All small cats are fully capable swimmers

Hurricane Harvey rescued cats
Cat swimming to high ground after Hurricane Harvey. Photo in public domain.
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It is a thought: can small cats swim? Yes, is the firm answer. The answer is seen in the best-known small cat, the domestic cat. Not particularly keen to be in water but once in a very capable swimmer.

It goes against the general belief of many people that cats hate water. When they are in it, they cope admirably well. But not all small cats enjoy being in water although some do: the fishing cat comes to mind immediately for obvious reasons. Another cat that spends a lot of time in water is the flat-headed cat. Both these species are content to put their heads under water to catch aquatic prey.

I am referring to the 30 species of small wild cat plus the domestic cat when discussing ‘small cats’.

“Most small wild cats go out of their way to avoid water”.

Jim Sanderson and Patrick Watson in Small Wild Cats

You’ll find that most small wild cats jump over streams rather than wade through them. But if it is too wide, they’ll be perfectly content to march into the water and wade across.

The fishing cat has partially webbed toes and a tail which is thick and muscular at the tip. Some scientists believe that it acts as a rudder when swimming in water. The flat-headed cat has a similar tail. Interesting thought: the domestic cat also has webbed feet! Here, take a look at this hairless cat. This confirms that small cats are anatomically geared up to swim well.

Picture of cat showing webbed feet
Picture of cat showing webbed feet. Photo in public domain.

Another small cat that is not shy of water is the kodkod aka guigna or guiña.

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