Can Cats Swim? - Everything You Need To Know - Cat Kingpin
can cats swim

Can Cats Swim? – Everything You Need To Know

Cats are not known for their love of water. In fact, they’re famous for just the opposite! Cartoons, movies, books, and real life experience have all taught us that the vast majority of cats don’t like getting wet, hate baths, and dislike swimming.

Disliking water aside, can cats swim? The truth is that most cats can, but there are a lot of variables to keep in mind.

In this article, we’ll cover the following:

  • Most Cats Hate Water
  • Can Cats Swim?
  • Can Kittens Swim?
  • Can Cats Swim in a Pool?
  • Can Cats Swim in the Ocean?
  • Cat Breeds that Like to Swim
  • Cat Swimming Safety

Most Cats Hate Water

The first thing to remember when considering whether or not cats are natural swimmers is this: most domesticated house cats really dislike the water. While they are happy to drink it and occasionally bat at their water bowl, the vast majority won’t like being submerged.

This is a rather unusual quality, as most animals enjoy the water, including our cat’s larger cousins, the tiger. Tigers are well-known for their love of water and have been seen lounging in lakes or streams, seemingly enjoying themselves.

While some housecats will plop themselves in the sink or shower any chance they get, they are not the majority. In the wild, most small cats avoid water at all costs and choose to live in dry, enclosed areas.

Can Cats Swim?

Most cats, if forced, can keep themselves afloat and swim. Cats are nimble and athletic creatures and can usually get themselves back on solid ground if they accidentally fall into a body of water.

This cat seems to enjoy swimming (or at least is doing a good job of faking it!):

Can Kittens Swim?

Kittens past a certain age are absolutely capable of swimming. In fact, it’s a good idea to try to get your kitten used to water when they are young, as they are much more likely to accept it as adult cats if they have positive experiences with water as youngsters.

Young kittens, 6 weeks of age and younger, should not be trusted to swim because they lack the coordination and muscle strength to safely do so.

Can Cats Swim in a Pool?

Sure! But remember: they probably won’t want to.

If you are the owner of one of those rare cats who enjoys the water, and you have a safe, fenced-in yard and a pool, you may find that your cat will occasionally take a dip in the pool.

If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to teach them a little bit about water safety and take the necessary precautions to make sure your cat doesn’t drown.

Here are some tips on pool safety for cats:

  1. If you see that your cat is interested in the pool and you can’t stop them from jumping in, it’s important to show them how to get out. Lead your cat to the stairs or the ladder a few times until they learn where it is. Even cats that are expert swimmers can drown if they can’t find the way out and get overtired.
  2. Try not to let your cat near the pool unless you are watching them. Your cat is more likely to drown if they are improperly supervised.
  3. Pay careful attention to the filters. Make sure they are adequately screened and covered, and make sure your pool water contains the correct chemicals in the correct dosages.

It’s also a nice idea to buy a special little pool for your feline friend! These pet-friendly swimming pools can be filled with plain water, which reduces the risk of irritation that that the chemicals used in human swimming pools sometimes pose, and are small enough and shallow enough to protect your cat from drowning.

Many of these pools, such as the PupTeck Foldable Swimming Pool, are specially made to be slip-proof and resist tears from claws.

Can Cats Swim in the Ocean?

Ocean swimming can be hazardous to cats. Even in the unlikely event that your cat likes water and has access to the beach, it’s not a good idea to let your cat join you on your summer vacation.

Even though most cats can swim and keep themselves above water, the ocean has strong tides that many cats may find difficult to manage. If they tire themselves out by fighting the waves, they risk drowning.

Also, the salty water and sand can irritate your cat’s eyes, and it can be very hard to monitor your cat if they are taking a dip in the ocean.

While there’s no harm in having some fun in the sun during the warm months of the year, it’s better to leave your cat safely at home when you take a trip to the shore.

Cat Breeds that Like to Swim

While the majority of cats don’t enjoy having much contact with the water or swimming, there are some breeds of cat that totally break this mold.

In fact, some breeds are known for their love of water and many people buy these cats because of it.

Some of these breeds include:

  • Abyssinian
  • Bengal Cat
  • Maine Coon
  • Manx
  • Savannah
  • Snowshoe
  • Turkish Angora
  • Turkish Van

But be careful! If you buy a certain breed of cat in the hopes that your individual feline will love the water, you may be disappointed. Each cat is an individual with their own likes and dislikes, including water.

While the Sphinx breed of cat isn’t one of the breeds known for their love of water, this Sphinx kitten is breaking the mold and enjoying a dip in the bath tub.

Cat Swimming Safety

If your cat has access to a large body of water (a lake, a swimming pool, etc.) it’s important to keep their safety in mind.

While most cats won’t voluntarily get into the water, they may end up there by accident and they need to know how to get out.

In fact, most cats are capable of swimming and many feline drownings occur not because the cat can’t swim, but because they can’t find a way out of the water and tire themselves out.

Teaching your cat how to safely exit a body of water, whether it be a pool or a pond, is essential in keeping them safe.

You can start by introducing your cat to the water slowly and then guiding them to where they will need to go to exit the water. In a pool this is likely the stairs or a ladder.

In fact, you can even purchase a set of stairs for pools that are specially made for animals, such as the Paws Aboard, which has slip-proof grips and is easy to install.

In a pond or a lake, you should bring them to the nearest shore.

If your cat joins you on all sorts of  aquatic adventures or has had one too many near-accidents in your pool, you may want to invest in a kitty life vest, such as the Ranphy Shark Life Vest. It’s designed for small domestic animals and can mean the difference between life and death if your cat is struggling to stay afloat.

So, can cats swim?

Technically speaking, yes, most cats can swim. However, most cats really hate water and won’t have any interest in swimming.

If your cat simply loves the water and you have a hard time keeping them on dry land, you may want to invest in a few items to keep your cat safe, such as the Ranphy Shark Life Vest.

An even better idea is to create a safe swimming area for your cat. Pet swimming pools, such as the PupTeck Foldable Swimming Pool, are small and shallow enough to allow your cat to enjoy the water while minimizing the risk of drowning.

Does your cat love the water? Do they join you in the shower or turn the sink on by themselves? Do you bring your cat out on boats or swimming in the pool? We want to hear all about it, so tell us in the comments!

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Amanda K.

After moving to New York City from Rome, Italy, I began working in the nonprofit world. Despite my day job, my passion has always been animals, especially dogs and cats, and writing. What better way to combine the two? I've been a pet owner for 15 years, and my menagerie includes dogs, cats, hamsters and the occasional hermit crab. My beloved cat, Mozart, who I found as a newborn kitten, sparked my love for felines and is now nearly 15 years old. I am an enthusiastic volunteer at the local ASPCA, where I enjoy spending time with the cats and cleaning up after the dogs. I've been writing about pet ownership and care for the past five years.