Dogs and Cats

Can Cats Swim? The Truth Uncovered: Interesting Facts (2023)

Can cats swim? Cats are known for avoiding water, which has led many people to believe they are unable to swim. This, however, is a misunderstanding. Our feline companions aren’t as fond of water as their canine counterparts, don’t mean they can’t swim. All cats can swim instinctively; it’s just that most of them will do anything to avoid it. Tigers and jaguars, for example, are known to be robust and graceful swimmers. As a result, domestic cats’ aversion to water may have more to do with their upbringing than with any inherent fear of water. While cats can swim instinctively, they may be poor swimmers if they fall into the water.

How Do Cats Swim?

Paddling their legs while keeping their heads above water is how cats swim. Although swimming may appear simple, don’t expect your cat to swim underwater! If forced below the water’s surface, it will have no idea what to do and suffer severe stress and drown.

According to Brain Research, cats have very similar locomotor patterns when swimming and walking. In both cases, felines engaged in the same two movements:

  • The left forelimb advances first, then the right hind limb.
  • The left hind limb goes first, then the right forelimb.

These two patterns are symmetrical on both sides, which means that each movement pattern will occur in the same way on both sides. On the other hand, the movement patterns are asymmetrically coupled across the cat’s right and left sides.

When the leg on the left travels forward, the leg on the right behind it will also move ahead. When you move your right front leg forward, your left rear leg will follow suit and go along. On the other hand, the forelimbs and hind limbs do not advance in the same direction at the same time on the same side. Swimming and walking will alternate between these patterns to progress. This allows cats to use the least energy while propelling themselves as quickly as possible. This is even more beneficial in water. Thanks to the diagonal pattern, they can maintain their balance and drag more water with each movement. If you’re having trouble visualizing this, pay attention to how your catwalks. These common movement patterns will be noticeable.

How Far Can Cats Swim?

Large, non-domesticated cat species (such as the tiger, jaguar, and lion) can swim for 9 miles. This is because they rely on water to help them thermoregulate, which is how they maintain a healthy body temperature. These predators are also known for scouring prey along the water edges in their natural habitat. However, this may not apply to domestic species. That’s because:

  • House cats are much smaller than their wild ancestors, so they don’t have the strength and energy to go that far.
  • Domestication has possibly changed your cat’s ability to swim for longer distances over the years.

In particular, the domestication process has eliminated the need for house cats to swim. This can affect your cat’s dedication to swimming and how long it can go before giving up and heading to shore. That makes it difficult to tell its maximum range since it won’t be trying to reach that point. Therefore, how far your cat can swim may vary widely. It depends on:

  • Whether it likes water in the first place
  • Its size
  • Its breed

Which Breeds of Cats Like Water?

Many cat breeds are known to prefer water over others, but an individual cat’s preferences will always exceed any breed-based tolerance.

Turkish Van

The Turkish Van, dubbed “the swimming cat,” has semi-long, water-resistant hair that permits it to emerge fully dry from the water. Because it does not get wet, the Van likes water to other breeds.

Turkish Angora: 

Another Turkish species, the Angora, likes to paddle in streams and ponds, and if you have an indoor Angora, they could try to join you in the bath or jump in the shower while it’s running. The breed is recognized for its intelligence and willingness to play.

Maine Coon:

Although the Maine Coon is best known as a giant domestic cat, it also has a water-resistant coat to withstand severe cold. This cat is known for its cleverness, and it was once used to control rodents aboard ships, which might be the cause or result of its fondness for water.


The Bengal, which is named after a Tiger breed, adores swimming. They like to chase water-based things. However, they may settle with chasing drips from faucets and showerheads.

Will cats stay away from water?

Our furry friends like to keep us guessing when it comes to many things in life. One of the most persistent questions is about water. Is it true that they despise it? Or are they simply acting? Why are they enthralled by water dripping from a faucet but flee the first sign of rain? We’ll probably never know for sure, but here are a few ideas to help perplexed cat owners figure out what’s happening with their pets.

Water makes their coat heavy.

Your cat’s fur is not designed to repel anything other than a light rain shower, unlike your loyal pet dog. The water will quickly weigh down their fur if your cat gets wet.

Cats despise this sensation because it means they can’t move with their usual ease and agility. While cats are predators, they are also prey, and they must always be in top physical condition. Drenched fur will severely limit their ability to fight or flee. A heavy, waterlogged coat will also make swimming more difficult, increasing the likelihood that they will panic and get into trouble.

Domestic cats aren’t evolved for swimming.

Scientists who have studied the evolution of many modern breeds of domestic cats have found they tended to come from dry, arid locations.

So, while they may have indulged in a spot of fishing from the edge of streams or pools, they probably never needed to develop their swimming skills beyond the very basics.

Indeed, large rivers or oceans were never obstacles they had to face to survive as a species.

The modern cat has survived for thousands of years and probably sees no reason to indulge in bath time now, even if its loving owner thinks otherwise!

Previous negative experiences

Despite their legendary curiosity, cats are also naturally cautious when changing. So, if your cat wasn’t regularly exposed to water when they were a kitten, they are unlikely to embrace it as an adult.

Even if they have experienced bath time during kittenhood, they might never want to repeat the experience.

From being submerged underwater to being caught in a violent rainstorm, an early stressful experience can affect their reaction to water for the rest of their lives. You really can’t blame them for saying ‘no way at the sight of a bar of soap and a full bathtub.

They don’t like the smell.

Scents and smells are hugely important to a cat’s world experience. They use their sense of smell to communicate with you and other cats and gather information about their surroundings.

They have an estimated 45 to 200 million odor-sensitive cells in their noses compared to our paltry 5 million. This makes their sense of smell between nine and 16 times as strong as ours.

This incredible ability means even though we might not detect chemicals used in tap water, they can. Chemicals such as chlorine used for water treatment gives water a distinctive aroma that a cat’s sensitive nose will pick up on straight away.

Being covered in a liquid that smells nothing like their own coat is not likely to be fun for most cats. The smell can even put some cats off drinking tap water.

They don’t like being cold.

Because their coats don’t naturally repel water, the water can quickly soak through to their skin. This will soon make them feel cold, which most cats can’t tolerate.

They don’t like feeling out of control.

Just as many cats don’t like being handled unless it’s on their terms, they also don’t like being in the water for the same reason. Cats prefer to feel in control in any situation. So, they’ll choose to sit safely on dry land where they can quickly get away from any threat, rather than being on a slippery wet surface with water getting into their eyes and making movement difficult. For many cats, their natural feline instincts will be screaming to getaway

What If Your Cat Hates Water?

Water may be deadly for cats that cannot swim. Even though most outdoor cats avoid swimming pools, ponds, and lakes, they may be scared if they go into one by mistake. The surprise may have an impact on their ability to swim. If your cat does end up in the pool, make sure he is thoroughly rinsed. Chemicals in pools and microorganisms in other bodies of water might damage your pet.

Drowning prevention is just one facet of pet water safety. Avoid allowing your pet to drink water from the outdoors. Bacteria, which may be dangerous to dogs and cats, can be found in stagnant pools of water. Some algae and chemicals are toxic to your pet if consumed.

Can You Teach Your Cat To Swim?

You may be tempted to name your cat after a fish if he adores swimming. Call him salmon and ask him to bring you a new catch. “Can I teach my cat to swim?” you may question, even if your cat dislikes water. If you start early and encourage your cat enough, you may be able to get him habituated to water. However, whether he likes it or not is a secret he may maintain for the rest of his life only to perpetuate the belief that cats despise water.



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