How to Bathe a Cat

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Bathing a cat may seem like a daunting task for some pet parents, but it’s an important part of keeping your cats clean and healthy.

Cats are known for their self-cleaning abilities, sometimes they need a little extra help to stay clean and healthy. This is especially true if you have an outdoors and/or active cat. Since most domestic cats hate water, the process of giving a cat a bath can be stressful for both the cat and the owner if not done correctly.

In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to bathe a cat, including tips on how to prepare for the bath, choosing the right shampoo, and safely handling your cat during the process. Let’s start.

Safety Precautions

bathing a cat

Before giving your cat a bath, you’ll need to do some due diligence. Consider the following:

  1. Use cat-friendly shampoo: Always use shampoo designed specifically for cats. Human shampoo can be too harsh and cause skin irritation.
  2. Non-slip mat (Secure footing): Make sure your cat has secure footing in the tub or sink to prevent slips and falls. Keep in mind that a lot of cats are scared of water.
  3. Use lukewarm water: Use warm (not hot) water to wet your cat thoroughly. Water that is too hot can burn your cat’s skin, and water that is too cold can cause your cat to become anxious.
  4. Avoid face and ears: Avoid getting water in your cat’s face and ears, which can cause discomfort and even infections. Instead, use a wet cotton towel to wipe your cat’s face and ears.
  5. Gentle handling: Handle your cat gently and use a washcloth or sponge to wash their fur. Avoid scrubbing too hard or pulling on their fur, which can cause pain and anxiety.

Cat Bathing Supplies

To give your cat the best bath ever, you’ll need the following:

  1. Cat-friendly shampoo
  2. Conditioner (optional)
  3. Treats (to reinforce good behavior)
  4. Ear Cleaner
  5. A pitcher or sprayer for wetting your cat
  6. Towels for drying
  7. Non-slip mat or towel to place in the bathtub or sink

Pre-Bath Grooming Tips

cat bathing tips

We highly recommend grooming your cat before bathing it. This helps remove any mats or tangles in the fur and reduces the amount of hair that will fall out during the bath. You may also want to trim your cat’s nails to prevent scratches.

If you don’t have the time to give your cat a full grooming session, you can at least brush it. Brushing your cat before bathing it will make your life much easier. This is especially true if you have a long-haired cat or a cat with matted fur.

Where Should I Bathe My Cat?

You generally have 3 options:

  1. Kitchen Sink
  2. Bathroom Sink
  3. Bath Tub

Is one of these locations best?

Nope!

a black cat in a sink

Some cats are used to being around the kitchen sink. Therefore, it makes sense to bathe your cat in it. Comfort is the secret ingredient when it comes to bathing cats.

Getting your Cat Used to Water

Cats aren’t generally fond of water, so it’s important to gradually get them used to it.

Start by introducing your cat to water in small amounts, such as by filling the sink with a few inches of water and letting your cat play in it. Let your cat investigate the water and get used to the sound and the sensation of water without forcing it to get in the water. Reward your cat with treats when it shows interest or curiosity towards the water. Over time, gradually increase the amount of water until your cat is comfortable being in a full bath.

Enough of the prep talk, let’s start bathing your cat!

How to Bathe your Cat

You have your cat’s favorite treats, necessary supplies such as shampoo and conditioner, and you filled a sink/tub with lukewarm water.

Step 1: Wet your Cat’s Fur

how to bathe a cat

  • Use lukewarm water and a handheld sprayer or a cup to wet your cat’s fur. Use LOW pressure.
  • Avoid spraying water directly into your cat’s face or ears.
  • Start on your cat’s neck. Use your hand to drip some water on your cat’s head.
  • This is optional but if you have a wide tooth comb, run it through your cat’s fur after wetting it’s fur.

Step 2: Apply Shampoo

shampoo your cat

  • Use a cat-specific shampoo that is free of harsh chemicals and fragrances.
  • Gently massage the shampoo into your cat’s fur, being careful not to get it in their eyes or ears.
  • Once again, use your comb to spread the shampoo everywhere. Your comb/brush will also help push the shampoo deep into your cat’s fur.
  • Give your cat a treat or two to help calm it down.

Step 3: Rinse your Cat Thoroughly

rinsing a cat

  • Rinse your cat’s fur thoroughly with lukewarm water, making sure to remove all the shampoo.
  • Again, avoid spraying water directly into your cat’s face or ears.
  • Check for fleas as you’re rinsing your cat. It never hurts to double check. Look for “black dots” inside your cat’s hair or in the sink. If you notice anything abnormal, take your cat to the vet immediately.
  • Once all shampoo has been washed off, apply conditioner to your cat’s fur. While conditioning may be optional, it’s still recommended for long-haired cats.
  • Let the conditioner sit for 3-5 minutes before rinsing it off.

You’re done with the actual bathing process, however, there’s still some aftercare work to do. Give your cat another treat to reinforce positive behavior and make it a good experience.

Drying and Post-Bath Care

drying a cat after a bath

Post-bath care is just as important as bathing your cat. Proper aftercare helps keep your cat’s coat clean and healthy. Don’t get lazy now!

Towel-Dry your Cat

  • Wrap your cat in a towel and gently pat them dry.
  • If your cat allows it, you can use a blow dryer on a low setting to speed up the drying process.

Using a Hairdryer (optional)

Okay, I have to say this first; please DO NOT use a powerful hairdryer. human hairdryers are generally much more powerful than hairdryers that are made for pets. If you don’t have a cat hairdryer, that’s okay. You can use your hairdryer but make sure it’s on the lowest setting.

  • Make sure the hairdryer is on a low setting and held at least six inches away from your cat’s fur.
  • Be mindful of your cat’s body language, and stop if they seem uncomfortable or scared.

I tried using a blow-dryer on one of my cats before and it wasn’t a good decision lol.

Post-Bath Grooming Tips

You’re treating your cat to a nice day at the spa, so let’s give it an unforgettable experience (in a good way).

  • Brush your cat’s fur after their bath to remove any tangles or knots.
  • Use a cat-specific leave-in conditioner if your cat’s fur is prone to matting.
  • Trim your cat’s nails after their bath when their nails are softer and easier to clip.
  • Using a pair of scissors, trim any long hair around your cat’s bottom.
Also, check out these 20 cat grooming tips.

Cat Bathing Issues

You may run into a few issues while bathing your cat. Here’s what to do when dealing with some of the most common issues.

Dealing with a Scared or Aggressive Cat

If your cat is scared or aggressive during bath time, try using a calming spray or diffuser in the bathroom beforehand.

Consider getting help of a professional groomer or veterinarian. Asking professionals is always a good idea.

Use treats. Seriously, treats often work like magic.

Skin Issues and Infections

If your cat has skin issues or infections, speak with your veterinarian before giving them a bath. They may recommend a medicated shampoo or other treatment options.

If you are uncomfortable or unsure about bathing your cat, take your cat to a professional groomer. Professional groomer are used to dealing with cat’s issues.

Do Cats Need Baths?

Most cats don’t need baths unless they get really dirty. This is especially true for super active cats or cats that go outdoors. However, since cats groom themselves often, majority can go on without ever needing a bath. Bathing your cat every once in a while is still a good idea to help them stay clean, flea-free, and healthy. You get to bond with your cat too!

How Often Should You Bathe a Cat

You should bathe your cat only if there’s a need to do so. As discussed above, most cats don’t really need baths. That said, there are a couple of exceptions;

  1. Long-haired Cats: It’s recommended to bathe your long-haired cat once every 2-3 months. If your cat plays outside a lot, bathe them once a month.
  2. Sphynx Cats: Also known as hairless cats, Sphynx cats should be bathed once every 1-3 weeks to help keep their skin oil-free.
  3. Cats with Matted Hair: Cats with matted hair require regular bathing to help detangle their hair. If you have a cat with matted fur, bathe it once every 2-3 weeks for best results.

How Often Should You Bathe a Cat with Fleas?

Expert groomers and veterinarians recommend bathing a cat with fleas once every 2-4 weeks. This is because bathing kills fleas. However, since water doesn’t necessarily address the root cause of flea infestations, regular bathing gives you the opportunity to apply your vet-approved flea medication more often. This should help rid your cat of fleas quicker.