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Why Do Cats Hate Water? (And Many Other Answers to “Why Do Cats…?”)

If cats are so clean, constantly bathing themselves, why do cats hate water? One answer: Their fur isn’t designed to be drenched.

Believe it or not, not all cats hate water. Photo: Jim

Sometimes, cats are weird. There, we said it.

Here at Petful, we get a lot of questions from our readers about why cats do this or that.

So we thought we’d run through some of the most popular questions about cats — and provide some detailed answers, starting with that biggest question of all, “Why do cats hate water?”

Why Do Cats Hate Water?

Cats spend so much time grooming and licking themselves — so why do cats hate water so much?

There are several reasons your cat may not like being submerged in water:

Because Their Fur Gets Waterlogged

This weighs down your cat. While the top layer of the fur is water-resistant to a degree, if the whole coat is drenched, your pet will be uncomfortable.

Because Cats Are Sensitive to Odors

It’s possible your cat doesn’t like the scent of chemicals from tap water.

Because They Fear It

Some cats may not like being submerged in water simply because they have never experienced it before, and cats are naturally skittish.

Some Cats Actually Do Like Water

Some domestic cats actually enjoy the water, particularly if they live in a region that has a hot, dry climate. The water is cool and refreshing, and the cat may swim or soak in it.

Cats are as adept at fishing as they are at hunting mice, and some cats will sit in the water or at the edge of a source of water to catch fish. Large jungle cats, like lions and tigers, spend a lot of time in the water cooling off, and they are great swimmers.

Just as with people, cats in colder climates don’t like to get completely wet because it causes them to lose body heat.

To Each His Own

Your cat may enjoy water to some degree, or they may prefer to avoid it at all costs.

Most cats tend to be at least a little curious about water and will stick a paw into a sink full of water or under a running faucet. However, sticking one foot in the water and taking a bath are entirely different matters.

If your cat is apprehensive about getting near or in the water, then it’s probably best if you don’t push it.

How to Convince a Cat to Take a Bath?

Since cats spend a large part of their waking hours grooming themselves, giving a bath shouldn’t be a high priority for you.

However, if your cat gets into something sticky or gets muddy, you may want them clean quickly. In that case, the best strategy is to be gentle and ease them into the water.

Make sure the water is warm, and don’t use any additives, such as bubble bath. Gently ease your cat into the water while stroking the animal and speaking softly.

Even better? Try a sponge bath instead:

  • Use a special formulated cat shampoo that won’t dry out the skin, and apply it to the sponge or cloth. Rub any dirty spots or wipe all over the cat.
  • Rinse out the cloth or sponge and gently wipe the cat off with clear water.
  • Your cat will take care of the rest.
By: Shutterstock
Ah, that’s the spot. Photo: Shutterstock

Why Do Cats Lick Each Other?

Our feline friends love to groom. They groom themselves. They groom each other. They even groom people sometimes.

So why do cats lick each other?

Here are a few reasons:

Because They Learned It Early On

Mother cats begin licking their kittens from the minute they are born. They do this grooming to remove all the debris and fluids associated with the birth as well as to get the kittens breathing.

It is an inherent behavior, meaning they do this without even really thinking about it.

Because They Want to Show Affection

Cats treat grooming as a pastime. They can spend hours cleaning themselves and each other. They show their love and affection this way.

Because They Need to Reach Those Difficult Spots

Cats might clean each other because certain spots are hard for them to reach on their own.

We’re sure you’ve seen your cat wetting her paws and then washing her face. The face is a hard place to wash. The 2-cat home makes it easier. Feline friends don’t let feline friends walk around with dirty faces.

Cats will often clean each other’s ears. Again, this is a hard-to-reach spot for the lone pet. Dual-pet households make this chore simpler. One kitten will wash the other’s ears inside and out. As gross as it sounds, it’s actually a good thing because it removes dirt.

So, those cats who spend the time and effort to clean each other are truly showing that they care.

They could also be saying “Yo, dude. You can’t be seen looking like that!”

Hey, watch the legs, will ya? Photo: Celeste Lindell

Why Do Cats Knead on People?

This little habit has many names:

  • Kneading
  • Making biscuits
  • Happy feet

Kneading is a repetitive motion cats use on different surfaces or people. The motion looks like a baker kneading dough — hence the name.

But why do cats knead on people?

Because It’s a Source of Comfort

Kneading is one of the first behaviors cats learn, even before they can get around on their own well. Kittens must knead on the mother to get milk to flow down when feeding.

This behavior has a habit of sticking around as a source of comfort and relaxation, and it may even be a sign of affection and bonding with you.

A cat may exhibit this behavior because it sees you as their mother or authority figure, or it’s the cat’s way of saying, “I trust you.”

This exercise is perfectly normal. Cats may settle down for a nap after kneading just as they would with a full tummy after feeding. Cats might also use kneading as a way to fluff their bedding or move it to be more comfortable.

Because They Are Marking Their Territory

Another reason for kneading is to mark territory.

Cats may knead on toys, blankets, objects or you to show ownership. Scent glands in the paw can be activated by kneading, leaving a scent behind.

What Can You Do If the Claws Scratch You?

  • Keep your cat’s nails trimmed regularly.
  • Remove the cat from your lap and say a firm “no” if the claws are being used.
  • If nothing else seems to work, keep a thick blanket nearby to protect your skin.
  • If your cat starts kneading you in bed in the middle of the night, you might want to start closing the bedroom door.
Why do cats bump their heads against you? Photo: Mr.TinDC

Why Do Cats Bump Their Heads Against You?

You’re stretched back in your recliner, relaxing after a hard day at the office. Just as you are about to drift into sleep, you feel something nudging against your cheek.

Slowly opening your eyes, you see that the “nuzzler” is none other than your precious kitty. “What in the world are you doing?” you might ask.

Why do cats bump their heads against you?

Well, that unexpected butting of her head is commonly called head bunting, and there’s a perfectly good reason for it.

Because They’re Bonding With You

This feline behavior is, at heart, your kitty’s way of bonding. They may head bunt with you as well as with other humans — or even dogs or other cats.

Bunting is a cat’s communication method of showing affection for others. By rubbing this body part against one of yours, they are identifying you as one of their friends.

Because They’re Leaving Their Scent (Scent Communication)

Cats’ sense of smell is an important tool in their day-by-day living.

They use this sense for social interaction, marking territories and communicating.

And get this: Scent glands are located on many parts of a cat’s body — forehead, tail, cheeks, chin skin, lips and paw pads.

Scent communication is not only cats’ way of marking their territory — it also provides them with a comforting familiarity with their surroundings. Cats often scent-mark things that are most important to them.

For example, if your cat head bunts your face, they are letting you know that they trust you completely. Scent communication is a large part of bonding and expressing emotion for cats.

Bunting spreads the cat’s unique odor “signature” upon whatever they rub. Sharing this scent quickly identifies you, other family members and objects with a familiar odor. Congratulations, you’re a member of the club.

Leaving a scent mark is retained for social bonding as well as for friendly and comforting purposes.

Now let’s talk about touch…

Right Down to a Cellular Level

Touch also plays a significant role in cats’ lives.

Their bodies are blanketed by pain and pressure sensory cells that are highly sensitive to even the slightest touch. Pressure on any hair is relayed to sensory cells down in the hair follicle, then sent directly to the brain. (Whiskers are even more sensitive.)

When caressed, the sensual cat feels pleasure from the touch, making this sense an important key to the relationship between cats and their people.

Why do cats purr? Photo: Cassandra Gallegos-Moore

Why Do Cats Purr?

Cat purrs can sound like a light, soothing hum — or a sputtering motorboat!

Purring creates a sound and a vibration from the cat. Cats make this sound and vibration combination by moving the muscles in the throat and diaphragm.

There is no single or unique organ that produces the sound or the vibration, and the average cat purrs at around 25 decibels.

So, why do cats purr? Here are a few reasons:

Because They’re Feeling Comfortable

A cat will purr when you pet them. It’s a sign of contentment or satisfaction. But there’s more…

Because They’re Trying to Calm Themselves Down

Some scientists believe purring is also a function meant to heal or be social in cats. Purring can trigger the release of a chemical in the brain to relieve pain. This theory makes sense, considering some cats purr while in labor.

Cats also purr when eating, sleeping or when in pain, and the volume, pitch and frequency can vary.

Purring can be a cat’s way of trying to comfort themselves during times of stress, such as having to go to the veterinarian.

Because They’re Keeping Those Muscles Primed

Yet another theory is possible: Scientific American believes cats purr to stimulate bones and muscles without exerting a lot of energy. Since cats have very little bone abnormalities or illnesses compared to other animals, this theory seems plausible too.

Why do cats love boxes? Photo: Vnukko

Why Do Cats Love Boxes?

Unwrapping presents or getting deliveries is the favorite part of some cats’ day!

You’re probably wondering, why do cats love boxes? Here’s a list of possibilities that your feline friend likes to get boxed in:

Because They Like to Hide

Cats love to hide, and a box creates the perfect opportunity for that.

They can play secret agent, stalk without being noticed, create their own fortress, or they may just want a place to hide from all the hoopla of kids and boisterousness.

Because They Like to Chew Cardboard

If you’ve ever seen the corners of a cardboard box whittled down and torn, you have a kitty who loves to chew cardboard.

Because They Like to Play in Boxes

The reason your cat may like being in a box can be as simple as play time. Your cat may view it as a game, waiting for toys to get thrown in or grabbing anything that passes by the opening.

Because They Like Small Spaces

Cats feel secure in small, tight spaces. They check the openings by using their whiskers to ensure their bodies can fit inside.

Any small space that just barely fits your cat is perfect for feeling secure and keeps people (or other pets) out.

The places a cat could hide are not limited to boxes — cats love shoe boxes, paper bags, their carriers with familiar smells or even bookcase cubbies. Some love curling up under the bed covers, warm and out of view from anything.

Whatever your kitty’s preference for boxes, always make sure there is ventilation and no risk of suffocation.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Your cat may retain body heat better when sitting on paper than when sitting on the floor or a desk. Photo: joanna8555

Why Do Cats Always Sit on Paper?

Cats are like young kids — sounds and textures attract them, and curiosity gets the best of them.

Specifically, they like kneading crunchy, crackly paper with their claws before curling up to get some sleep, but cats also enjoy just sitting down on paper. So why is that?

Here are a few possible reasons:

Because It’s Warmer

A cat’s body heat is better retained when the cat is lying on paper (cardboard, newspaper, magazines). The need for warmth could drive them to sit on paper.

Because Your Attention Is Needed

Put simply, cats crave attention — especially when we are deeply involved in watching TV or swiping around on our tablets.

By sitting on the paper, your cat is basically saying, “Hey, what about me?”

Cats don’t understand what reading is — they just want to be a part of the action.

Watch this cat avoid the carpet by sitting on a piece of paper in this video:

Why Do Cats Go Crazy Over Laser Pointers?

Laser pointers throw out bright-red dots of light that move at different speeds and change direction quickly. Why do cats like laser pointers so much?

Because Laser Pointers Bring Out Cats’ Natural Hunting Instincts

Cats are natural hunters, so those quick-moving red dots satisfy their hunting instincts.

Unlike many toys that just lie around in the same old place for your kitty to paw, you can aim a laser pointer in different directions (up, down, or round and round). For your cat, this makes it seem like real moving prey. Anything that moves and has some color is certain to bring out the predator in a cat.

Are Laser Pointers Bad for Cats?

Behavior consultant Marilyn Krieger (“The Cat Coach”) is concerned that laser pointers don’t give cats the satisfaction that comes with the “capture,” because cats will never be able to catch that moving red dot. Krieger says this can be maddening for cats.

Her concerns are valid, but laser-pointer playtime can be entertaining and rewarding for your cat as long as you follow a few important guidelines.

First, check out this quick video:

Guidelines for Laser Pointer Playtime

  • Don’t let the laser pointer become your cat’s only toy. You need a range of toys, such as wand toys, that your cat can paw at and capture.
  • During laser-pointer play, pull out stuffed cat toys that your cat can easily grab or paw. You might even put a little food in some of the toys for your cat to retrieve as a reward.
  • Once in a while, let the red dot of the laser land on one of these other toys and watch your kitty “capture” it. Be sure your cat has a firm hold on the toy before you take the light away.
  • Never, ever shine the light directly into your cat’s eyes. You can cause serious damage to your pet’s eyes by doing that.
By: brownpau
Slow blinking means “I feel really comfortable with you.” Photo: brownpau

Why Do Cats Blink Slowly at You?

Slow blinking by a cat (sort of an eyes-almost-closed look, almost trance-like) is a good sign.

The cat’s saying, “You’re my buddy, and I feel comfortable hanging out with you.”

Cats do a lot of talking with their eyes — the eyes are part of a cat’s communication system. If you are directly staring a cat down, you’ll only make that cat nervous. They see a stare-down like this as a threat.

Because They’re Giving You a “Kitty Kiss”

Slowly blinking at you is a sign of pure love — it’s often even referred to as a “kitty kiss.”

Because There’s Simply No Need for Fighting

When other cats are around, you may see your cat slow blinking a lot. This is to let the other cats know that everything is fine.

In the wild, where cats battle for territory, this slow blinking is important because all the other cats will understand they are not a threat to one another. There’s no need for fighting.

Try Blinking Back!

If you’re in a comfortable setting (and you don’t feel too ridiculous doing so), try slow blinking at your cat. Chances are, they will send a “kitty kiss” back your way.

A mutual friendship may develop from this batting of eyes. Your cat may even come over and jump in your lap, giving you an open invitation to pet them.

All cats (yes, even feral cats) tend to have the “slow blinking eyes” thing going on. If you’re brave, take the plunge: Next time you’re at the zoo, blink slowly at a tiger on the other side of that cage, rather than staring directly into the tiger’s eyes, and see if you gain a new feline friend.

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At Petful®, founded by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and editor Dave Baker, we are on a mission to give our readers the best, most accurate information to help their pets live happier, healthier lives. Our team of expert writers includes veterinarians Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, and Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, among others. Petful is also the leading independent source of U.S. pet food recall information on the web. Learn more about the amazing team behind Petful here: Meet the Team.

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