Most cats absolutely hate water. They are continually cleaning themselves. That said, sometimes they'll need an actual bath. Our vets in Thornton discuss bathing your cat in this post.
Is it Necessary to Bathe a Cat?
Luckily cats are great at keeping themselves clean most of the time so this isn't a situation any cat parent will have to tackle frequently.
A cat's rough tongue is covered with tiny, curved barbs that spread saliva across the animal's fur. This act can be compared to a mini-spa treatment - with each lap, your kitty spreads healthy natural oils across her coat and skin.
These little spines also work as natural detanglers, which is why you'll often see your feline companion licking and biting at clumps of fur - it's their method of smoothing their fur out.
There are times that bathing a cat may be needed though and it is also a good way to manage shedding and combat fur loss.
How Often Do You Need to Bathe a Cat?
Your kitten or cat will need a bath if they've gotten themselves into certain situations. For example, if they've ingested something they shouldn't have such as gasoline, antifreeze, paint, motor oil or anything that can get on his fur and be harmful. These are types of substances that may be harmful to your cat and will need to be cleaned off right away.
For some cats, baths can soothe skin conditions that may include seborrhea, a disorder that results in flakey, itchy, red skin. Your veterinarian may also recommend medicated baths for treating other health conditions including severe flea allergies or ringworm.
Obese or senior cats often aren't able to groom themselves effectively and might benefit from regularly scheduled baths. Long-haired cats should be bathed about every couple of months to reduce the risk of their fur becoming matted. If you have a hairless breed of cat such as a Sphynx then you should bathe it weekly as they have no fur to trap oils and will begin to leave oil smudges on your furniture.
How Should You Bathe a Cat?
If you plan on bathing a cat then it is a good thing to note that you should prepare everything ahead of the actually bath and be sure to keep everything you may need within arms reach, such as:
- Special cat shampoo and conditioner
- A bath or shower with a handheld showerhead
- Numerous towels to clean her off and help keep her dry
Never use shampoo or conditioner intended for humans as it has a different pH level than the type that's suited for cats and could damage your pet's skin or hair.
How to prepare to bathe your cat
Prior to bathing your cat, you should brush out any tangles in the fur as the water should make these worse and nearly impossible to get out later, especially if you have a long-haired cat.
Set the water temperature to warm and have it run through the showerhead at a medium-level spray.
When it's time to bathe your cat
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 is significantly less stressful for your pet as she is far more likely to be used to being rained on than she is being lowered into 4 inches of tepid water!
Hold your cat in place by her scruff, or use a harness if you think she is going to be tricky to control. Begin washing her gently using soft confident strokes. Cats are very intuitive at picking up stress, so if you seem stressed she will be on edge too, and far more likely to lash out or try to make a run for it!
Apply small amounts of shampoo – they're probably not as dirty as you think! Make sure you rinse clean and then repeat with the conditioner. Take care to avoid her eyes and nose.
Drying your cat after you are done bathing them
Once she is clean you should towel-dry your cat as much as possible. Some cats are petrified of hair dryers. If your feline friend isn’t then you could consider trying to dry her using low heat and speed.
You may need to confine her to a carrier in order to do this. Alternatively, you could leave your cat in the warm bathroom until her coat is totally dry.
The important thing is to ensure that she is thoroughly dried before going into other parts of the house. Damp 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 Safely Bathe Your Cat Without Injury
Many owners have puzzled over the question of how to bathe a cat that hates water, as most cats do. Some cats will tolerate baths, but others simply won't. When a bath is inevitable, staying calm will help you both. Here are a few tips to help ease some stress so your cat is less likely to try to scratch and claw their way to freedom:
- Choose a time after she’s eaten or played, as she’ll be more mellow
- If possible, trim her 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 bathes them
- Minimize running water, the sound causes many cats to panic, and the last thing you want is to grab a slippery, sharp cat
- Fill a sink with a few inches of warm water and wash only the parts 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.