Tips for How to Bathe Your Cat or Kitten

Cats are known for their grooming habits. With their tongues, teeth, and paws, they’re usually able to keep themselves fresh and clean without any outside intervention. Sometimes, though, your cat might need help staying clean. If your feline friend is covered in something dangerous, smelly, or sticky, or if they have picked up some parasites, it might be a good idea to give them a bath. Here’s how to bathe a cat with a minimal amount of stress for both of you. 

1. Trim the Toenails: Your cat’s claws are one of their main forms of defense. An upset cat may claw anyone nearby, including you, during the course of bath time. Cat scratches can easily become infected, so it’s in your own best interest to trim your cat’s nails before attempting a bath. 

2. Brush Before: Cats shed frequently, all year long. That extra fur won’t be good for your plumbing, and it will make it more difficult to get your cat really clean. If you can, brush your cat thoroughly to remove any loose fur and mats before you begin the bathing process. You can also put cotton balls gently in their ears to keep water out.

3. Time It Right: Cats generally don’t like to be in water. A cat that’s full of energy is going to object more strongly to a bath. Schedule the bath for a time when your cat is tired and mellow, such as after a long play session with a cat dancer or some catnip. If you can schedule your cat’s bath so someone else is around to help you out, even better. 

4. Get Traction: Your cat appreciates traction just as much as you do in the shower. Give your cat a folded towel in the bottom of the tub or a rubber bath mat to stand on so they don’t panic when they can’t stand easily. Once the mat is in the tub, add three to four inches of comfortably warm water to the tub, then have your helper put the cat in the tub. You may need your helper to hold onto the cat for the whole bath to avoid scratches.

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Note: Cats don’t sweat like humans do. The steamy hot water you might prefer for a shower or bath can overheat your pet. Instead, aim for a few degrees above lukewarm. 

5. Try a Pour-Over Method: Your cat probably won’t willingly go under water. Instead, use a handheld sprayer, a pitcher, or a plastic cup to gently pour water over their body until they’re thoroughly wet. 

6. Use a Cat Shampoo: Don’t use human shampoo on your cat. They’re  not safe if your cat licks it, and they may hurt your cat’s delicate skin. Instead, use a shampoo that’s designed for cats. Start at your cat’s neck and gently massage the shampoo toward the tail. Avoid their face, eyes, and ears.

7. Rinse Well: Once you’ve fully lathered up your cat, you can begin rinsing them off with clean, lukewarm water. Take the time to make sure all of the soap is gone; anything that’s left will be ingested by your cat when they clean themselves again later. It can also irritate their skin and attract dirt.

8. Clean the Face: If your pet’s face also needs cleaning, don’t pour water over it or use shampoo. Instead, use a warm, damp washcloth to carefully wipe it off. Be extra cautious around your cat’s eyes and ears, which are sensitive and can be easily damaged. If you do need to use something more than plain water, you can use just a drop or two of cat shampoo on the washcloth to remove anything sticky or dangerous. 

9. Dry Thoroughly:

The most important part of bathing your cat is drying them off afterward. Dry them off as quickly as possibly with a large towel, and keep them in a warm room until they’ve completely dried. If your cat lets you, you can also use a hairdryer on its lowest warmth setting to speed up the process. If your cat has long fur, take the time to comb it out with a wide-toothed comb to avoid mats later. 

10. Treat Time: Once bath time is over, make sure to reward your cat for behaving. Treats, praise, and playtime afterward may help your cat come around on the idea of bath time so it’s not as much of a struggle next time.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Central California SPCA: “Is Bathing a Cat Really Necessary (or Just a Myth in Caring for Pets)?”

Danbury Animal Welfare Society: “Help Keep Kitty Clean.”

Humane Society: “Declawing Cats: Far Worse than a Manicure.”

Michelson Found Animals: “Cat Grooming 101,” “How to Give a Stress-Free Cat Bath.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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