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My Cat Hates Baths: Do All Cats Hate Water?

by Vetic Editorial
Published: Last Updated on 1.3K views

Why do my cats hate bathing? Why does my cat scratch me during bathing? Why does my cat hate water? – These are all common questions cat parents ask. 

However, according to cat behaviourists, the real question is – ‘Does your cat really hate water? Or, do they hate bathing?’

When you think about the evolution and nature of cats the questions posed by cat behaviourists make sense. 

Cats hate baths: Ancestry and evolution may play a role here

Cats are close cousins of the african wildcat and other felines found in the desert. While they may have been worshipped for over 5000 years and chosen to be domesticated by humans, they still bear the traits of their ancestors. 

Not all cats hate water. Big cats such as the leopard, tiger, and bobcats are often seen swimming in freshwater. Bengal tigers are notorious for swimming across rivers and roaming between different territories for prey. 

Housecats, on the other hand, do not have the motivation to splash around in water. However, there are quite a few housecats who do like to play in water on hot sunny days irrespective of their breed and age. 

Introduction to bathing

If you want your cat to not hate bath time, you need to introduce them to the concept of sponge baths or actual baths from an early age. Leave them around water and let them explore. Cats are curious creatures and they will dip a paw soon enough. 

Once they get used to being wet (whether it’s the shower or a bathtub) they will be less reluctant to bathe. You need to give your cat the time to understand that bathing is pleasant and not scary. 

Reinforce their interaction with water with their favourite treat. If they figure out that bathing is the only time they get their favourite treat, they will be more eager to take a bath without protests. 

What makes you feel your cats hate baths

If your cat hates bathing it doesn’t necessarily mean they hate water. They may simply hate the smell of the soap or shampoo. Even if you have been using all organic methods like making a mix of soap nuts or apple cider vinegar and water, it hurts your cat’s sensitive nose.

Choose an unscented soap or shampoo that is not harsh on your cat’s skin. Picking an unscented product is crucial for your cat’s comfort. 

Nonetheless, bathing and shampooing will strip your cat’s coat off its natural scent and it will make your cat feel insecure. So, make sure to keep your cat’s bedding and toys in place so they can rub some of the scent back on their coat after the bath. 

Strong negative associations with bathing

Some cats simply hate the experience of bathing due to bad experiences with bathtubs or showers during kittenhood. These are the most challenging cases, and you may need months or even years to alter their negative association with water. 

You can try using treats and leaving them around the tub while you shower. These can help ease them a little bit around water. You can treat them to a little catnip or silver vine every time they dip their toes in water. 

Most adult cats are capable of grooming themselves. If you have a multi-cat home, then even better. Cats engage in grooming each other which ensures that they remain clean and smell fresh from nose to tail. Many cats go through their entire lives without bathing even once because they don’t get dirty, tangled or contract skin problems!

Whatever happens, do not force your cat to take a bath or deceive them into bathing.

Should you bathe your cats: Which cats need bathing?

a fluffy grey and white cat sitting on a grey couch in the sunlight enjoying being brushed with a deShedder brush. the person is wearing a black full-sleeved garment, only their right hand, holding the brush, is visible. if you feel your cat hates water, increase their brushing frequency to at least one day to prevent matting and oil buildup.

Many cats require baths once in a while. Some cats need more frequent baths as compared to the others. Which cats require regular grooming and baths? 

  1. Obese catsObese cats cannot reach their back and belly. They need baths at least once a month to clean the clogged pores and remove extra skin oil. 
  2. Older cats – Some senior cats have trouble cleaning their hind due to mobility issues, such as arthritis. If your cat is old and has a lot of matting, it’s best to take them for professional grooming. 
  3. Hairless cats – Contrary to popular belief, hairless cats actually require frequent baths. Due to the lack of hair they cannot control the skin oil production. They can suffer from severe skin problems including dermatitis and acne if not bathed timely. 
  4. Indoor-outdoor cats – Do you have a cat that likes to lounge inside and roam outside? Then, you have the perfect candidate for a bath! While outdoors, your cat picks up pollutants and dirt including volatile organic compounds, motorbike oil residues, mud and critters (fleas). They need at least one bath per month to stay clean and healthy. 

So, do cats hate water?

Well, your cat might not hate water at all. They simply feel they don’t need bathing and even feel insecure after bathing. 

You can change their associations with baths and water with the help of positive reinforcements. Yes! Praises actually work on cats just like treats. Combine them and watch magic happen. 

PS: Keep the regular noisy hair dryer back in the wardrobe! Use microfiber towels for drying your cats after a refreshing bath. And remember to wash those towels in unscented detergent as well!

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