Can Cats Swim?
Questions About Cats

Can Cats Swim?

Most cats are averse to getting wet. You may find that your outdoor pet rushes for shelter if it rains. This leads many people to believe that cats do not know how to swim.

Survival instinct necessitates that cats know how to swim, should they need to. If a cat finds itself in a body of water unexpectedly, it will intuitively swim to safety. Many cats do not swim for recreation though, so they may struggle in strong currents. Unless you’re certain your cat is a strong swimmer, keep it away from deep water.

Our objective is to separate the myths from the facts when it comes to cats and swimming. There are many misconceptions, but knowing the truth will help to keep your cat safe from harm.

Are Cats Able to Swim?

Any feline, from a domestic kitten to a predatory tiger, is capable of swimming. They may not know they can swim until they need to, though. If a cat falls into water, they’ll instinctively swim and make their way to dry land.

This doesn’t mean you can take a cavalier approach to water safety with your cat, however. Just because they can swim, it doesn’t mean that they will. If your cat isn’t experienced with water, they may not understand how long they should swim, for example.

If you live close to water, or have a pool, understand your cat’s relationship with swimming. This may begin with their genes, as some breeds are more interested in water than others. Your cat’s unique personality will also play a substantial role in how they feel about swimming.

Do Cats Like Swimming?

The answer depends on the individual cat. Some cats are natural water babies, and will love the idea of swimming. Others will resist any exposure to water with every fiber of their being.

Some breeds of cat are keener on swimming than others. That’s still no guarantee that your cat will want to swim, though. Bad experiences with water, health problems or a general disinterest could prevent a cat from swimming.

A cat that lives in a hot and humid territory is most likely to enjoy the water. Big cats living in the jungle spend substantial portions of their day swimming to cool off.

The same will apply to a domestic housecat. If they’re running hot, they are likely to take a dip to reduce their body temperature.

Cats that live on colder climes, however, are less likely to show much interest. Even cats that like swimming will not enjoy being soaking wet. This makes them uncomfortable.

That’s not such an issue when the sun is beating down. One brisk shake can remove vast amounts of water from a cat’s fur. The heat in the sky will do the rest. If the temperature is neutral or cool, however, it will take a while to warm up again. That’s complete anathema to any cat.

How Do Cats Play in Water?

All cats tend to be at least a little curious about water. Even a housecat that loathes the idea of bathing will probably drink from a dripping tap. There can be a substantial difference between investigating water and playing in it, however.

how long can a cat swim

Typically, the cats that enjoy swimming will also play with water. This recreation can take all kinds of forms, including:

  • Deliberately knocking over water bowls or glasses.
  • Scooping water from bowls or glasses with their paws.
  • Drinking water from the toilet bowl.
  • Perching at the edge of a bath, river or pool and pawing at the water.
  • Hunting objects in water – whether living things, such as fish, or just ice cubes.
  • Splashing paws in shallow water.
  • Running through sprinklers, or playing in the rain.
  • Dropping toys into the water and retrieving them.

If your cat displays any of these playful behaviors, encourage and embrace them. It can be a little awkward when cats are determined to share your bathwater or shower. Overall though, cats that positively engage with water are likely to stay safe in any circumstance.

Water-Loving Cat Breeds

Let’s take a look at some particular cat breeds that can swim:

Turkish Van Cats

This feline has earned the informal nickname ‘the swimming cat’ due to their love of water. They are adventurous by their very nature, rarely staying sedentary for very long.

If not surrounded by water, this breed will play in the sink, bathtub – even the toilet.

Turkish Angora Cats

It appears that Turkish cats are particularly drawn to water. This breed is slighter than the Van Cat, but it still loves to play with water, If you own this cat, expect to see them whenever you run water in your home.

Maine Coon Cats

This breed of cat spent many years traveling on ships in the country’s youngest days. This may explain why they love to mess with water.

If you’re one of the many Americans with a Maine Coon cat, consider enclosing their water. This breed loves to knock their bowl over, or dip things in it. They may turn on the sink and climb inside.

Bengal Cats

Bengals are descended from wild leopards, so it’s hardly surprising that they love water. To be a legal pet, Bengals must be multiple generations apart from their wild ancestors.

Instinct is impossible to defy, though. A Bengal cat will splash and swim every chance they get.

Norwegian Forest Cats

These cats love to climb tall trees. However, they also love to swim. This breed of cat will also gleefully hunt in the water.

Other cat breeds, including the Manx, Bobtail, and Abyssinian, will also enjoy playing with water. It doesn’t mean that they will be natural swimmers, though.

Felines dipping their paws into the water and plunging into a pool are very different experiences.

How Far Can a Cat Swim?

The answer depends on the cat in question. Most felines will at least be able to reach dry land. Their survival instincts will see to that.

Beyond this, however, all bets are off. It’s safer to assume that your cat will not be capable of getting any further. Get them out of the water accordingly. The longer cats are left treading water, the more likely they are to get into trouble.

Can Cats Swim Underwater?

Like all mammals, cats are not capable of breathing underwater. They have lungs, not gills. This means that no feline will be able to swim underwater for a prolonged period of time.

Cats can, however, hold their breath for at least a short amount of time. This means that if they find themselves plunged underwater, they’ll survive.

Aquatically-inclined cats that hunt water-based prey are more likely to dive a little deeper. Overall, however, spending time below the surface is best left to fish and amphibians.

Can a Cat Swim in Deep Water?

A cat should never venture any deeper into the water than paddling distance. If you’re confident that your cat is a strong swimmer, let them go a little further. Monitor them though, in case they need to be rescued.

With this in mind, also keep your cat at a depth that you’re comfortable with. If your pet runs into trouble, they may be relying on you to rescue them. This will be a problem if you cannot reach them.

Cats are smart, and they typically know their limits. Sometimes, however, circumstances change. A strong current. An unexpected leg cramp. A sudden loss of confidence. None of these will end well for your feline. Always make water safety your priority.

How to Encourage Your Cat to Swim

Another way to keep your cat safe around a pool is to encourage their swimming instincts. Never force a cat to swim against their will, as that will be stressful. If you convince your cat that water can be fun, however, they will be safer.

cat breeds that swim

Never dump a cat in a body of water and let instinct take over. This will frighten the life out of your poor feline. If you don’t have a pool but live near a lake, consider using hydrotherapy. Wag Walking explains why this is a good idea, and it could be recreational too.

If you have a pool, you can use this to teach your cat to swim. Here’s some advice on this:

  • Ensure that your cat is not allergic to chlorine.
  • Check that the pool’s temperature is appropriate for your cat. The average swimming pool runs a temperature of 85-89O. This should be safe for your pet.
  • Don’t let your cat see that you’re taking them into a pool. They may panic, and try to escape.
  • Keep comforting your cat while you’re in the water. Offer plenty of reassurance and petting. Remember, they will be frightened. If you try to separate yourself from them, you should be aware of the risk of bites and scratches from your cat.
  • Once you are sure that your cat trusts you, slowly expose them to the water. Don’t let go – just let them adapt to the sensation.
  • Continue to support your cat while they start swimming. If your pet has never swum before, they may not be graceful. It should not take them too long to get to grips with the idea. Just maintain their trust by retaining a loose grip throughout.
  • Keep a loose hold of your cat while directing them. This will help your cat grow in confidence while they learn how to navigate the water.
  • Eventually, let your cat go but stay close. If your pet seems happy swimming, offer encouragement and stay close. If they start to panic, remove them straight away.
  • When they’re done, remember to help your cat out of the pool. They are unable to climb out by themselves.

Using a home pool can be a great way to introduce your cat to water. As long as you stay safe, your pet may have all kinds of fun.

Why Do Some Cats Hate Water?

As we have established, not all cats hate water as a matter of course. However, very few cats will relish being soaking wet.

Imagine being outside wearing a wool sweater, and finding yourself caught in a torrential downpour. You’ll be cold, wet and miserable. Now imagine that, even when you get to shelter, you can’t take that sweater off. It’s not a pleasant sensation, and that’s how cat fur feels when it’s ringing wet.

The aroma of wet fur isn’t agreeable for felines who have strong senses of smell.

Do Cats Like the Rain?

By and large, cats do not like the rain. Getting soaked by rain will waterlog a cat. This, in turn, will drop their body temperature. Not only will this be uncomfortable for your cat, but it may also be dangerous. A cat’s base temperature should never drop below 90OF.

The only time a cat may relish the rain is they are overheating. If you live in a dry and humid climate, rain will be a novelty. Cats that are too hot groom themselves constantly to cool off. They may choose to wander in the rain for a break.

If you have a cat, you’ll notice that they gravitate toward warmer parts of the house. Pay attention to this behavior, and encourage it.

If your pet emerges through their cat flap looking wet and forlorn, let them warm up.  This may involve sacrificing your seat by the fire or radiator for a while. It will be worth it in the longer term.

What Cats Can’t Swim?

Of course, just because some cats are naturally gifted swimmers, it doesn’t mean that all are. More cats are naturally averse to water than not.

Allow us to say again – there is no such thing as a cat that cannot swim. That’s a myth. If your cat is not a natural water lover, however, they will not enjoy the process.

This means that they may not be a particularly strong swimmer. If such a cat falls into a body of water, they may panic and end up in real trouble.

If your pet’s breed is not listed as water-loving, keep them on dry land. If they show a natural curiosity for water, it’s fine to indulge them. Every cat is unique, after all. It’s safer for all concerned if the feline is not forced into any water-based scenarios, though.

How Long Can a Cat Swim Without Growing Tired?

This depends on a multitude of different factors. The breed of cat, their energy levels, their weight, and how much fun they are having.

If a cat is having a good time, they’re likely to find plenty of endurance reserves. If they are not naturally inclined to enjoy the water, however, they will tire quickly as they fight against their fear.

If your cat has fallen into the water by mistake, get them out ASAP. If left alone, they could end up going into shock. This can be dangerous, and even potentially fatal. If your cat grows tired, they may also stop swimming. This will also obviously end badly.

Is it Safe to Have a Swimming Pool with a Cat?

If your cat appears to loathe water, they’re likely to give a swimming pool a wide berth. You may, understandably, be afraid of what will happen if they fall in.

As we have already established, a cat will not just sink. They will splash around for at least a while. Where the problem arises, however, is how they get out of the pool.

A cat will not be able to clamber out of the side with ease. They may grow exhausted, and find themselves in trouble. You can’t watch your cat 24/7, so you will need a safety protocol.

Deter your cat from approaching the pool area. Traditionally dotting citrus peels around would do this, but that isn’t an option in this instance.

The best solution is a waterproof motion-sensitive cat sensor. This will emit a sound that deters your cat when they get too close. It won’t bother you though, as the noise will be imperceptible to human ears.

My Cat Went Swimming and is Acting Weird

If a cat seems out of sorts after swimming, it’s worth consulting a vet. It’s always better to be safe than sorry though. Some common incidents that may occur after swimming include:


If the water is too cold, this could make your cat ill. Hypothermia is a serious concern, and must be managed. Remember that no cat’s body temperature should drop below 90O.

If it falls below 80OF, your cat may need medical help.

Secondary Drowning

A cat may appear fine upon emerging from the water, but starts to act strange hours later.

If your cat is coughing, struggling to breathe or whimpering and crying, see a vet. They may have swallowed a great deal of water, and their lungs are struggling to cope.

Allergies and Intoxication

Water and chlorine can intoxicate cats, if swallowed in large quantities. Your cat may also experience an allergic reaction to these substances.

Encounters with Wildlife

If a cat swims in a lake or ocean, they will not be the only occupants. This means that your cat may be bitten, stung or anything else. This could spark an allergic reaction. If your pet has an issue, seek help from a healthcare professional.

Remember that water is not a natural habitat for cats. This means that they could have an adverse reaction to aquatic play. If your cat reacts well to their water experience, then that’s great. If water leads to an adverse reaction, however, don’t ignore it.

Any cat is capable of swimming. If their safety depends upon it, swimming comes as naturally to a feline as eating and sleeping. Only a select few breeds may actively enjoy it, though. For many cats, swimming is a matter of survival rather than a sport and means of enjoyment.

If your cat takes well to water, there is no harm in encouraging them.  They’ll have fun, and they’ll keep clean. Just avoid attempting to force a cat to embrace water play against their will. That will leave them afraid of swimming, and that could have negative repercussions in the future.