How To Safely Bathe A Cat: The Complete Guide

Cat Care

Many cat owners wince when they are faced with the prospect of bathing their cat. Past experience – or lurid second-hand tales from traumatized friends – often conjures up images of wet chaos with the blurred shape of a soaked cat climbing the walls (or, worse, your arms) with claws fully extended. As a result, most owners avoid bathing their cat altogether.

In fact, cats can be accustomed to regular bathing – professional cat breeders often bathe their cats as part of the grooming regime. A continuous repetition of the procedure accustoms the cats to water – just as their larger jungle cousins learn to swim across rivers, wade in and fish for their dinners, and even play in the shallows of lakes and streams.

Cats that are not used to being bathed will often panic, but consider that most cats will happily go out and hunt in the pouring rain. The operative concept in bathing cats is to approach the event as calmly and relaxed as possible. To help you do that, the following suggestions are offered. They won’t work with every cat, but they will work with most.

Why Bathe Your Cat?

Cats spend hours a day washing themselves. Most do very well keeping themselves clean without additional help from us. However, there are times when your cat may need a bath:

  • When she is covered with a substance you don’t want her to lick off and ingest, such as machine oil, pesticides, or cleaning powders and fluids.
  • When you need to bathe your cat with medicated shampoo to treat the skin for fleas or other disorders.
  • When you are showing your cats – a thorough bath a few days before the show is usually desirable.

For these reasons, it might be better to get your cat acquainted with the bathing concept when she is still young. Small kittens rarely take violent exception to slightly warm water if you approach the job with confidence and soothing talk. Then when you have that emergency need to bathe your cat, the procedure will be familiar.

How Often Should A Cat Be Bathed?

Even if your cat is comfortable with baths, make sure you don’t overdo a good thing. Washing the cat too often removes natural skin oils and may dry out the coat.

Tools and Equipment

Going ahead with this? You will need several basic items to help you with the task.

  • Shampoo – Choose a safe cat shampoo, especially if you use one that is medicated. If you must bathe the cat in a hurry, and you don’t have a cat shampoo, the only alternative is tearless baby shampoo. Regular shampoos for people are usually too harsh for feline skin and may cause irritation. If you need to use medicated shampoos, such as anti-flea solutions, make sure that they are cat-specific. Dog shampoos can be toxic and even deadly to cats!
  • Towel – It should be dry and fluffy. You can warm it slightly before bath time, but make sure it’s not too hot!
  • A soft washcloth – You will need it for cleaning the cat’s face.
  • A couple of cotton balls – These will go into the cat’s ears.

The Preparations

Unless you are very experienced and the cat is particularly calm, you should probably get a helper. Choose a patient, cat-oriented person and let him or her know what bathing a cat is all about. Make sure it is someone your cat knows and likes.

Make all the preparations you need before you bring the cat into the bathroom. Get all the bathing equipment ready and get all breakable items in the bathroom well out of the way. Cats don’t like the slippery feel of the bathtub, so place a rubber mat on the bottom of the tub. Your cat will need it to grip onto.

Now for the guest of honor. A couple of hours before the bath, have a grooming session and brush the cat’s coat. This is especially important for longhaired cats, since any mats and tangles are likely to shrink during the wash and become difficult to handle. Don’t forget to trim your cat’s claws some time before the bath, to avoid injury.

After you have the room and props ready, gently pick up the cat and prepare her for the bath. Place half a cotton ball in each ear to prevent water from getting into them.

The Bath

And now to the bathing process (don’t forget to make use of your assistant).

Get the cat into the bathroom and then close the door – you don’t want a wet soapy cat running around your home. Gently but firmly place the cat on the rubber mat. Use a low stream of warm water from a hand-held nozzle or a pitcher. Make sure that the water is neither too cold nor too hot. It should be at about the cat’s body temperature.

Thoroughly wet the cat’s coat, avoiding the face area, and then lather some shampoo on the wet coat and gently rub it all over the cat’s body. Finally, rinse off the shampoo, taking care not to leave any on the coat. As you wash, keep the nozzle close to the cat’s body to muffle the sound of the water.

Wet the washcloth with some warm water (but no soap) and gently wipe the cat’s face. Never spray water directly at the cat’s face and definitely never dunk the cat’s head in water!

Get the cat out of the tub and wrap it in the towel. Keep the cat in a warm and draft-free room until she is completely dry. Some owners use blow dryers to dry the cat, but if the cat shows signs of alarm just leave her to dry naturally. If you do use a blow dryer, use the lowest setting and do not get it too close to the cat. Never blow air directly at the cat’s face.

Above all, if you want to try to bathe your cat, remember that the key word here is patience. Be very gentle and talk to the cat throughout the whole procedure in a soft and soothing voice. Never shout or lose your temper. Your cat is probably frightened enough as it is, so you don’t want to upset it even more. If your cat is calm and you have a lot of patience, bathing the cat may not be such a nightmare after all.

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