Water Cats: Some Cats Love to Swim and Play in Water

What to expect if you live with a "water cat."


Despite their reputation for liking only dry land, a surprising number of domesticated cats not only tolerate but love pawing water or even swimming. Some like to play in standing water; others are fascinated by running water and prefer to drink from a faucet rather than a cat dish.

“I’m not sure how these myths that cats hate water or don’t swim ever got started,” says Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, professor emeritus at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. “Some indoor cats prefer drinking from inside a flushed toilet bowl rather than a water bowl. It may reflect an adaptive behavior from their wildcat ancestry. Wild cats that preferred to drink from streams or waterfalls rather than from standing water or puddles may have had a survival advantage, because running water is less likely to contain contaminants.”

water cat

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Cats Who Love Water

Certain lines of the American Shorthair breed display a compulsive desire to splash water from their bowls and even tip their water bowls over. “Professional breeders of the American Shorthair know not to leave these cats alone with a cat water bowl inside cages at cat shows, or they come with an alternative arrangement of cutting a hole in a gallon plastic jug and tethering it in place so these cats can’t spill the water, but can still drink,” says Dr. Dodman.

“As for the notion that cats don’t swim or like to swim, well, that is also unfounded. Certain breeds, like the Turkish Van, do swim. This breed was raised in a mountainous area near Lake Van and learned to get in the water to capture fish as their main way of surviving. These fishing cats are very skilled swimmers. Most of the swimming cats originated from warm climates with warm bodies of water,” explains Dr. Dodman. “Conversely, some breeds originating in cold regions like the Maine Coon or from desert regions in Africa tend not to have a great affinity for swimming.”

The curious cat may enjoy perching on the ledge of a bathtub or walking into a shower when his owner is bathing. Still other cats are attracted by the sound and the motion of water pouring out of the faucet. For cats that seem unusually fascinated by water, you can purchase a cat water fountain that keeps your cat’s drinking water fresh and running.


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