wet cat

There are lots of fun things to do in life, and yet sometimes we’re faced with a sticky or serious situation that results in giving a cat a bath. Do they really need it? In most cases, the answer is no but there are occasions when your cat or kitten might need your gentle assistance.

The feline in need of cleaning up may regard human efforts with absolute fear and loathing, and they know exactly how to defend themselves. If you’ve ever wondered how to best bathe a cat (without getting your eyes clawed out), or you’d simply like to be prepared for this eventuality, we have some ideas to keep everyone safe and relatively calm.

Cats and Cleanliness

It is true that cats fastidiously groom themselves after eating, waking up, and just because. In part, they inherited this behavior as an act of self-preservation. Mother cats have long known that predators in the wild can’t smell their kittens when their coats are spotless. 

When to Bathe a Cat

Cats with poor hygeine, seniors, overweight or obese cats, and sick felines may all have trouble self-grooming. Neglected spots can become dirty, flakey, irritated, matted, smelly, and if left entirely alone, skin can become infected. In situations like these, it is often safer and more advantageous to spot clean with a wet cloth rather than subjecting your immune-compromised cat to a full bath. 

Cats can also come into contact with certain chemicals like gasoline, antifreeze, oil, paint and more, making a bath a necessity. It would also be necessary to bathe a cat following an encounter with wildlife such as skunks. Parasites like fleas or ringworm can be treated with bathing, as well. 

Help! I Need to Bathe My Cat

You can try to bathe your cat alone, but it’s not recommended. Having four hands not only gets the job done quicker, but with extra support you can be more thorough and effective. 

Gather these supplies first:

  • Thick gloves in case Fluffy gets super mad and defensive
  • Hypoallergenic cat shampoo
  • Cups or pitchers
  • Small cloth or sponge
  • Warm towels
  • Treats
  • A small rubber tub positioned on a counter or table (easier than kneeling on a bathroom floor)

Tips for Success

Try to brush your cat prior to getting their fur wet. Eliminate any tangles or mats, and remove excess hair. Then:

  • Help your cat stay calm with Feliway diffusers in the room
  • Lay a towel or washcloth in the tub to reduce sliding
  • Fill tub with a couple inches of lukewarm water, turn water off before placing your cat in the tub
  • Since they are unlikely to hop into the tub willingly, pick them up very gently, use a reassuring voice, and offer treats
  • With one set of hands keeping your cat in place, fill a cup with water and gently pour water out on the back of the neck, back, chest, and legs
  • Avoid their face and ears, if possible
  • Lather your cat’s fur from neck to their tail
  • Thoroughly rinse the suds off, paying heed to their belly, chest, armpits, and tail area
  • Using cotton balls or a small cloth, wipe their face clean and clean the outside of their ears
  • When completely clean and rinsed off, pick them up and place on a warm, fluffy towel (try to dry them as much as possible, even though they’ll resist) 
  • To avoid injury to yourself and your cat, never force them to do any of the above 

Keep the Peace

Overall, our team recommends avoiding cat bathing whenever possible as it can ultimately be too stressful for them or cause injury to you. If you truly believe your cat needs to be bathed, we recommend contacting your veterinarian to discuss prior.