How to Bathe a Cat

We all know that cats dislike water and are constantly cleaning themselves, but there are times when they require a bath. Our Edgewater vets can explain.

Do Cats Need to Be Bathed? 

Cats are very good at cleaning themselves, so thankfully for us, our feline friends won't need to be bathed very often.

The rough tongue of a cat is covered with tiny curved barbs that move saliva across its fur. Each lap spreads healthy natural oils across her coat and skin, making it feel like a mini spa treatment. Those little spines also act as natural detanglers, which is why you'll frequently see your cat licking and biting at fur clumps until she smoothes everything out.

How Often Should You Bathe a Cat?

Certain circumstances require you to give a cat or kitten a bath. If they've gotten into something they shouldn’t ingest, such as motor oil, antifreeze, gasoline, or paint. Basically, anything that gets on her fur that could be harmful needs to be washed off immediately. 

Some cats can develop skin conditions that are soothed with bathing, such as seborrhea, a disorder that causes flakey, red, and itchy skin. Your veterinarian might also recommend medicated baths for treating other health conditions, such as severe flea allergies or ringworm.

Cats that are elderly or obese often have difficulty grooming themselves and would benefit from regular baths. To avoid fur matting, cats with long hair should be bathed every couple of months. Hairless breeds, such as the Sphynx, probably require bathing once a week because they have an oily residue that gets on fabrics.

How Do You Bathe A Cat?

Just like bathing a baby; bathing a cat requires everything that you need to be within arm’s reach. You should have:

  • A shower or bath with a handheld showerhead.
  • Several towels to clean her off and help her dry.
  • Special cat shampoo and conditioner.

You should never use human shampoo or conditioner as it has a different PH level than the sort suitable for cats and could damage your pet’s hair or skin.

Pre-Bath Prep

Before you start you should brush your cat to remove any knots or tangles, particularly if she is a long-furred breed.

Set the water temperature to warm and have it running through the showerhead at a medium level spray

The Bath

While talking to your cat and offering lots of reassurance and praise, gently place her into the shower tray or bath. Using a showerhead from above is significantly less stressful for your pet as she is far more likely to be used to being rained on than she is being lowered into 4 inches of tepid water!

If you think your cat will be difficult to control, hold her by her scruff or use a harness. Begin gently washing her with soft, confident strokes. Cats are very sensitive to stress, so if you appear stressed, they will be on edge as well, and far more likely to lash out or flee!

Apply small amounts of shampoo – she’s probably not as dirty as you think she is! Make sure you rinse clean and then repeat with the conditioner. Take care to avoid her eyes and nose.

Drying Off

You should towel-dry your cat as much as possible after she has been cleaned. Hair dryers are terrifying to some cats. If your feline friend isn't, you could try drying her with low heat and speed. You may need to confine her in a carrier to accomplish this. You could also leave your cat in the warm bathroom until her coat is completely dry. The important thing is that she is completely dry before venturing into the rest of the house. Damp cats can easily become chilled, making them ill, and in the case of kittens, particularly low body temperatures can be fatal.

How to Bathe a Cat That Hates Water Without Getting Scratched

It is common knowledge that cats despise water. Some cats will tolerate baths, while others will not. When a bath is unavoidable, staying calm will benefit both of you. Here are a few tips to help relieve stress so your cat is less likely to scratch and claw its way to freedom:

  • Choose a time after she’s eaten or played, as she’ll be more mellow
  • If possible, trim her nails before the bath, filing the ends as well after they're clipped to dull them
  • Plan for a short grooming session to make handling her fur much easier
  • Recruit a friend to help so one of you can hold the cat while the other bathes them
  • Minimize running water, the sound causes many cats to panic, and the last thing you want is to grab a slippery, sharp cat
  • Fill a sink with a few inches of warm water and wash only the parts you need to, then rinse thoroughly
  • Use a washcloth around the face and ears

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Bathing your cat is sometimes necessary. For tips and tricks to help make the process easier, contact our team at Animal General.