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Natural Awakenings

Pool Cats: Paddling Classes Can Keep Them Safe

Jun 30, 2011 10:48AM ● By Mary Ellen

Yes, cats can swim. This is good to know if your home features a resident pet and a swimming pool. While most cats are not in love with a dip in the water—neither would you be if you had to dry your nose-to-toes fur using a tiny pink tongue—what would happen if a favorite feline fell in? If curiosity or circumstance caused her to take the plunge, could she make it to the edge and safely pull herself out of the pool?

Our family has taken seriously the task of teaching our five cats how to swim, and always proceeded with loving care and patience. We’ve experienced considerable success by following these steps. Remember that the “swim class” is designed to teach your cat what to do if she finds herself accidentally in the water.

We trim the cat’s toenails a few days before their swim class. Then, holding your cat firmly and calmly against your midriff as the two of you wade into the shallow end of the pool, keep her secure until you feel her relax in the water. Soothingly speak to her in a loving manner, gently caressing her body and watch her face until her expression calms.

We hold the cat in our arms until her legs and paws begin to move in the water—showing that she is trying to “run” away. We’ve found that the more a feline moves in the water, the more familiar she becomes with the feel of it on her limbs and with the motion of swimming.

When she’s ready, gently release your cat into the water and stay by her side as she “runs,” or kitty paddles, to the pool’s edge; then let her pull herself out, so that she knows she can do it. Note that if the water level is too low in a pool, a cat can drown in it, so either raise the level of the water or put a small ladder into the pool so she knows where to climb out.

It is magical watching cats smoothly glide forward with their head held high. Some like the experience better than others; if a feline fur-eeks out, she may be better suited as a permanent landlubber. Also, a cat that’s used to having a bath may be a better candidate for adjusting to a paddle in the pool.

Wet cat fur, especially longhaired fur, retains water (along with pool chemicals), so our family finishes each kitty-paddling swim class by rinsing and gently toweling off our pets with an absorbent microfiber cloth. Then she air dries in the sun.

Mary Ellen, is a pet newspaper columnist who shares the stories and tips she discovers in her online newsletter at She’s taught felines to ride in a bike or stroller and walk on a leash, but her swimming lessons have made the biggest splash (You Tube Reach her at [email protected].

Note: This article was written as advice for pet safety. Swim classes were conducted in a series of safe steps in structured kitty-paddle classes by a trusted family member, so the cats would not feel afraid. This article is not intended to encourage others to test to see if their cats can swim.


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