Can Cats Swim?

cat wanting to swim in pool

Can cats swim? This is the question that you may find yourself asking if you have a domestic cat because there’s a long history of cats disliking water. If you have a cat, you’re most likely wondering if they can swim, and this is what we’re going to answer for you below. 

Can Domesticated Cats Swim?

Since cats originally hale from a historically dry environment, they didn’t necessarily have a reason to learn to swim. However, it is widely believed that cats have the instincts required for them to swim if there were to fall into the water. 

There are even some breeds of cats like enjoy the water and swimming in general like the Turkish Van, Turkish Angora, Maine Coon, Bengal, American Bobtail, Norwegian Forest Cat and more. Now, this doesn’t mean your cat will automatically start swimming if you were to put them into the water, but there’s a good chance that they’ll be able to keep themselves afloat until they get out of the water. 

Also, you have to consider the logistics of swimming for your cat. They have smaller bodies that can quickly get weighed down and waterlogged, and they can drown if they can’t find a way out

Why Cats Seem Afraid of Water

If you’ve ever tried to give a cat a bath, you know you’re in for a ride that may take more than one person to help. This is especially true if you’ve never introduced your cat to the water prior to attempting to give them a bath. 

1. Waterlogged Fur

Cats don’t necessarily like to have water get deep into their coats because they feel like they have to clean themselves. By getting them wet, you’re essentially creating more work for your cat because they now believe that they have to sit and clean themselves until they get the water out of their coat. 

2. You Haven’t Exposed Them to Water

If your cat has always been an indoor cat, they most likely haven’t had consistent exposure to water except from their water dishes. So, it’s understandable that your cat can panic the first time they’re faced with a large body of water like in the bathtub, sink, or pool. 

3. Not Naturally Inclined to Like Water

We mentioned that some cats do have a predisposition to liking water, but maybe your cat isn’t a breed that has this predisposition. When you combine this with suddenly introducing them to water, it’s understandable why your cat may resist when you first introduce them to the concept of swimming. 

4. Spray Bottle

Using a spray bottle to deter your cat from getting on counters or into areas where they aren’t supposed to be can create an unpleasant link between water and your cat. It can make them less than thrilled to actually get into the water and swim when you present them with the opportunity. 

Properly Introducing Your Cat to Water

Ideally, you’ll introduce your cat to water when they’re still relatively young. If this isn’t possible, it’s still possible to slowly introduce your older cat to water and have them enjoy it. 

Step One – Introduce Them to the Bathtub

If your cat hasn’t been in the bathtub yet, keep the water off and put your cat into the bathtub with their favorite toy or treat. Repeat this process for several days, and use lots of positive reinforcement and treats throughout these few days. 

Step Two – Get a Damp Washcloth

Once your cat gets used to the empty bathtub, get a damp cloth, and gently wipe it over your cat’s body. You don’t want to soak your cat at this point, and you want to use enough water to get them slightly damp. Again, use positive reinforcement to turn this into a good experience. 

Step Three – Add a Small Amount of Water

Turn the water on in the bathtub to room temperature and let it run until there’s just enough to get their feet wet. You may want to bring your cat’s favorite toy in at this point and let them play with it in the shallow water. 

Step Four – Wet Your Cat

The final step is to get a cup and pour warm water over your cat until you get their fur wet. If you’re going to apply shampoo and give them a proper bath, now is the time to do this. When your cat is clean, you can towel dry them and let them go about their day. 

Cats and Water Safety

It’s important that you keep your cat safe while they’re in and around the water. All it takes is one unpleasant experience to turn your cat off the water and create a traumatic experience. 

Start Shallow

When your cat is first starting out, they most likely won’t be a strong swimmer. You can help your cat build up their swimming abilities by giving them shallow pools or even trays of water to play around in. 

Cats can be fascinated with water, and they’ll naturally want to see what they can do with it. Leave a small amount of water in the bathtub for your cat to play with, or you can leave the sink running in a small stream of water for your cat to play with. Eventually, they may graduate to larger and deeper bodies of water.

Give Your Cat a Way Out

Your cat should always have some type of exit point available when they go into the water because this can help to prevent your cat from panicking. If it’s indoors in the sink or bathtub, make sure they can easily jump out or give them a ramp. If it’s in a deeper body of water, make sure they know where the shallow end or steps are. 

Never Rush Your Cat

Although you may be tempted to rush your cat into the water, this isn’t a good idea because it can cause your cat to get scared. Instead, take it slow and let your cat move at their own pace. If they want to stop for the day, let them stop and try again later. 

Consider a Life Jacket

There are life jackets made specifically for cats that can give your cat a confidence boost when they’re in the water. You can purchase one and put it on your cat when they go into the water to help take some of the anxiety away. Additionally, it won’t matter as much if your cat is a strong swimmer or not because the life jacket will hold them up.

Monitor Your Pool Chemicals

If you take your cat swimming in your pool, make sure that the pool’s chemicals are at the correct levels. This can help to prevent your pool’s chemicals from drying your cat’s skin and coat out. It can also take the unpleasant chemical smell away, and this smell could put some cats off of getting into the water. 

Keeping Your Cat Healthy if They Like to Swim

If your cat likes to swim, there are a few things that you have to do to ensure that your cat stays healthy because the water or chemicals can be harsh on your cat. 

Dry Your Cat’s Ears

Getting water into your cat’s ears can lead to inflammation and chronic problems with their ears. You can help prevent this by making a point to dry out your cat’s ears each time they get out of the water. Be sure you get deep into your cat’s ears to prevent infections from taking hold. 

Take Care of Your Cat’s Skin and Coat

Exposure to pool chemicals or warm water can strip the natural oils out of your cat’s skin and coat. If you notice that your cat’s coat seems dry and dull, it may be time to scale back how often they get into the water. You can also add fatty acids to their diet to help boost their natural levels and bring the shine back to their coat. 

Make Sure Your Cat Doesn’t Get Cold

Water that feels warm to you may feel cold to your cat. You want to make sure that your cat has ample time to dry themselves and warm up after they get out of the water. You may even want to use a towel and help your cat remove a good portion of the water from their coat and skin. If it’s a chlorine pool, they swim in, rinse them off when you get them out. 

Don’t Leave Your Cat Unattended

Cats can drown if they can’t get out of the water, and this is why it’s important that you never leave your cat alone if they’re in the water. If it’s in a pool, you can get into the water with them. If it’s not, sit alongside your cat and help them out as soon as you notice any issues. 

Learn How to Resuscitate Your Cat

If the unthinkable happens, you want to know how to quickly administer first aid to your cat. You also want to get your cat to the vet as soon as possible because they can continue their life-saving techniques. 

Bottom Line

So, can cats swim? Now you know that they can swim, but they may not have the predisposition for it. This is why it’s so important to slowly get your cat used to the water and encourage them to go in. It can be a fun way for your cat to exercise and cool down on a hot day.