Giving a Cat a Bath: A How-To Guide

Published by Christine O'Brien
min read

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Cats, especially curious kittens, can get into all sorts of messy and smelly situations as they explore their environment. They also have a well-known dislike of water. While it's certainly true that cats are excellent groomers, in certain stinky or sticky cases, bathing your cat can become necessary. It can also help cats maintain a healthy coat and healthy skin.

Whether you're looking to pamper them or clean them up from their latest adventure, learning how to give your cat a bath can set the stage for a positive cat bath experience for the both of you.

1. Help from a Cat Handler

Don't underestimate the power of an assistant! Enlisting a trusted friend or family member to help out can be a good idea, especially since managing four paws with two hands can be a challenge. For obvious reasons, a fellow cat lover who understands how to properly handle a cat is best.

2. Brushing Ahead of Time

Brushing your cat on a regular basis can help maintain their coat but it can also be helpful before bath time to remove excess dirt and to remove tangles and matts. Never try to cut matted hair out with scissors because you risk cutting your furry friend.

3. Have Towels on Hand

You will need one big bath towel to wrap up your cat after their bath but it never hurts to have extra towels on hand for the unexpected. You’ll also need one or two washcloths.

Gray and white kitten being washed in a kitten sink.

4. Choosing a Shampoo

You'll find a wide range of cat shampoos at your local retailer or online. Read ingredient labels carefully, and, as VetStreet advises, do not buy shampoo meant for dogs or humans as it may irritate your kitty's coat and skin. Some cat shampoos don't require water but ask your veterinarian first to be sure this type of cleanser is appropriate for your cat, and that they don't have any allergies to any of the included ingredients.

5. Treats Can Help

It may be a good idea to have some of their favourite kibble or an extra special treat on hand to reward your cat for cooperating with the bathtime experience.

Let the Bathing Begin

Once you have the right equipment within reach, you're ready to start the bathing process. A bathtub or large sink with a gentle spray nozzle is best. If you don't have a removable shower head, you can use an unbreakable cup. Start with about 2-5 inches of lukewarm water and carefully follow the shampoo directions. Gently wet and shampoo your kitty, starting with their face and avoiding their eyes, ears and nose. For cleaning their body, you can use a washcloth or your fingers to lather them up. When they’re soaped up, gently but thoroughly rinse them off with the lukewarm water (use a clean washcloth for rinsing if no removable shower head is available). Rinse out all the shampoo (again, steering clear of eyes, ears and nose) to avoid irritation. Your cat will groom themself for a long time afterward, and you don't want them to lick any shampoo residue.

After the bath, wrap up your cat in a fluffy towel and dry them off, especially their paws (you don't want wet cat prints all over the house). Both of you deserve a reward after a cat bath, so have the kibble or treats ready to reward them for cooperating. Give your cat space as they may not want to cuddle up in your lap right away. Let them come to you when they’re ready.

Bathing your cat successfully isn't just a myth! With patience, trust and persistence, you can incorporate a bath into your cat's care routine without too much fuss. But remember, bathing a cat doesn't need to be a regular activity like it might be with dogs. Because cats are such excellent groomers, meticulously cleaning themselves, you will only need to give your cat a bath in unfortunate (and stinky) situations like if she gets sprayed by another animal.

Image source: Flickr

Contributor Bio


Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien