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.
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.