Teach Your Cat to Swim!

August 13, 2020
By: Highway Veterinary Hospital Staff

The idea of bringing your pet into any body of water may seem suspect.

After all, cats loathe water, right?

It may come as a shock to you, but cats can be taught to appreciate water if they get the right introduction. Several cat owners have pondered why cats can’t swim, but the truth is they can!

If you are one of the brave cat owners out there who would like to teach your cat to swim, you are in luck! The team at Highway Veterinary Hospital is here to explain the basics of cat swimming, and how to slowly introduce your feline friend to being in the water.

Can Cats Swim?

It’s a long-held myth that cats hate water and can’t swim. The same myths abound around cats being too aloof or can’t be trained. These are not true, just as well as the myth of all cats hating water. If you have ever watched an episode of Animal Planet, you have probably seen lions or tigers traversing rivers and other bodies of water.

Domestic cats, like their wild cousins, are born with the wisdom of swimming. If your cat seems afraid of water it is simply because they haven’t been introduced to it. Cats are creatures of habit and anything outside of the norm can seem scary to them. However, some cats, like the Maine Coon and American Bobtail, are well adapted to swimming. Some of these swimming breeds have specialized webbing between their toes to help in the water.

Yet, not all cats are expert swimmers or can swim safely without having potential problems, such as fear or health issues that prohibit this form of exercise. It’s best to check with your veterinarian before taking the plunge with your purr face.

Teach Your Cat to Swim: The Fundamentals

Before dunking your cat in the water, remember that just when you learned to swim, it was a gradual process. If your cat hasn’t been in the water, they will need time to adjust to the feeling and form a sense of security and confidence. Follow these steps when training your kitty.

  1. Introduce your cat to water. If you have a pool or kiddie pool, bring them outside with you and allow them to hang out while you are in the water. Bring some treats to entice them to walk over to you and stand by the pool. If you don’t, allow your cat to come into the bathroom when you are bathing, so they can investigate the bath.
  2. If they are okay around water, carry them while you are in it. Walk your cat around with you while holding them in the pool. Slowly let their tail or belly dip down into the water. How are they doing?
  3. Once you can safely walk around with them, sit them down in the water while you are still holding them. They will probably start to paddle even before they hit the water.
  4. Let your cat go by gently hoisting them down into the water and observing them. Make sure you do this near an exit and in the shallow end.

When you are training your cat to swim, make sure to supervise them around water. They may instinctively know the ropes, but they are not experienced enough not to have an accident. If your cat is behaving aggressively, don’t chance it with a bite or scratch. Simply put them back on solid ground and wait until they are more comfortable being held in the water.

There are several useful ramps and steps that can be attached to the side of the pool that provide a quick escape if your pet or any other animal falls in.

Lakes and Rivers

Taking your cat to natural areas to swim may sound like a great choice since most cats want to be outdoors. Unfortunately, unless they are leashed and with you, they can make a run for it and become missing or prey for wild animals. Swimming with your cat in a moving body of water is also highly dangerous since they can be swept away.

If you want to take them outdoors, choose a shallow body of water, like a still beach on a lake or pond. Keep them next to you and supervise them as they swim and roam around. A halter with a leash is a perfect choice, as well as a fitted cat life preserver, for exploring the great outdoors with a kitty.

If you would like additional information on swimming with your feline friend, please do not hesitate to call us at (301) 249-2005.