Steps for Bathing a Cat

Although cats are constantly cleaning themselves, they typically hate water. Nonetheless, sooner or later your cat is bound to get into something and require a bath. In today's post our Smokey Point vets explain how to give your cat a bath.

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.

A cat’s rough tongue is covered with tiny curved barbs that transfer saliva across their fur. This is like a mini spa treatment, as each lap spreads healthy natural oils across her coat and skin. Those little spines work as natural detanglers, too, which is why you’ll often see your kitty licking and biting at fur clumps until everything is smoothed out.  

That being said, routine bathing either at home or with our experienced groomers can help reduce the amount of hair that is lost and prevent hairballs. 

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 their fur that could be harmful needs to be washed off right away. 

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 who are old or obese often can't groom themselves effectively could benefit from regular baths. Cats with long hair should be bathed every couple of months or so to minimize fur matting. Hairless breeds, like the Sphynx, probably need about once a week bathing as they have an oily residue that gets on fabrics.

What Are The Steps for Bathing a Cat?

In light of the fact that cats are renowned for hating water, the next question is of course how to 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 them off and dry them.
  • Shampoo and conditioner formulated for cats.

You should never use human shampoo or conditioner as it has a different PH level to those that are 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 your kitty is a long-haired 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 may be less stressful for your pet since they are more likely to be used to being rained on than begin lowered into 4 inches of tepid water!

Hold your cat in place by their scruff, or use a harness if you think they are going to be tricky to control. Begin washing your kitty gently using soft confident strokes. Cats pick up on stress very quickly. If you seem stressed they will be on edge too, and far more likely to lash out or try to make a run for it!

Only apply a small amount of shampoo – your cat is likely not as dirty as you think! Gently massage the shampoo into your cat's fur, then rinse your cat's fur thoroughly to get all of the shampoo and dirt out. Repeat the process with conditioner if required. Take care to avoid your cat's eyes and nose.

Drying Off

Once your feline friend is clean you should towel-dry your cat as much as possible. If your kitty isn’t afraid of the sound and feel of a hairdryer, you could consider blowdrying your cat with the hair dryer set to low heat and low speed.

Alternatively, simply keep your cat indoors and warm until their coat is completely dry. Do not allow your cat to go outdoors with a wet coat. Cats can easily become chilled which can make them unwell, or in the case of kittens, particularly low body temperatures can be life-threatening.

How to Bathe a Cat Without Getting Scratched

Some cats will actually tolerate baths, but others are going to put up a fight. When a bath is inevitable, staying calm will help you both, here are a few tips that can help ease stress so your cat is less likely to try to scratch and claw their way to freedom:

  • Choose a time after your cat has eaten or played, when they are more likely to be relaxed
  • If possible, trim your kitty's 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 does the washing
  • Minimize running water, the sound causes many cats to panic, and the last thing you want is to grab a slippery, sharp cat
  • Alternatively, fill a sink with a few inches of warm water and wash only the parts of your cat that 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.

At Advanced Care Animal Clinic we are passionate about improving the health of pets. Contact our Smokey Point vets to schedule an appointment.