How to Teach a Cat to Swim.




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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Step 1: Safely Get the Cat Into the Water.

This could be the trickiest part of all.  Most cats will "fight & flight" if they see you taking them towards a pool.  So the trick here is to not let them see the water while you are getting in.

Hold the cat comfortably in your arms and do whatever you can to keep the kitty calm.  Walk backwards in to the water so the cat cannot see you entering the pool.

Step 2: Comfort and Calm the Cat Once in the Water.

This part is somewhat dependent on the cat.  How confident and trusting they are.  Once you are in the water, hold the cat close and firmly to your body.  Grasp the rear feet firmly in one hand.  This will reduce the chance they can turn around and scratch you if they to try  to get out of the water.

Use whatever petting stroke, or other type of touch that calms your cat.  Stay in the position until your cat is calm in your arms and does not appear to be bothered by the water.

Step 3: OUCH! What to Do If the Cat Tries to Escape.

At the point when you think you cat is calm and relaxed enough, you are going to have to loosen your hold to begin the swimming lessons.  This is a necessary risk that the cat will try to climb on you to get further away from the water.

Don't be tempted to pull the cat from your body or you will have some nasty scratches.  The easiest way to resolve this is to simply kneel down so your body is under water while holding the cat out of the water.  The cat will let go.  Immediately come back up and cradle the cat in the comforting position you used in the previous step.

This was an unplanned step so the photographer didn't get the picture of me underwater while holding the cat out of the water.  Yes, that is a grimace of pain on my face

Step 4: Let the Cat Get Use to the Water.

So now you have to get the cat in to the water.  Slowly lower the cat in to the water, but keep a firm grip on the body and be sure not to let the cat go under water.  If you notice the cat's eyes in the last photo, she is still a bit anxious about being in the water.  But she is trusting me enough not to panic.

Step 5: Start Getting the Cat to Swim

Once the cat appears relaxed in the water, loosen your hold(DO NOT LET GO) and let the cat's own instincts kick in.  Now, the problem I have is my cat is trusting me too much and has decided she just wants to hang out with me in the water.  I basically had to let her sink almost below the surface before she started to paddle her feet.

At first, the paddling will probably be awkward and not good for actual swimming.  So continue supporting the cat above the water but hold very loosely.  Look for the legs to extend as far as possible and look for the paws to be expanded.

Step 6: Teaching the Cat How to Turn While Swimming.

Once the cat is moving its legs pretty good, start guiding the cat in to turning. Instincts should help the cat figure out how to use her paws to navigate.  Notice the turbulence in the water in front of the cat.  That's her paws making that.

Step 7: Let the Cat Swim, But Not Get Away

By now Sassy is swimming well.  I am only stopping her from exiting the pool so that she can build her swimming skills.  She is also relaxed and almost appears to be enjoying the water.

So why do this?  To make her swim stronger.  naturally the cat will want to leave the pool.  Point her towards the edge, but lightly hold on so she can swim, but not get away.  In my case, Sassy was swimming very strongly and looking like she's been a water cat her whole life.

Step 8: Let the Cat Go.

When you are sure the cat can swim safely, it's time to let go.

Give the kitty some love, point her towards the edge of the pool and let her go.

I've had Sassy in the pool a couple of times.  Although she hasn't, and probably never will go in on her own, she doesn't seem too bothered when I take her in.

Again, I want to emphasize that not all cats can be brought in to a pool.  I have six cats and there are only two that will go in the water.  Well, one of them will actually just sit on a boogie board while it's floating.

Just know that Sassy is an unusually adventurous and brave cat. So teaching your cat to swim may not be something you can do.  You will have to use your own judgement if you think it can be done.

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    116 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 8

    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.

    1 reply
    Scott LawsonNarimasu

    Reply 1 year ago

    That is the next Instructable that I want to write!!

    I’m going to find a couple of chickens and use these same techniques to teach them to swim. At the same time I will research just how mad a wet hen can get !!!

    Update: I just learned that our HOA does not allow “cackling fowl”. Maybe someone else can take off with the idea? And don’t forget pictures!! I want to see pictures!!!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    do not try to teach your cat to swim.

    99.9 percent of cats are petrified of water and this would be extremely stressful for them and probably shatter their trust in you. And 99.9 percent of people wouldn't be able to obtain the calm, patient, consistent manner that it would take.

    I respect this person teaching for "safety" but if the cats were let out and left alone to slowly check out the area they would just avoid the pool.

    2 replies
    Scott Lawsonpkpkpk1

    Reply 1 year ago

    Luckily I was looking out of a window when our cat was walking my the pool when a GIANT clap of thunder spooked him so much that he slipped into the pool.

    The cat had no problem with swimming but had no idea that to get out of the pool he had to swim towards the steps. If I had not seen this happen, the cat would have become exhausted and drowned.

    I waited a couple of weeks before I took the cat into the pool and helped him find the steps a few times. A few days later, I took the cat back into the pool and watched as he swam straight for the stairs.

    Now, I have no doubt that my inside / outside cat could handle itself should it be startled into the pool again.

    Now thunder, that is a different story.

    Thanks to the poster. You will never know how many cat lives you have saved.

    Scott Lawson

    Tip 1 year ago on Step 3

    Maybe wrapping the cat in a towel, while walking into the pool could help prevent the owner from being scratched.


    Reply 2 years ago

    That's not true. My cat hates outside and even with the doors left open he will not dain to go anywhere near outside. He lives a great life even plush life and he knows it and he is part bobcat. He is very bonded with my little pup. She doesn't likeoutside either.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Unwatched outdoor cats are basically walking environmental disasters, in addition to being inevitable roadkill. I agree that sticking a cat on a sofa for a lifetime is awful, but throwing it out your back door is irresponsible.


    Reply 3 years ago

    I hope you don't have kids...

    Or are they bound to the house as well because they could get hurt in the big scary world out there?

    Life is life-threatening... and sorry but an indoor cat has no life!!


    Reply 3 years ago

    Cats although very smart in some ways are not as fast developing or understanding to the wonders of our man made world and although nature is wonderful for them (in the same way technology is wonderful for kids) technology such as CARS are dangerous and some cats NEVER learn to avoid them without their owners like children/teens/adults do. No, cats and children shouldn't be locked inside all the time but cats do need to be protected from things (sometimes forever) that we wouldn't need to keep our kids from once they learned about them.


    Reply 3 years ago

    With every cat we had / have we made sure she is afraid of the streets by:
    1. taking them on the arm, going in front of a loud car and starting it.
    2. walking with them on the arm to the street 'till the first car comes by

    In both cases they run as fast as possible back to the house and are afraid of cars & streets for the next few years.

    Repeat occasionally and you have a save cat.

    Me / my husband had in total 7 cats since our childhood and we live near a big street.

    None of the 7 cats goes near that street or has ever been injured by a car!

    So don't teach your cat how to swim, teach her how to fear cars!


    Reply 3 years ago

    Exactly! These people need to stop inposing there opinions, if you dont need the info posted here take your opinion elsewhere.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Domestic cats have never been and never will be a part of the natural world. They were strictly created by man, for man. They do not belong out doors, other than maybe on a farm or other controlled environment (i.e. many theme parks actively maintain feral cat colonies to keep rodents under control). While I do agree with supporting feral cat colonies, but they should be spayed or neutered then left to finish their life out the only way they know.


    Reply 3 years ago

    As a population genetic I can tell you that no matter how much you "breed" a cat: domestication happened not more then 3000 years from now (in ancient Egypt) and for most breeds wayyyy later. In 3000 years no animal looses its basic instincts. That's why my well-bred pure blood Birman cat with strict indoor parents catches more mice (and even fat rats) then my neighbors lazy common European shorthair cat. birman cat and I totally disagree with you (and I'm pretty sure once your cats would know there is an outside world they would agree with me too...)

    Even when my birma follows me out of the house, she never even walks on
    the sidewalk but rather alongside the neighbors front gardens and even
    increases the distance to the street when a car is approaching.

    just have to make sure they have respect of streets and cars when they
    are kittens and then they can safely move in the environment of a city. As
    mentioned before: none of 7 cats has ever been in trouble. And don't
    think I live at the countryside. I live in a city in Germany with a lot
    of narrow streets and many, many cars.


    Reply 3 years ago

    I agree with you, but there are situations when inside is a much safer environment for the cat. Where I live, we have a helluva lot of coyotes. We moved here with two indoor/outdoor cats and a purely outdoor cat (she was part feral and hated being inside for more than a day at a time). At first, we weren't aware of the coyote problem, as we used to live in a much more rural setting where the coyotes had enough food without having to pick off the neighborhood pets. In the first year and a half at our new house, all three of our cats had passed due to coyotes. We got two more cats, and one of them went missing too (she was a tiny kitten, so we aren't sure if a coyote or hawk got her). Last year, the other cat got out and didn't come back. Out of the eight cats I've owned in my life, all but the two I currently have were killed by coyotes, and the oldest to die was only around four years old. The cats we have now are 100% strictly indoors, and I hope they are able to leave longer lives. Keeping cats inside all their lives can be a bit sad, but nothing is more sad than having your cat die a premature death.


    Two times we have had cats get out and go in to the neighbors yard and both times they were attacked by their dog and hurt, one of them very seriously. There's nothing sadder than a dead cat because people are irresponsible.


    3 years ago

    my cat Fern will not even get close to water unless she is thirsty