Why are domestic cats afraid of water when tigers like to swim in it?

The question in the title in inaccurate. We know that tigers in the wild like to spend many hours in a pool or river. Although, I am talking about Bengal tigers or perhaps Sumatran tigers and in either case I'm referring to tigers in Asia living in warm/hot climates because this is why they like to spend many hours in pools. Being very large animals, they can get very hot because they are able to conserve heat. The best way to dissipate heat is to have cold water running over you which draws away the body heat. And so, tigers like water to cool off and they are perfectly okay swimming in water as well.

Tigers like water to cool off and stay cooler. Image by UpTownGrl from Pixabay

Tigers can swim two or 3 miles in the sea if required. They are great swimmers but this seems to be in stark comparison to domestic cats. But is it in stark comparison? 

That is the key question because there is a lot of misinformation being bandied around the Internet about how domestic cats hate water. You cannot state that all domestic cats hate water or worse are 'afraid of water'. Domestic cats are not fearful of water. They are well able to cope with it at the very least.

Some individual cats might not like it. In fact, some (a few I would argue) may hate it but the vast majority will at least put up with it and some domestic cats such as the wildcat hybrids, actually, often like water.

The tendency of domestic cats to dislike getting very wet or being submerged in water is probably a throwback to their wild ancestor, the African wildcat which lives in arid territory with very little water and therefore they are more in tune with these arid conditions. 

That characteristic in the North African wildcat is in their DNA and it has been inherited by the domestic cat. 

Conversely, the tiger lives in rainy places with lush vegetation and where there's plenty of water such as rivers and in the Sundarbans, in Bangladesh, for example, they live in mangrove swamps surrounded by seawater. 

So, this difference between domestic cats and tigers comes from the history of the environment in which they have lived.

By the way, did you know that cats can drink seawater at least to a certain extent unlike humans? If humans must drink seawater, they become dehydrated because it's too salty but not so for cats. That is another topic.

RELATED: Can cats drink seawater? Yes and no!

Above all else, all domestic cats can swim very capably when required to do so. When obliged to swim, they don't do so with great trepidation and fear they just jump in and go. So, we have to be careful about these misconceptions. 

Cats are not frightened of water
Cats are not frightened of water. All domestic, stray and feral cats are capable swimmers. Image in public domain.

Perhaps it is fair to say that in general domestic cats tend not to like to be submerged in water but you can't put it too strongly and you can't generalise.

And because of that the title is inaccurate with respect to the reference about domestic cats. It is accurate with respect to the reference about tigers. Tigers don't only spend time in water to cool off. They can also bump into the odd prey animal when they are in water. But the primary objective is to stay cool particularly during global warming with places like India becoming incredibly and intolerably hot.

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