Most cats loathe being in water. Some even go to great pains to drink water at a careful bodily distance away from the bowl, allowing only the tongue access. It’s understandable why water and most cats don’t mix well. Cats are extremely sensitive, taking tremendous care when grooming themselves so that each piece of fur is in place. Water may ruin all of that and cause cats to feel cold, weighed down, out of control and absolutely miserable.
However, there are notable exceptions — the Turkish Van being the most famous. Nicknamed “the swimming cat,” this feline is thought to have a genetic predisposition for being in and around water so long as proper, safe early exposure is provided.
In their book, Legacy of the Cat: The Ultimate Illustrated Guide, Gloria Stephens and Tetsu Yamazaki explain that the Turkish Van first developed in the Lake Van region of Southeastern Turkey. Cats and fishermen there must have learned to love each other; felines swam out for meals, and fishermen benefitted from the cats’ onboard rodent-hunting ways and good companionship. Over time, the breed even evolved (or perhaps was bred to have) a waterproof coat and fur that could grow to withstand various temperature extremes.
With very early, controlled and relatively stress-free exposure to water, individuals from other breeds might learn to like being in water too. Both nature and nurture, therefore, help explain why some cats enjoy being around water, but others don’t.