A white, swimming cat paddles toward the camera.

Can Cats Swim?

If someone told you that you could teach your cat how to swim next summer, would you die laughing? If your cat is like most felines, it probably turns into a chaotic mess of screeching fur when it gets near water. Cats seem to be able to escape water faster than they fall into it. If they could speak your language, they’d probably tell you that water makes them miserable. However, is this an innate cat quality, or has the feline aversion to water developed over time? You might be surprised by the answer.

It’s How They Were Raised

Wild cats hunted for their food. Those that stalked their prey on dry land never had to learn to swim. They might have only experienced water as a drenching rainstorm that left them cold and wet. Those cats would never have developed the urge to go for a dip.

However, wild cats that had to hunt for fish may have developed the ability to swim well. If you look at big cats in the wild, you’ll notice that many are strong swimmers. For example, tigers have no fear of the water, another example; the Fishing Cat. The fishing cat is an Asian wildcat that prefers to live near water, where it can find its favorite food. According to the San Diego Zoo, the fishing cat is one of the best swimmers in the animal kingdom.

Yet as time went on and cats became domesticated, owners protected them from the elements. Felines simply stopped being exposed to water. Your cat just might not be used to the wet stuff. If a cat has fallen into water by accident, it probably came as a surprise and left a strong (and negative) impression.

And yet, modern cats don’t necessarily hate water. They’re just not used to the way it feels. Have you ever seen your kitty play with a dripping faucet? She may shake her paw once it gets wet, but that’s just because it’s a new sensation. Just like some cats prefer tuna and others like chicken, some cats like water and some don’t.

The Anatomy Of A Swimming Cat Breed

Let’s look at the way that cats that love water are built. The fishing cat has a strong, stocky build. It doesn’t seem like it would be very streamlined in the water. However, webbed feet help it move faster in the water. They also act like snowshoes in the mud of the wetlands, preventing the cat from sinking as it hunts. Two layers of fur protect the fishing cat’s skin from wetness and cold. The short, dense underlayer keeps water out, and the longer outer layer provides the cat’s markings and camouflage.

Animal Planet describes the Turkish Van as a cat with a swimmer’s body. The Turkish Van is a fluffy white cat with a rusty color on the tail and ears which originated in the Lake Van region of Turkey. The athletic feline is one of the oldest known domesticated cats. Perhaps because it’s so active, this cat is also quite independent. Don’t expect to hold it down for a cuddle.

The Turkish Van is also fascinated by water. Legend has it that this feline was brought onto Noah’s Ark to help take care of any rat problems. Unlike the fishing cat, the Turkish Van doesn’t have an undercoat. Its fur is smooth, silky, and water repellant. Broad shoulders and a rounded ribcage change the cat’s center of gravity, creating an ideal posture for swimming.

What Other Breeds Of Cat Love Water?

If you have a Turkish Van or fishing cat, you might want to provide it with a kiddie pool to cool off in during the summer. According to Pawesome Cats, several other feline breeds like water. Bengal cats for example have been known to join their owners in the bathtub. Additionally, the Savannah cat is one of the other breeds that loves to be bathed. Both Bengal and Savannah cats are more directly related to wild cats than many other breeds.

Some additional, semi-aquatic cat breeds include Norwegian Forest Cats, Manxes, Japanese Bobtails, Maine Coons, and Abyssinians. First off, the Norwegian Forest Cat is adept at fishing and might swipe fish right out of your aquarium. Next is the Manx. Most Manx cats like water as they were originally bred on the Isle of Man in the UK. Some say that the first Manx swam to the island from a wrecked Spanish Armada ship, creating an instant love of water. The Japanese Bobtail is another tailless cat that’s notorious for stalking koi ponds and turning on faucets. Following the Japanese Bobtail is the Maine Coon; Maine Coons like to play with water and If you own a Maine Coon, you may have to keep the lids to your toilets down to prevent kitty from scooping water out onto the floor. Lastly, is the Abyssinian. these little tricksters might turn on the tap just to play in the running water.

What If Your Cat Hates Water?

Water can be a safety hazard for cats that don’t like to swim. Although most outdoor cats will avoid swimming pools, ponds, and lakes, they can be shocked if they fall into a body of water accidentally. The surprise can affect their ability to swim. If your cat does end up in the swimming pool, make sure to rinse him off well after he takes a dip. The chemicals in pools and the bacteria in other bodies of water can be harmful to your pet.

Water safety for pets goes beyond drowning prevention. Try to discourage your pet from drinking water outdoors. Stagnant bodies of water can contain bacteria that are dangerous for dogs and cats. Some types of algae and chemicals are also harmful for your pet to consume.

Can You Teach Your Cat To Swim?

If your cat loves the water, you might be tempted to give him an aquatic-sounding name. Call him salmon and ask him to bring you a fresh catch. If your cat doesn’t love the water, you might still ask the question, “Can I teach my cat to swim?” If you start early and encourage your kitty enough, you might be able to get him accustomed to water. However, whether he really enjoys it is a secret that he might keep forever just to maintain the illusion that cats hate water alive.