A Comprehensive Guide to Cat Bathing

Unlike dogs, the majority of cats don’t like water, and you won’t find them leaping into the tub when it’s bath time. In fact, some kitties will avoid any body of water larger than their bowl like it’s the plague, even if they desperately need a bath. But that doesn’t mean that they can never get wet! While cats tend to do a great job grooming themselves, there are certain circumstances that may require you to handle the cleaning for them. Here’s how to bathe a cat.

Does My Cat Need a Bath?

If you’re wondering how often to bathe a cat, the answer is probably less often than you think. While dogs need regular baths to stay clean, cats can typically handle their hygiene by themselves—in fact, your kitty may spend up to 50 percent of his time grooming himself! A cat in good health typically shouldn’t need a bath unless he gets extremely dirty or has a run-in with a skunk.

Even if you’re not giving your furry friend regular baths, it’s still important to monitor his hygiene. You may find that your cat needs help with grooming as he ages or develops health issues. For example, senior cats can lose mobility as they grow older and may not be able to reach all of the spots that need to be cleaned. The best thing you can do for an elderly cat’s grooming habits is to monitor his needs carefully, feed an appropriate senior diet, and administer a supplement that can support normal joint flexibility to help keep him at his best self. Ultimately, if your cat has fleas, soils himself, rolls in something particularly pungent, or is unable to self-groom due to age or a health issue, it’s time to break out the tub.

How to Bathe a Cat

Select a Shampoo

First things first: find the right cleaning agent. You shouldn’t soap your cat up with just any old shampoo—essential oils and other ingredients found in shampoo for people or dogs can actually upset the pH balance of your kitty’s coat and even dry out his skin. Instead, head to your local pet store or look online for a soap designed specifically for cats.

If you’re researching how to bathe a cat with fleas, you’ve probably come across a number of flea shampoos made for pets. Select one designed specifically for cats and make sure to read up—some brands will take more than one bath to kill off and remove the fleas from your cat’s coat.  

Set Up Your Bathing Station

Bathing a cat can get messy, particularly if your kitty is filthy or prone to making a fuss. Make sure you have everything you need close at hand, including shampoo, towels, and an appropriate bathing station. That could be a tub, a deep sink, or even just a basin filled with enough water to easily get your cat wet.  

Protect Yourself from Scratches and Bites

Pick a time of day when your cat is relatively mellow—this could be after feeding or after playing, when she’ll be tired out and more likely to stay calm in the bath. To minimize the risk of scratches, trim your cat’s nails and distract her with a special toy in the bathtub. If your kitty is perpetually irritated by your efforts, you may need to don some gloves and a long-sleeved shirt, or just take a trip to a local pet groomer!

Break Out the Brush

Giving your cat a nice brush before getting her wet is a great way to get her comfortable around the tub and remove any knots that might get more tangled in the water. You should also take this time to remove any clumps of large debris from her coat.

Wash Your Cat

When everything is ready, immerse your cat in a few inches of warm water. Get him wet from the neck down and massage a small amount of shampoo in the direction of his coat growth. Be sure to keep soap away from his ears and eyes, as stray suds can irritate them and even cause ear infections! To clean his face, simply use a soft washcloth and water. When you’re done with the soap, rinse him carefully with a bucket of water or tap water until there are no soap bubbles remaining.

If this is your cat’s first bath, make sure to monitor his stress levels. Talk softly to him and keep your movements gentle to reassure him that everything is fine. If he gets too panicked, don’t force the bath! You may need to take a break and revisit at a later time.  

Dry Your Cat

After the bath, gently wrap your cat in a towel to absorb excess water. You may need a few towels to get her mostly dry, but then you can switch to air drying or a hair dryer set on warm (not hot!). When your cat is finally clean, be sure to reward her with praise and a treat to make bath time something to look forward to, rather than something to fear.

Support Your Cat’s Health In and Out of the Tub

We’re dedicated to helping pet parents keep their furry companions healthy and happy, no matter how dirty they get! Our pet supplements are made with natural ingredients that work to support key organs like the liver and kidney, making them the perfect complement to a healthy diet and exercise routine. Feel free to contact us with any questions. We’re excited to be part of your pet’s healthy lifestyle!

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