The Ultimate Guide to Bathing Cats Without Harming Them

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The best thing about cats (aside from their affection, purring and pampering toes) is their independence. They can eat out without fear of having their house ransacked, and (like dogs) they don’t need attention or constant training from their owners. They are also good at keeping clean. Most cats can bathe themselves and rarely need to be bathed. However, they will need to be bathed from time to time. If the thought of giving your cat a bath makes you want to give up your Band-Aids and Neosporin, you’ve come to the right place.

Water and cats don’t mix, it’s a cliché. Some cat breeds, such as Maine Coons and Bengals, actually enjoy the sensation of being splashed. Most cats, however, grow claws when threatened with a bathtub full of wet stuff. This hostility puts mama and papa cats in a very bad mood when taking a bath.


There are some things you should know before you bathe your cat.

Is Bathing Cats Really Necessary?

As mentioned above, cats are very good at bathing themselves. In fact, cats spend between 15% and 50% of their waking hours in some sort of grooming activity. One of their favorite things to do is to sit a few inches above your head at 3 a.m. and lick your toes loudly. After the licking, their toes are probably cleaner than the floor.

A healthy short-haired indoor cat usually does not need to be bathed. However, cats may not be able to handle personal hygiene on their own. Long-haired cats (such as Persians) need regular bathing to prevent debris from clogging their gorgeous coats. Senior cats may also need occasional bathing if arthritis or other illnesses prevent them from grooming. If they have fleas or some other skin disease, they may need a medicated bath. Last but not least, a mischievous cat may get into hot (or at least warm) water once it gets into mischief. Some dirt can’t be dealt with if the cat scratches its tongue.

The Right Way to Bathe Your Cat

If you decide your cat needs a bath, don’t panic. Some cats can tolerate forced grooming, others not so much. Maybe you are one of the lucky owners and your cat is patiently sitting in the tub. But if you’re not so lucky, there’s still hope you can complete this tedious task without a first-aid kit.

Warming up bath time

One of the reasons cats hate bath time is because it is a nerve-wracking new experience. However, if you slowly teach your cat the concept of taking a bath, he or she will not be afraid of it. Regardless of the age of your cat or how long you have had him or her, it is important to get him or her used to the sounds, smells, sights, and sensations of a bath as soon as possible. Encourage them to look at the sink and tub water. Let them smell the soap that is specially designed for cats, and then pour a few drops of lukewarm water on their fur. Ensure that the entire bathing experience takes place in a calm environment. Give treats after each new experience to remind the cat that bathing is a good thing for it.

Clip and prepare the claws.

A cat’s instinct is to get out of an uncomfortable situation. When bathing a cat, it is hard to blame the cat if your skin gets in the way. If you know your cat doesn’t like water, be prepared for its claws to grow. Clipping the nails ahead of time will make bath time less painful for your cat.

Choose the Right Time

Choosing the time wisely is your best chance of enjoying a scratch-free bath time. If you have an active kitty, wait until it runs out of energy. Catch That Feather!” Get them into the game. Get them involved in an exciting game of “Catch That Feather!” or spin the kitty merry-go-round. You want to tire the kitten out. For older cats, after they wake up from their nap may be a good time. If they are not fully awake, they are less likely to resist.

Control your emotions.

Cats are more perceptive than you think. They absorb your energy. If you are nervous, the cat will be nervous. Do your best to remain calm and collected. Set an example and teach your cat that bathing is no big deal.

Use the right tools

Before filling the bathtub with shampoo and picking up your cat, make sure you have everything you need. Shampoos for humans are not suitable for cats. Make sure you have cat-specific shampoo. It’s also a good idea to use a carrier and leash to secure your cat in the bathtub. This works well if the cat is already leash trained, but in any case, it helps to keep the cat under control when you have a grumpy, soaking wet cat.

Quick and efficient.

The quicker you bathe your cat, the better. But also be thorough. Wash your cat from the top of her head all the way to the tip of her tail, gently massaging the shampoo into her coat. You may be tempted to use a hand-held tap when rinsing, but this can panic an already nervous cat. It is safer to use a plastic water bottle. If your cat is particularly naughty, you may need to find a brave friend to help you bathe him.

Once you’ve rinsed off the slime and drained the hot water, it’s time to give your cat a chance to redeem itself. Cuddle them in a soft towel and give them the most delicious treats. Tell them how great and brave they are and I’m sure they’ll forgive you by dinner time.

By Amber King

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