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How to teach a cat to swim.

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So you may wonder why someone would need to teach a cat to swim.  For me it's a safety issue, but it's also because I have one real cool cat.  Her name is Sassy.

If you look at the first photo you will see that our sliding door from our house is not too far from the pool.  All of our cats are strictly indoors, but some of them want to explore outside.  To get out, many times they will dart out of the door in almost a blind run and nearly end up in the pool.  Many pets will "panic swim" if they end up in the pool.  This is where they flap their feet basically trying to walk on the water rather than swim through it.  Often times they get worn out and drown.

I've got six cats and Sassy is the only one that will dart out of the door and is the only one I feel needs swimming lessons.  She also happens to be a very adventurous kitty who I was sure wouldn't have problems once she got use to the water.

Based on some comments I will add a couple pieces of information here.
1. The pool has a solar heater and was around 90 degrees F.
2. The chlorine levels in the pool are maintained to just above drinking water.
3. Sassy had been around the pool for many months prior to this and so wasn't really afraid of it anymore.
4. I changed to title to better reflect what is actually happening.  I'm not teaching the cat to swim, but simply giving her a safe and calm environment to develop what should come naturally to her.
 
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HammE2 months ago

I have a new idea now!

YvenaM3 months ago

lol niceee

rsmaudsley (author) 2 years ago
Well, so much for being able to take Sassy in to the pool, at least for the next few weeks.

When I say that Sassy is "very adventurous", I meant it. She's also one tough cookie.

Last week I went to do our bi-monthly nail trimming on the cats and discovered Sassy had pulled off a claw and the tip of one of her toes. Basically she "declawed" a toe. We didn't find any blood in the house, so we are assuming it happened a few days prior when she had gotten out for a few hours and that by the time she got home the blood had clotted and the toe stopped bleeding.

She showed no signs of being injured and is running and jumping as if nothing had happened. She's on antibiotics now, but no long term exposure to water until the wound heals over.
Amiga5002 years ago
Every cat I've seen fall in water, whether it was a pool or a bathtub, has basically bounced off the surface, given an evil look to anyone nearby, and run off. I really couldn't see the point of this Instructable, until I remembered my late boy cat, who was one of the sweetest, dumbest creatures I've ever met. He'd charge out the front door (indoor cat), panic, and run to the neighbor's house, trying to get in. More than once. Point taken, and I see no cruelty here.
rsmaudsley (author)  Amiga5002 years ago
Thanks Amiga,

As I have said in a few other comments, if Sassy ever had ended up in the pool by accident, she probably would have gotten out on her own. But she is such a brave and adventurous cat that I thought she'd be up to swimming. I will try to get her to get ner the water on her own this summer.
Arsonista2 years ago
One of my all-time favorite Instuctables. Thanks for sharing!
rsmaudsley (author)  Arsonista2 years ago
Glad you enjoyed it. I'm going to be doing some more work with Sassy to see if she has the potential of going in the water on her own. She is so food\treat motivated that I think I will be able to get her to
Excuse me but this is nonsense, I've had cats all my life, sometimes they have fallen into the pool and they just came out.
You can't teach a cat to swim, cause they already know, like all animals, even elephants.
If a cat or dog get drowned is only because they dint reach the border or the ladder.
So, if you providea WAY OUT it will be just enough, and it WONT drown (panic or not).
I have 7 cats and they all panic in the tub if I fill it to full for them to stand and don't hold them and calm them down and if I left them unattended they would probably panic into exhaustion I am sure and that is where they would drown. what he is doing is teaching the cat to rely on its self and to be confident in a bad situation which means life or death none of this is nonsense for example lets take human beings if not taught to swim most likely we would not be able to deal with a bad happening in water and drown but it is in or nature to swim that's why our fingers and toes have webbing but my 60 year old step mom still can't swim and panics in water even though she has a higher capability of logic processing than a cat.
I understand why he does it, but again, >>it's enough to provide a way out from pool<<
Personally i don’t think it’s necessary to bathe a cat neither, only in several cases of fleas.
They do a nice job keeping themselves clean. (My vet supports this also).

I've never heard of a drowned cat, I mean NEVER. Have you? in that case did the cat had a way out?

I'm sorry I don't consider adequate the comparison with your step mom or any human.
This is what this all the controversy of this instructable is about; People humanize pets. They should be treated with all love and respect. But they are not humans. There isn’t such thing as a good or bad cat/dog. It’s instinct.
rsmaudsley (author)  SamuraiGoose2 years ago
As I said before, if Sassy fell in the pool before I showed her she could swim, she probably would have made it out. I can't find specific numbers, only a generalization that approximately 5,000 pets drown every year. (www.petplace.com) .
We also keep the pool filled to just a few inches below the lip so it is easier and more likely for any animal to get out.

As for never hearing of a cat drowning in a pool, most people would probably never report this to anyone that would make the incident public.

But there is no harm in doing this and it's only result is I now KNOW my cat can swim.
Cats this, cats that, its surprising the level of generalisation in some of the comments here, in my experience cats are as individual as snowflakes. 

Our current cat (who is now over 17 yrs old) would have taken my arm off if i had gone anywhere near a pool with him, yet he does not mind walking in the rain and getting wet (so long as it is his decision..) as much as most. One of my old cats would not have minded at all - didn't mind being washed - was even happy travelling in a car, and was totally trusting. Another was so neurotic he was scared of his own shadow, would scream the house down if he had to travel, trying to teach him to swim would have resulted in a complete mental meltdown.

In the end it is the responsibility of the owner to decide whether this instructable is applicable - or worthwhile - for their individual pet. Only the owner (or custodian as we prefer to call it) of the cat knows their own animals traits and thresholds, and can weigh up the benefits of this type of 'training'. Personally, i would not even consider it for our current cat, though if we had a younger pet and percieved a potential pussy in pool problem perhaps..
instead of owner or custodian I think of myself as dad I am there parent they my kids and as far as training a cat or any animal to do anything especially something out of there comfort zone it can be done you may have to be more patient or take a different approach with different cats but they all could be taught to swim I have 7 children and they are all extremely different in how I teach them to do things but I can teach them all to do the same things.
rsmaudsley (author)  mrcurlywhirly2 years ago
Yes, cats are all very different. Of the 7 cats I've owned, 6 still with us, only two are suitable to being taken into the water. A third cat, won't touch the water, but loves to sit on a boogie board and float around the pool when we are in it.

I got Sassy when she was only about 6 weeks old. I knew from the very beginning that she was going to be one cool kitty, and she is.
Narimasu2 years ago
One of my cats loves to go out on the paddle boat with me, and of course one time while pacing around the edge he fell overboard. I thought he would be panicked when he surfaced, but he wasn't. Turned out he was a very good swimmer and headed back to shore on his own. (We weren't very far out and it's not a lake, but rather a pond.) When I got to him on shore, though, he was madder than a wet hen!! The looks I got!! He still goes out with me in the boat, but hasn't fallen over the side again; though he does jump off when we get near shore and wades the rest of the way in.
Cutest Instructable ever.
tsanford2 years ago
Awww this brought tears to my eyes. I LOVE that you love your cat enough to want to make sure if she does ever fall in the pool she will be able to swim enough to get herself out. Thank you for sharing this. Luckily my 2 cats have no desire to go outside(anymore) so I don't have to worry about it.
basefilm2 years ago
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this, thank you.

I'd love to be able to get our cats to the point of really loving swimming, like so many dogs do. Tigers and some other large cats naturally swim, see http://www.wimp.com/tigerspark .

You have some lucky cats, nice job!
pris542 years ago
The last picture is brilliant, Sassy's face says all... I can almost hear her thoughts "What the h*** is going on?!"
psargaco pris542 years ago
Really?! Because what I read in her eyes is more on the vicinity of "MAMA!!!" :-)
hardmandone2 years ago
ushuaia2 years ago
You, sir, is the bravest cat owner I know. I'll save this for future reference (I have 9 cats, but we don't have a pool. Maybe I can start with an inflatable one).
rsmaudsley (author)  ushuaia2 years ago
First try the bathtub. Maybe with just one or two inches of water. Let them investigate and see if any are willing to get in. If they have a favorite treat, put it on a plastic plate that can float in the tub. They will have to get in to get to the treat.

If you have a WalMart or Target near you, get a plastic kids pool, this way the kitty claws won't be able to puncture it.
Yeah, I was worried about the inflatable and it's prone-ness (is there such a word?) to punctures.

I don't have a bathtub, but I think I have a plastic tub somewhere here that my little cousin used before. Thanks!
pris542 years ago
What a brilliant instructable! Thank you rsmaudsley, I can tell you really love your cats.
I came across these instructions as I'm looking for information about cats and their swimming habits and instincts, I will soon be moving aboard a narrowboat (a canal boat, very common here in the UK), it will be a huge transition for my cat who is 2 years old and has lived always indoors, more than the swimming it worries me that she won't find a way out of the water, let's see how it goes!
rsmaudsley (author)  pris542 years ago
I think one of the other contributors here lives on a river boat. I would definitely make sure your cat is comfortable around water. i would start now using a bathtub with a a few CM of water to start. Put their food in on a floating plate so they have to go in to the water to get the food.

Look in http://www.gamma2.net/skamper-ramp.htm and see if it is something you could use where you will be living. You may also want to see about building a floating dock that basically just floats on top of the water and surround your boat with it. The cat will likely swim towards the boat if it fall in to the water. PM my in private, I have some ideas that would make it easy for you cat to get out of the water.
wblack32 years ago
Amazing instructable! Very funny, too. Yes, it does pay to be careful which cats are trained. I would suggest that very young cats (not kittens, however) may be more amenable, especially if the water is quite warm, as also the weather, and a nice sunny spot with warm bricks and without breeze to dry off in. I had a pair of Abassynians that loved water, and would actively hop into the bath with me. They were a bit demented. They also loved chasing streams of water from the garden hose all over the back yard until sopping wet.

Water training cats isn't as crazy as it might first seem. My last cat (Bill Clinton III) was very nearly 18 years old when he died. He needed occasional baths when he was unwell and not grooming himself properly. Getting him used to water earlier would've been better. He definitely minded the hotter water a lot less than cooler or tepid water!

Yes, an emergency cat-ladder is highly recommended, even in empty pools esp. if you are going away, unless you have good stairs all the way from the bottom to the top that an injured animal could climb.
rsmaudsley (author)  wblack32 years ago
The one advantage with Sassy is she is very treat motivated, more than some dogs I know. And with the right motivation you can get a cat to do just about anything.
I have another cat that is leash trained. His motivation was the ability to go outside and meet people. He loved going in to the kiddy area at a nearby park. it was enclosed with a 3ft fence, so I could let him off-leash and he'd just hang out and play with the kids.
I wouldn't be able to go in a pool with my Lucy unless I was wearing a suit of armor. You are one brave cat daddy!
rsmaudsley (author)  leannkaattari2 years ago
Sassy is an awesome cat. She's actually pretty good about letting me introduce her to new things. She's pretty tolerant of what anyone does to her, short of actually hurting her.
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First, You have no idea what you are talking about. Oil, having a different density than water, will not allow the water to separate it from the fur. That's why we use shampoo. Second, Putting a cat in water will not kill it, you twit. Just because it doesn't like it, doesn't mean it's allergic to it. That's like saying if you fed a kid ketchup, and he had no allergy, he just didn't like it, it's basically saying since he doesn't like ketchup it'll kill him. Get your facts straight, and leave the poor author of this instructable alone.
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So, you link to a site with opinion pieces submitted by random people with no proof that they are vets and think that your point has been proven? Perhaps a few instructables in fundamental logic are in order.
First, you claimed your source was the RSPCS, and then posted a link to a random pet site. This is not any sort of proof.
Second, again, there is nothing to indicate, contrary to your implication, that the writer is a vet.
Third, even if the writer were a vet, this does not validate their point. This is a little logical fallacy known as an Appeal to Authority.
Fourth, the items discussed have nothing to do with veterinary care, and are, instead simply speculations on evolutionary biology, an exercise fraught with danger, and conclusions based on these suppositions even the evolutionary biologists take with a grain of salt.
Fifth, doctors, and vets as well, are notoriously TERRIBLE scientists, and this is a perfect case in point. Notice that not a single corroborating fact was submitted to support the hypothesis.
Finally, a LOT of the statements in that piece are demonstrably false, thus calling into question ANY conclusion based thereon.
And for the record, most of the statements made by that author to support their point about cats and water could just as easily apply to dogs, tigers, otters, and seals, most of which have great affinity for water.
ManifoldSky, No i quoted the RSPCA not the RSPCS??? and the link i posted was neither random nor just a pet site, but was the only lonk i could find to an american site, my RSPCA quotes are not from websites, they are from years of training and knowledge,
And for the record, most of the statements made by that author to support their point about cats and water could just as easily apply to dogs, tigers, otters, and seals, most of which have great affinity for water.
this is not very logical, Since the author wrote this instructable aimed SPECIFICALLY at CATS, which are well known to live in hatred of water and swimming,
by the way, Tigers are actually quite good swimmers, as you would know if you ever watched any Cat Week programs,
may i also point out, that while i trained as a vet, i never actually pursued a career as a vet, but it always amazes me how people seem to want to say how bad the pro's are at what they do, they dont become pro's for nothing,
nevertheless, my point was not exactly based on science in the first place, my concern was for the MENTAL health of the cat, knowing how so many people do not take these things responsibly, i am concerned that some people would not take as much care as the author of this instructable, and would ultimately condemn cats to a watery grave through shock, how woould we all feel then?
i do wonder what would happen if i linked to this page on PETA's website?
Item by item:
1) The "A" key is right next to the "S" key; if you can't figure out a simple typo, especially on a site whose forum software does not allow editing, that is on you, not me.
2) No, at NO point did you "quote" the RSPCA. The word "quote" has a very specific meaning, namely to repeat VERBATIM. It does NOT mean to take words of your own and assign them to another, even if you think that source would agree with what you write. This is not only dishonest, it is highly unethical. Again, you DID NOT quote the RSPCA (or anyone else for that matter).
3) The link you posted was NOT from the RSPCA, but was posted as a response to a call for a citation for your supposed quote from same. Instead, you posted a link to what was indeed a random site (as it had nothing to do with the aforementioned RSPCA) and tried to pass it off as if it were from your purported authority.
4) My statements about other mammals are COMPLETELY logical, whether it is within your capabilities to see it or not. But to spell it out, you make a number of statements you claim serve as either proof or explanation for why immersion in water is bad for cats. However EVERY one of these statements can be made for the other mammals I mentioned, dogs, tigers, otters, and seals, among others, for whom no claim of water aversion is being made, and about whom such claims would be patently foolish. As such, ALL your statements are thus invalidated.
Or are you claiming that tigers, unlike domesticated house cats, do not have essential oils on their fur, or that these oils have some magical property that allows them to not be removed by water? Or that they are somehow able to thermoregulate in a way that domestic cats can not (even though tigers are comfortable in winter habitats).
5) I am not saying vets are bad at being vets, I am saying that vets, and doctors as well, are NOT scientists, many are particularly BAD at science, and yet want to masquerade to the general public as if they were. They are not.
That said, however, your claimed training as a vet is telling.
FTR, NONE of the arguments you made have ANYTHING to do with being a vet, nor are vets better equipped to make them. Your arguments are about biology, and specifically feline biology, and even more specifically, feline evolutionary biology. Sorry, but veterinary training in this field is all but nonexistent.
Not that it matters, as making this argument, as I have already pointed out to you, is a logical fallacy, known as an "Appeal to Authority", and is logically invalid. (That you continue to make it calls into question your ability to criticize the logic of others, as you did in your previous post.) As such, I will also refrain from pointing out that I AM trained in the biological sciences, as that too, would be an invalid argument.

As to the rest of your argument, first, I suspect that the number of cats who would potentially die of shock as a result of this treatment would essentially be zero. Animals that die of shock from falling into pools do so as a result of a trauma they are unable to escape. As no one is calling for anyone to throw a cat in a pool and walk away, this line of reasoning is, again, unsupported by the evidence. Second, I suspect the author would respond that having the cat in the water in a supportive environment is much less likely to lead to life-threatening shock than if it fell in the pool in the middle of the night, with no one there to help it out.
If animals died in that circumstance, when they might have been saved by being familiarized with water, how would YOU feel then?
Third, who cares what PETA has to say? While they might decide to chime in on this particular thread, I doubt they would have much to say about the site in general. In any event, they would be just as wrong as you, and I would make the same comments to them, if they attempted to get away with the same disreputable tactics.
AMEN - most well written reply thus far...
What kind of person threatens someone for insulting them once, and then goes on to insult - multiple times - that same person they are threatening with a complaint??? You then expect us to take your advice, links, and claims to vet studies seriously??? Perhaps you need to review this site's "be nice" comment policy. Also, I am sure you are aware that all caps in a message signify yelling.

rsmaudsley, I love your instructable! Not for all cats but I have one who is not affraid of anything and likes water so I will try it. Not for my other guys though... they would probably rip my face off! :)
Guess you never heard of heart attacks caused by shock, just hope you never get too scared
rsmaudsley (author)  metalliman38712 years ago
You bring up a good point here Metalliman, about being too scared. However, as I have clearly stated in other messages here and in the original text of the Instructable, I do not subject just any cat to this . I learn about their character and behaviors to make sure they are going to be ok with it. In fact, look at the text again and notice where I say that she just decides to hang out with me and not try to swim. Because she as too calm and not really concerned about getting out of the water.

Sassy is an overly brave cat. She does things that boggles the mind. Like she will try to play with power tools that I am using. She is beyond normal intelligence. I made a trick treat box and most cats either didn't figure it our or took several minutes. Sassy looked at it, walked around it and with the flick of the paw did what she had to do to get the treat. She did three times and is now bored with it. btw, this will soon be another Instructable of mine.
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