Giving a Cat a Bath: A How-To Guide

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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 aversion to water. While it's certainly true that cats are excellent groomers, in certain stinky and 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, be sure to gather these supplies first and learn how to give your cat a bath to prepare for a positive cat bath experience for the both of you.

1. Help from a Cat Handler

Although you may not think of another person as part of your must-have list, don't underestimate the power of an assistant. Enlist 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 mattes.   Never try and 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 your cat up after the bath but it never hurts to have extra towels on hand for the unexpected.

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 favorite kibble or an extra special reward on hand to reward for cooperating with the bath time 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 sprayer, you can use an unbreakable cup.   Start by placing your in about 2 to 5 inches of water. Always use lukewarm water and carefully follow the shampoo directions. Gently wet and shampoo your kitty, starting with her face and avoiding her eyes, ears, and nose. For cleaning her body, you can use your fingers to lather her up. When they are soaped up, gently but thoroughly rinse her off with the lukewarm water (use a third clean washcloth for rinsing if no sprayer is available). Rinse out all the shampoo (again, steering clear of eyes, ears, and nose) to avoid irritation. She'll groom herself for a long time afterward, and you don't want her to lick any shampoo residue.

After the bath, wrap up your cat in a fluffy towel and dry her off, especially her paws (you don't want wet cat prints all over the house), as much as she lets you. Both of you deserve a reward after a cat bath, so have a few pieces of her favorite kibble ready to thank her for cooperating and give her space–she probably won't want to cuddle up in your lap right away. Let her come to you when she's ready.

With patience, trust, and persistence, you can incorporate a bath into your cat's care routine without too much fuss. Bathing your cat successfully isn't just a myth, and now you're armed with the supplies and tips for giving your feline friend a good soak to keep her clean and shiny! 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 a skunk.

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