Cats do not usually need baths, as they are good at grooming themselves. But there are sometimes exceptional circumstances, such as if they can’t do the job due to injury or if their fur needs a bit of TLC.
Most cats also don’t like baths or water in general. This can mean it is a very stressful experience for them, which can often result in a struggle or a cat who’s mood changes afterwards. If you have a kitten however, starting baths young could mean it is less daunting in the future.
It could be best to spot clean them or use a dry/waterless shampoo or wipes rather than water. But if a bath is unavoidable, here is a guideline on how to get the job done.
What You Will Need
Get everything to hand before you start, as to not prolong the experience or stress out your cat as you rummage around.
- A bucket, sink or bath to use as a cat bath (it could be good to line it with a non-slip rubber mat)
- Cat shampoo (find the most appropriate for your cat’s hair and skin type)
- A brush, comb or grooming glove to remove loose hairs as you clean
- An appropriate method of rinsing (non-powerful showerhead or jug)
- A few towels for drying
- (Optional) An arm covering for yourself, such as long sleeves or gloves
Before You Bathe Your Cat
Ensure the area is clean and sanitised. Fill the bath with just enough water to wash them; this should be lukewarm. Overfilling will make them more nervous. A few inches is a good guideline but it all depends on how large your cat is.
Give them a brush to remove any loose hairs beforehand, which will reduce how messy the actual bath and bathtub are. You may wish to tire them out a little bit to make them calmer beforehand and could also trim their claws to prevent damage.
You should close any doors so they don’t dangerously escape, and it will also keep the cold and any guests out. If you see that your cat really does not want to be bathed or starts crying or scratching, don’t force them into it. A vet may be able to offer a bath or a professional groomer.
During Your Cat’s Bath
Gently lower them into the water. Having some help could be a good idea, to comfort the cat or gently hold them. Treats and distractions may work until they are in the water.
Reassure them throughout the experience, and never wash areas which don’t necessarily need attention. Apply a small amount of shampoo and water onto the necessary area and work into a lather. Avoid their head, but remember that their underbelly or tail may need attention.
Never cover your cat’s head during a bath, and only use a damp cloth if it needs cleaning. When it comes to rinsing, ensure all traces of shampoo are removed so they aren’t tempted to lick off any which remains. Also always ensure that the water is never too warm.
Drying Your Cat
They may shake to remove some water themselves. But you should try and make sure they are almost completely dry so they don’t get too cold or lick the water off.
Generally, they prefer towel drying to noisy hairdryers unless they have been used to this from a very early age. Keep them in a warm room until they are fully dried, and give them access to their bed or hiding place. Always reward them after a bath, with lots of praise and food.
Flea Bath Tips
While water and dedicated flea shampoo will largely get rid of the little critters, there are some techniques you can bear in mind to ensure they don’t just escape to another part of the body until they’re all dry again.
- Change the water if possible. Drain old water away to ensure that the fleas don’t stick to your cat’s paws, and you can check to see when the water is running clear
- Keep a flea comb to hand. This will help to remove fleas from even far down near the roots of the fur and is especially important when your cat has very long or matted fur
- Use the ring technique. That is, a ring of shampoo around the neck of the cat before you start washing the rest of the body. Also, pop a bit on their chin if they will allow. This will stop fleas scurrying up to your cat’s face
- Ensure the rest of the house is flea-free. Most shampoos will last so as to repel fleas, but that’s no good if there are hundreds of them in your home. You don’t want to have to repeat this again in a month’s time
Why Are My Cats Fighting After A Bath?
Cats get used to each other’s scents, which is how they can tell whether they are friend or foe. If you own more than one cat or notice that your cat hangs out with its neighbours, there may be some fighting because the natural scent has been washed away.
Keep them separate until they have calmed down, and if possible rub them with the same towel to redistribute the smell.