Doggy paddle swimming technique of the domestic cat

As you probably know domestic cats employ the doggy paddle swimming technique. They should call it the ‘catty paddle’ as well. In fact, in the era of the use of woke language and acute sensitivities about equality and sexism, I think it’s an example of speciesism to call this swimming style the doggy paddle! Something like “quadruped paddle” would be more appropriate in 2021. I’m kidding but there’s a slightly serious undertone to that thought.

Video showing the domestic cat swimming technique
Video showing the domestic cat swimming technique. Screenshot.
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It’s a very simple swimming style and apparently children use it instinctively if they are put into a swimming pool. The military sometimes teach the doggy paddle or dog paddle to their employees as a silent stroke because neither the arms nor the legs break the surface.

Cats instinctively do it as well – obviously. And it seems that the pointed domestic cat in the video has been placed in a small pool for the first time. She simply starts paddling as if it’s completely natural. And it is completely natural. All domestic cats and, in fact, cats of all types use exactly the same techniqu, which includes tigers who like to be in water particularly at this time of global warming with soaring temperatures.


When you look at the video carefully you can see that the forelimbs do most of the work in propelling the cat forward. The cat’s natural buoyancy keeps her afloat. This technique explains why all domestic cats have webbed toes. The webbing is normally hidden by the fur around the toes but when the cat is hairless, such as with the Sphynx, you can see the duck-like toes of the domestic cat very clearly. I’m sure that this is an adaptation to improve their ability to swim. It affirms the importance of water in the life of domestic cats although their artificial human environment hides this.

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

Many wild cats hunt near water. Some hunt in the water to fish – the fishing cat. The domestic cat has inherited the ability to scoop fish out of water if the occasion arises. It is a bit of a myth that domestic cats don’t like water. Their cossetted lives in warm homes makes them unfamiliar with it but their inheritance makes them very capable in and around water. We know this because kittens practice their fishing technique when playing by throwing objects into the air. No one teaches them, it’s just imprinted into their DNA as inherited by their genes.

If push comes to shove cats can swim a long way and stay afloat for a long time. I’ve seen cats rescued from lakes by fishermen. We don’t know how they got there, perhaps they were abandoned on an island in the lake.

Perhaps the most famous example of domestic cats swimming is part of the history of the Turkish Van cat. It is said that the breed was founded in England when a couple of ladies brought Turkish Van kittens back from Turkey in their car in the 1950s. They stopped off at a lake and gave the kittens an opportunity to swim which they did and they liked it. This is why feline mythology states that Turkish Van cats like to swim. This is not particularly true because this breed of cat neither likes to swim or likes water any more than any other cat. Whether a cat likes to swim or not is an individual characteristic.

Swimming Turkish Kittens
Swimming Turkish Kittens. Picture now in the public domain. Words added.

Perhaps the myth was enhanced by the fact that the word “Van” comes from Lake Van in Turkey, which the area from which the Turkish Van comes.

There was an interesting cat rescue in Asia in which a man carries kittens during a flood and the mother swims behind him! See below and click on the image to be taken to the story if you wish:

Indian man rescues kittens from flooded area while mother cat swims close by
Indian man rescues kittens from flooded area while mother cat swims close by

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