A List of 5 Big Cats That Love Water

A List of 5 Big Cats That Love Water

When we think of cats, we usually think of the little kitties we keep as pets. And we all know they’re not fond of water. But did you know that some big cats love water? In the wilds of the world there are some big cats that are constantly surrounded by water. Water acts a good cooling agent for these giant felines as it does not reach a limit on the amount of heat it can absorb. Thus, allowing them to cool off more throughout the day when the temperatures rise. So, let’s take a look at 5 different big cats that love the water and why they like it so much.


With a territory that stretches over 37 square kilometres, tigers have an advantage when hunting. As they live in tropical jungles, they have access to wide rivers. Consequently, they have evolved to hunt aquatic prey as well as on land. Tigers having access to these bodies of water supports them in hunting for their food and provides them with a much wider range. This access to fish us important because land prey is not conveniently in herds when living in the forest environment.

Interestingly, tigers are able to swim in rivers that are around 4.3 miles wide as well as covering up to 18 miles a day. Plus, access to land from the water gives them an advantage over their terrified prey. They don’t just tolerate it, these big cats like water very much and rely heavily on it for their survival and comfort.

Big Cats that love water
Photo by Tim May. Source: Zoochat.com

In hot weather what do humans do? We all rush to the nearest pool or use our own in the back garden. Well, as a result of tigers living in heated climates, they do a similar thing. As tigers usually hunt at night, most of their days are spent in the sun. Meaning they need the water to cool off. Now, you may also be wondering why tigers need to cool down. This is because they have a larger surface area than other big cats and heat up quite quickly. So, a combination the water and wind will have a cooling effect on the tiger’s body.


When we see jaguars, we usually get them confused with leopards or cheetahs due to their spots. Yup, that’s right, at first glance a jaguar and leopard look the same. However, there are noticeable differences between them once you know what to look for. Let’s use their spots for example, upon closer inspection a jaguar has rosettes covering the majority of their body. These rosettes tend to have black dots in the middle which gives them a difference in appearance to leopards.

Source: Getty Images

Furthermore, did you know that jaguars are also excellent swimmers? Jaguar habitats are mainly rainforests, much like the tiger. As a result, they are always surrounded by bodies of water such as lakes and rivers. Thus, resulting in them not being afraid of water like domesticated cats so often are. Jaguars are very dependent on water as their diets mainly involve fish, so they end up becoming very fast swimmers when pursuing their prey.  Not only do jaguars hunt in the water, they also rely on it during the dry weather to seek relief from the sun, like tigers and other big cats do. 


On the smaller side of known big cat species are leopards. However, they are the most widespread. This includes a subspecies that can be found in both Africa and Asia. Although leopards also have a similar body type to jaguars, many can see the difference between the two big cats by the rosettes covering their bodies. Leopards can use their spots to hide from bigger predators such as lions and tigers. Additionally, leopards can use the rosettes to hide and stalk their prey as the sly animals are capable of blending in with the leaves on the trees during nocturnal hours.

Source: Iconic Africa

Whilst leopards aren’t as aquatic as tigers, they are still quite good swimmers. They are also often surrounded by bodies of water (depending on their habitats) and use them as a source of exercise. Not only do leopards use lakes and rivers to exercise, they can also act as a hunting grounds. Leopards are very adaptable, so bodies of water are also often a source of food. When combining their speed on the ground and speed in the water, leopards can swim over 15 kilometres per hour.  


Panthers, often misconstrued as either a black jaguar or leopard, are, in fact, an entire subspecies of their own. They are generally very adaptable, as panthers can live in a variety of habitats. Although they are commonly found in tropical forests, they also inhabit marshes and swamps too. Thus, resulting in them being constantly surrounded by bodies of water. Panthers lead a nocturnal lifestyle, so they hunt at night. This makes it easier for them to camouflage in the darkness and capture their prey.  

source: Junglejenny.org

Panthers are intelligent big cats, which means they hunt smart. Though they are not known to have a deep love of water, like tigers, panthers do spend a remarkable amount of time in the stuff. Entertainingly, panthers become extremely playful when they reach lakes or rivers in their jungles. This proves that whilst they may be ferocious predators, they know how to have fun. So as you would expect, panthers do prefer flooded forests. They like to use the water to cool off during the summer seasons as well as a hunting ground for bigger animals like warthogs.  


Ocelots are sleek animals, about twice the size of a normal house cat, that has a carnivore-esque diet. They are nocturnal hunters and are supported by their extremely keen sight and hearing when hunting rabbits, frogs and fish through the night. They are not as big as some of the other cats on this list but they do in fact very much enjoy water. You may find yourself wondering why. Well, unsurprisingly many of the reasons are similar to that of tigers and leopards.

Source: The Nature Conservancy

As ocelots aren’t afraid of the water, they tend to spend a fair amount in lakes and rivers. These cats can inhabit some of the driest environments across the world, as well as some of the wettest. Some may live in the deserts, and others in the rainforests of South America. Thus, ocelots use the lakes and rivers to cool off and hunt during the nocturnal hours, leading them to be excellent swimmers. 

FAQ’s About Cats

Which big cat loves water the most?

Arguable that would be the tiger. They have a natural affinity with water, and don’t just tolerate it, but love it! They spend much of their time swimming around and are naturally very strong swimmer. When compared to all other breeds of big cat, the tiger, in it’s rain forest habitat, takes that crown.

Which big cat can swim the best?

The best swimmer among our big cat species is the Bengal tiger. This is because tigers have adapted to many different habitats. In fact, they are regularly seen swimming between different islands in the Sundarbans.  They are extremely powerful creatures. Additionally, owing to their need to be in the water to such a large portion of the day, they have plenty of opportunity of perfect their swimming technique.

Which breed of cat loves water (domestic breeds)?

There are many domestic breeds of cat that love water. However, the main breed that loves water is the Maine Coon. These cats have water-resistant hair that enables them to swim and withstand colder temperatures. As Maine Coons are intelligent, they are also fascinated with water and have a reputation for dunking toys in their water bowls.  

Not only do Maine Coons love being surrounded by water but Bengal cats do too (much like their tiger counterparts). Bengal cats are a hybrid between an Asian leopard and a domestic feline. As a result, these kitties adore the water and will happily splash their little paws into water dishes. Owners of Maine coons will often put a few inches of water in their tubs and add toys to keep their kitty entertained.

Another domestic breed that absolutely adores water is the Norwegian forest cat. This breed has water-resistant fur to keep them dry, which means they are not afraid of a swim. These cats are excellent hunters and usually hunt for tiny rodents or fish, using the water as a food source.

Why do tigers like water but cats don’t?

Tigers enjoy the water more than most cats because it acts as a way to cool them down when they are in warmer temperatures. Certain cats do tend to avoid the water. This is often because some of them live in colder climates and their fur acts as insulation to keep them warm. Getting their fur wet would mean exposing themselves to the elements. Additionally, domestic cats are both hunters and prey, with a strong instinct to run at the first sign of trouble. Water can slow them down significantly in an emergency, and so they will naturally avoid it. Unlike big cats, that rarely have anything to fear besides other angry big cats.



Abi is an introverted gamer who prefers survival horror and JRPGs (Japanese Role-Playing Games) who also has a love for reading and anime. When she isn’t busy, you can find her playing either a Resident Evil or Final Fantasy game.

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