help if they start to struggle.

Can All Cats Swim?

In theory, yes, all cats can swim. While most dogs and some breeds of cats really enjoy swimming, others simply don’t like it. With that said, cats can instinctively swim if they were to ever fall in the water, just keep in mind an exit point at all times for your kitty.

Conclusion On Can Cats Swim

While it’s perceived that all cats dislike water and swimming, that is not the case. You now know some cats enjoy the water and gravitate toward it. This could be a product of their ancestral roots or the way their owner treats the water around them.

If you want your cat to enjoy swimming, start off slowly, introducing them to water as a kitten is ideal. Remember, never use water as a disciplinary tactic as you may permanently damage their opinion of water.  

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