Pet Tips

Tip 87 – Cat bath – Bathing cats – Should I bathe my cat

There are some dissenting views on this issue but in general there is usually no reason to bathe your cat especially a shorthaired indoor cat. Cats spend a large percentage of their days grooming themselves and they are experts at it. Using their barbed tongues they lick dirt and debris off their fur in order to keep it clean and odor free. Cats with long hair may require the occasional bath if their fur gets too oily. Their fur can get too oily based on climate conditions and the individual skin of the cat. Hairless cats like sphynxes DO  need a weekly bath because their skin gets greasy and dirty. There are also occasional times when your cat’s fur may get excessively dirty due to some mishap that the cat has gotten itself into. In some of these cases it may be necessary to give your cat a bath.

You should know right off the bat that almost all cats hate baths, so be prepared. Here are some tips to make the experience easier:

  • Cat baths are smoother when 2 people are bathing the cat. One holds the cat while the other bathes the cat. Bathing the cat should be done in the bathroom where you can close the door to prevent escapes. Noise (like rushing bath water) is always an issue for the cat so anything to keep the noise level down will help.
  • Preparation is everything – Run the bath water BEFORE you put the cat in the bath and make sure the water is not too hot and not too cold. The height of the water should reach the cat’s underbelly.
  • A rubber bathmat or towel placed in the tub will give the cat something to grip when it gets nervous and is a good idea.
  • Use a cat shampoo recommended by your vet, groomer or other qualified pet professional.
  • Do NOT wet the cat’s head. Instead use a moist washcloth or towelette if the cat’s face and head are dirty. GENTLY wet the cat from neck to bum using a cup or small pail with the bath water itself and start shampooing at the neck and move toward the bum. Then wash the legs.
  • Meowing and yowling at this point are normal unless your cat is mute, in a coma, or practically dead. Just continue rubbing in the suds gently. Don’t use too much shampoo.
  • The rinsing is the most important part as shampoo left on a cat’s skin will make your cat scratch itself thereby irritating its skin. Start draining the bath water. While it is draining, start rinsing the cat’s fur with the remaining bath water using cup or small pail. This gets the ‘big suds’ off. Use or buy a cheap shower attachment for this next part. With warm water from the shower attachment, rinse and rub the fur well from neck to bum. Once you think it’s clean do it again quickly making sure there is no shampoo residue.
  • While in the tub put a towel all around kitty and start gently rubbing all around its body. It must be a gentle rub or pat down because especially in a longhaired cat, you don’t want the rubbing to create new knots. Remove kitty from the tub and use another towel to further absorb water from the fur.
  • If you have a hair dryer that does NOT make too much noise you can try rubbing the fur while blow drying. Make sure that if your cat is NOT completely dry that you put it in a WARM room so that it does not catch a chill and get sick. This CAN happen easily.

Note: It is 100% normal for the cat to start licking its fur immediately after you’ve finished all your hard work.

There are many other creative techniques for bathing cats. Another one that makes good sense is the shallow buckets technique. Buy 5 cheap shallow buckets. Fill them all so the height reaches the cat’s underbelly. Put the cat in the first bucket and start shampooing – The next 4 buckets are rinsing buckets where using your hands you rinse the suds off kitty as you transfer the lucky feline from bucket to bucket. Make sure all the suds have been removed and dry the cat well.

7 Responses to this Article, So Far

  1. Avatar Khristal S. says:

    Thank you. I was hoping to get a cat and I didn’t know anything about it. Is a birman cat, american shorthair, and tortoiseshell cats good?

  2. Avatar Alise says:

    My cats hate baths! So far in their short two years they only had about 3-4 baths. They are shorthair cats but their hair is everywhere!! I brush it everyday but no use. Even though my husband and I are in there trying to hold them down and bath them it’s hard and a cat usually claws her way all over my husband leaving behind a trail of blood. So a good idea is to trim the cats nails before you give them a bath and do it a day or two before so that it’s less traumatic for them. Plus, next time you trim the cat’s nails she/he might think it’s bath time again. =)

  3. Avatar Derik says:

    One of my cats, Casper, absolutely loves baths. I have been bathing him about once or twice a year since he was a kitten. Sometimes he will jump in the shower when I am trying to clean myself to get ready for work! He’s a long haired cat and fits the description of a turkish angora, but I can’t prove it because I found him jumping through snow in a parkinglot when he was about 4 weeks.

  4. Avatar grace says:

    my cat loves bath . :) ‘cos i get in with him. heheheheh ;)

  5. Avatar ken says:

    Good article.

    I only wash mine (3) when they get into something nasty (rarely happens, as they are indoors), and then I find using a plain non-detergent soap (Murphy Oil Soap) works well.

    I wash them in the bathtub, and then have a LARGE bucket of warm water ready for instant clean rinsing, and then several large towels ready at hand. Be sure to check the temperature of both wash and rinse water to avoid any burns, of course.

    Depending on the cat (some actually like water, as noted by others), speed is essential, and a determined no-fear attitude (you WILL be bathed, NOW).

    Wearing a long sleeved coat is a good idea to avoid scratches, as kitties who hate water will try to climb upwards, and may, in their haste, forget to retract their claws. (I have one who once jumped on my head, soaking wet, and I had a quite job removing him, as he had a death grip).

    Fortunately, any accidental flesh wounds will be from clean, washed paws, but a tube of antibiotic cream can be kept at hand as a further insurance against infection, if needed.

    Ignore any meowing/hissing/growling that may ensue, and just be firm but VERY calm, using a soothing voice, lots of praise, and then he/she will know that you are in a HELPING mode.

    Even if you are badly scratched, remember to keep up that calm, soothing voice and approach. If you get frustrated, or at all mean, the cat WILL go into a more defensive posture that could be unfortunate for you and anyone else in the vicinity (I speak from experience with a very large male and aggressive tabby). But he does get bathed when he needs it. I mask my fear with love. Scratches heal within a short time anyway.

  6. Avatar Zairul says:

    ” Meowing and yowling at this point are normal unless your cat is mute, in a coma, or practically dead. ”

    Can’t stop laughing at that.

  7. Avatar Kendell says:

    I find it very effective to bath with your kitty. That way you are able to successfully stroke them while they freak. Also when removing kitty from bath praise them while they are being dried. If water has come in contact with ears or eyes (not recommended) dry effectively and keep kitty warm post bath. Post bath self-grooming is normal.

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