The Best Way To Bathe A Cat: Your Complete & Detailed Guide
Cats and water don’t go together well, and mixing the two often leads to disorder. It’s a good thing that cats do great on their own when it comes to keeping themselves clean.
Unfortunately, bathing a cat is a chore every cat owner must face from time to time. And so, we wonder if bath time can ever be more bearable and if such a thing as the best way to bathe a cat exists.
Bathing cats is a task some dread, and cats’ aversion to water does not help one bit. But, don’t worry. A few tips and tricks are available that will make the process a lot better – think stress- and scratch-free.
So, if you’re a pet parent prepping to bathe a cat, read on. Because we’re here to give you a couple of handy dandy tips on how to safely bathe your cat. But before that, let’s dive deep into cats’ love-hate relationship with water and more.
Also Read: 6 Best Cat Shampoos for 2023
Why Most Cats Hate Water?
Although most cats are drawn to the sound and movement of dripping or running water, bath time and getting wet usually gives them chills. If your cat is among the many who hates water, here are a few theories that can explain your pets’ dislike for it:
Unfamiliarity. Since domesticated cats’ feline predecessors have commonly lived in dry places, their limited exposure to water sources like rivers and lakes has made most of them aversive to this element.
Loss of control. Cats have this habit of wanting things to go their way. And since they don’t have control over what’s happening during the bathing process, most cats (being the control freaks they are) tend to feel distressed and panicky.
Uncomfortable feeling. Besides feeling agitated because of a cat’s inability to control the situation, the wet fur might make your kitty feel less nimble, heavy, and altogether uneasy.
Cat Breeds That Need Bathing
While many cats often don’t need a professional groomer or regular bathing to keep their mane shiny and smooth, some cats do. Cat breeds that might require occasional to regular baths include:
Long-haired cats & short-haired cats with dense coats. Felines with long fur like Persian cats, Himalayans, and Maine Coons, and those with short yet thick dense hair may need regular brushing and occasional bathing (think once every after a couple of months).
The usual cat grooming isn’t enough to keep your cat’s hair from matting, so brushing their hair daily and bathing your cat a few times a year helps.
Hairless cat breeds. Yes, despite being hairless, your bald-looking cat also needs bathing. In fact, they require it more than furry cats do.
Like humans, a cat’s skin also produces oil. Those with fur can wick away the oils from their skin, while hairless cats tend to accumulate the oily residue on their skin and make them grimy in the long run. Regular baths (think once a week) will eliminate the excess oils.
Also Read: Top 10 Long Haired Cat Breeds
Other Reasons Why Cats Might Need A Bath
Other than a cat’s breed, certain situations or conditions will necessitate a fur parent to bathe a cat. Here are most (if not all) of them:
Unforeseen Accidents. Because of their curious and adventurous nature, your cat can’t help but get into trouble from time to time. While unforeseen, your little kitty is expected to get into icky situations and get their fur covered with various substances like motor oil, gasoline, paint, ashes, litter box particles – just name it.
If this happens, you’d have to get rid of this and safely bathe your cat pronto, especially if it’s a harmful substance that they might try to lick off.
Skin Conditions. Itchy, flaky, inflamed cat’s skin caused by ringworm, flea allergies, or other skin disorders like seborrhea can be really bothersome. To relieve your cat from the discomfort and itching, your vet might suggest giving your cat medicated baths.
Arthritis & Obesity. Arthritis is a condition usually experienced by older cats. Since this condition can affect various parts of a cat’s body (including its legs), cats suffering from arthritis will experience limited mobility, making cat grooming a tedious task.
Obesity, on the one hand, also makes grooming hard-to-reach areas extra tricky. While they don’t feel any pain, the added pounds will definitely weigh them down.
The Best Way To Bathe A Cat
Now that we’re done discussing the whys and whatnots behind cat bathing, let’s get into the hows and talk about the best way you can bathe your cat without getting scratched.
Prepping up for the “battle” ahead is a must. And the first step to this “getting ready” phase is gearing up. When it comes to bathing your cat, here are a few things you need:
- Old, long-sleeve shirts that you won’t mind getting dirty and gloves for a bit more protection (optional)
- Cat shampoo and conditioner (check with your vet which cat shampoo or medicated shampoo would be the best to buy for your kitty)
- A container (big enough to hold your cat like your bathroom sink or kitchen sink) with a non-slip mat or a skid-proof bottom to keep your cat from slipping and fill this up with a few inches of lukewarm water
- Some toys
- Clean, dry towel (preferably a large towel and have at least two of those ready)
- Blow dryer (optional)
- Damp washcloth
- A couple of cotton balls
- Gentle sprayer or plastic pitcher
- A few treats
Once you have everything ready, make sure to have all the bath supplies within arms reach. You’ll find this extremely helpful, especially in cases when you don’t have someone to help you grab all this stuff when you need it.
Besides gathering all the bath supplies, here’s a rundown of all the other must-do things to add to your checklist before you start bathing your kitty.
Get The Timing Right
Bathing an energetic cat equates to trouble. That’s why it’s always best to set up your cat’s bath time when they’re tired and calm, like after playtime or eating. You might also want to schedule it on days when someone else is available to help.
Clip Your Cat’s Nails & Get Rid Of Any Mats & Loose Hair
A cat with sharp claws desperately trying to get out of your hold equates to scratches that can result in infection – something you’d want to avoid as much as possible. As such, you’ll find trimming your cat’s nails and filing the ends worthwhile.
Since we want the bathing process to be less stressful, make sure to gently brush your cat’s fur before bathing. This eliminates the need to tug on all the tangles on your kitty’s fur while bathing or drying them. This also removes all the loose fur that may clog your sink.
It’s Bath Time: What To Do
Now that you and your cat are all geared up and ready, you can now start giving your cat a bath. But before anything else, make sure to always STAY CALM and BE EXTRA PATIENT throughout the entire process. Keeping your surroundings noise-free will also help make your cat feel calm and relaxed.
Once you’ve loaded yourself up with tons of peace and patience, you can go ahead and tick off the following on your to-do list:
Put A Few Of Your Cat’s Favorite Toys In The Tub
Putting toys in the tub will help distract your cat and keep your cat calm despite getting their feet wet. You can also play with your cat a bit to help your cat develop a positive association towards bathing.
Use The Pour-Over Method Or A Gentle Sprayer
Turning on the faucet might only startle your cat – which is the exact opposite of calm. So, instead of letting the water run or turning the shower on to get your cat wet, opt to pour water using a pitcher or use a handheld shower that lets out a gentle stream of warm water. Start from your cat’s neck down to your cat’s tail.
Only Use Cat-friendly Bath Products
The pH levels in human shampoo are too much for your feline friend, and using this will only dry out your cat’s skin and fur.
You also don’t want your cat licking this stuff since it can contain harmful ingredients. So, if you plan to give your cat a bath, make sure to use cat-friendly and vet-approved bath products that you can easily find in pet stores.
Once your cat is wet, start to lather and massage the shampoo onto your cat’s mane. Make sure to dilute it with some water and start from the neck down to its body, tummy, legs, and tail.
When applying shampoo, don’t be too hasty or rough, and keep this off your cat’s face – their eyes and ears especially. Instead, make it feel like you’re petting your cat or like your cat is getting a massage.
NOTE: You’ll find this to be handy, especially when using medicated bath shampoos like flea shampoos, which will require you to leave the product for at least 5 to 10 minutes.
Still using lukewarm water, rinse out all the shampoo. You’ll know you’ve rinsed your cat thoroughly when the water is already free of soap suds or bubbles. Expect this step to take longer for cats with long hair.
NOTE: Failing to rinse them well may result in skin irritation. Leftover shampoo may also attract dirt and can be ingested by your cat.
Be Extra Gentle When Cleaning The Face
When cleaning your kitty’s face, opt to use a wet washcloth. Gently wipe your furball’s face. If there’s something sticky or harmful that you need to get rid of, you can also add a few drops of shampoo. Just make sure to keep these off your cat’s ears and cat’s eyes.
The eyes can be cleaned by gently wiping them with a damp cotton ball. A few cotton balls can also be used to clean the inside of the outside of the ears. Q-tips are a no-no since this can only injure your cat.
Once bath time is over, swaddle your cat with a warm towel and dry them right away. If you have a hair dryer and your cat doesn’t mind you using it despite all the racket, you can do so to speed things up. Just make sure to use the lowest setting.
On the one hand, drying them off using a towel is A-okay. Just make sure to do this inside a warm room and try the best you can to do this quickly.
Reward Your Cat
Since bath time isn’t easy, especially when it’s your cat’s first time, make sure to reward your cat with their favorite treat. After all, they deserve it.
Food For Thought
Yes, bath time isn’t going to be easy peasy at first. So. if your cat doesn’t need a full bath, you can just spot clean them using some warm water and a wet cloth. However, if the situation calls for you to give your cat a bath, keep calm and relax. You and your cat will get through it.
At the end of the day, your cat is a member of the family who requires your patience and understanding. Remember that cats don’t really hate water. They’re just nervous because they’re not used to it.
So again, keep your cool every step of the way. Scolding your cat won’t help in any way. Pay close attention to your cat’s demeanor and check for signs of aggression or panic. If things aren’t going well, you can stop. Don’t let your pride take over or feel guilty.
Going through with it isn’t worth it. Since our goal is to turn this negative experience into something positive, ending it with your cat all scared and frightened won’t help. Instead, you might want to let a professional groomer handle the situation. There’s always a next time.