Cats aren’t predisposed to hate water. They have a fascination for water, especially when it is in motion. Cats hating water is another one of the many myths that have been perpetrated over the decades. Fortunately, for those of us who like clean animals, this myth can be dispelled.
Teach Your Cat to Like Water
No one is entirely sure why people have come to believe that the common housecat hates water. Many people have probably sprung a bath on their unsuspecting cat, eliciting a frenzied flurry of claws and teeth.
It’s all in the way you introduce a bath to your cat. They don’t like to be caught off-guard. They are cautious animals and they don’t like to have new experiences forced on them without forewarning. Adult cats will be harder to ease into a bath but you can easily teach kittens that bath-time is pleasurable!
Don’t use water as a punishment for bad behavior. Slowly familiarize your cat with the concept of a bath – the more time you take, the less averse they will be about it. If you constantly, albeit inadvertently, create negative experiences with water, your cat won’t ever take a bath without a fight.
How to Introduce a Kitten to Water
Even if your kitten isn’t dirty, this is the best stage to start bathing him. Get him used to the bath. Use water that is slightly warmer than body temperature. Massage him gently in the bath water, making sure you don’t dunk his head underwater. Use kitty shampoo that doesn’t irritate his eyes or mucous membranes. Dry him off gently and then use another towel or blanket to wrap him until he is dry and warm. Kittens need to stay warm, so keep him in a heated kitten/puppy bed. While you should start bathing a cat early in his life, keep it to once per week.
How to Introduce a Mature Cat to Water
Getting your adult cat into a bath may be impossible, especially if he has had too many bad experiences involving water. You must gain his trust initially which could take several months to gain. Wear long sleeves in case he becomes combative. Keep your face away from him in case he tries to claw his way out of the situation.
Run water in the tub with a squirt of cat shampoo. Fill your tub with about two inches of water. The water should be slightly warmer than his body temperature. Then turn the tap off so that you don’t scare your cat with the sound of running water. Cradle your cat in your arms, caressing him and making him feel comfortable. Then gently put him in the bathtub. You can try giving him treats but he may be too anxious to eat. Slowly trickle water over his body, avoiding his head entirely. Massage him and softly hold him in the tub so that he doesn’t escape but let him jump out if he becomes too aggressive.
Third Time’s a Charm…or Not
At the point your cat starts to bare his claws, bath time is over. Feral cats are more likely to hate baths – just imagine if you had lived in the wild your entire life, only to have your first bath at 30 years of age! Keep in mind, the first time might have been a failure but that doesn’t mean you can’t try again. Try one time every week, if feasible – until your cat knows that nothing bad is going to happen to him. Repeatedly exposing him to water will help to desensitize him. Bathing a pet is another little part of his training – it takes a lot of time and patience and sometimes you’ll just have to admit defeat.
If a full bath is in no way possible, use pet wipes or sponge baths. These methods are not as effective as fully submerging your cat in water, particularly if he is matted with dirt and incredibly stinky. In this case, you can take your cat to the vet for a bath under sedation. It’s not cheap but it may be your only option.
By Gabrielle Allemeier
About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.