This is not a myth, most cats don’t like water because they are not used to it in their natural element. However, they can swim well from birth, like most mammals …
Why do cats know how to swim?
You might not know it, but just because your cat isn’t a big fan of water doesn’t mean that she can’t swim. Like most animals, and especially mammals, it has the instinctive swimming reflex.
Yes, only humans and great apes cannot swim! Because they are bipeds, their weight is therefore poorly distributed for swimming. Moreover, if humans can learn to swim, this is not the case for orangutans or gorillas, which are handicapped by imposing muscles and particularly large arms.
Quadrupeds, on the other hand, know how to inflate their lungs and distribute their weight thanks to their four legs. While a biped tends to be vertical, it sinks if it cannot swim. On the other hand, cats are naturally in a horizontal position, their lungs filled with air, they simply float. All they have to do then is flap their paws to move forward, in a more or less anarchic way linked to the degree of stress they are under.
Why do cats not like to swim?
If most cats don’t like swimming, it’s because they haven’t been used to it and haven’t needed swimming to develop in their environment. However, certain breeds of cat, coming from countries where the water element is preponderant, tend to adore water. This is the case, among others, of the Abyssinian originating in Egypt, but also of the Maine Coon or the Norwegian originating in the Nordic countries, or of the Turk of Van.
This comparison is valid for the whole family of felines. Indeed, the tiger and the jaguar are excellent swimmers and live respectively on the coasts of Asia and the coasts of Latin America. On the other hand, the lion lives mainly on the African continent and turns out to be a very poor swimmer, it must be said that water is scarce in this part of the globe.
As for our domestic cats, they do not have the need to go in the water, and therefore do not venture there. No need, in fact, to cross lakes or rivers when you are fed on demand. In addition, its predators are almost non-existent and the cat therefore rarely has water as an alternative to escape its pursuer.
Ultimately, is water a danger for cats?
Most cats do well if they are forced into the water. Their instinct allows them not to drown and to move forward, even if they do not necessarily keep a pleasant memory. However, the weight of water on their dense fur does impact their usual agility. Weighed down, our tomcats can struggle to reach one or the other of the banks to return to dry land.
This is valid in waterways where the land is high, but also near our homes, which represent a real danger for our mustached friends. This is how we deplore every year many deaths of cats by drowning, in swimming pools or even water tanks. The cat does not die from lack of ability to swim, but from exhaustion from not being able to climb back up on slippery walls.
Likewise, the cat risks hypothermia. If the water is very cold, the shock can be very severe and will prevent it from swimming to get out. And if it stays in the water for a long time, fallen into a swimming pool for example, it can be saved by humans, but it is essential to go urgently to the vet to warm it up and monitor its vital signs.