Cats are notorious for hating baths and avoiding water – but sometimes they may just need a fresh bath!
Bathing your cat can be a little bit of a challenge, and since cats like to clean themselves, you may be wondering how often you really need to bathe your cat.
Here’s what you need to know about giving your cat a bath, as well as tips to make this particular challenge a little bit easier!
What to Consider Before You Bathe A Cat
Some cats need to be bathed more than others, and this will really depend on your cat and your lifestyle. Here’s what to consider before you give your cat a bath.
Is the bath necessary?
There’s no denying that sometimes a bath is necessary. The most common reason for a cat to need a bath is because they’ve got something toxic on their coats – or because they cannot remove something from their coats.
You may also have been prescribed medicated shampoo by your veterinarian for allergies or parasites, in which case this is another good reason to bathe your cat.
Cats find bathing stressful
Baths are generally stressful for most cats, especially when they haven’t had one before, so they should only be done when absolutely necessary, as discussed above. Stress can make cats ill as well as encourage behavioural problems, so consider your cat’s welfare before you decide to put them in the water! If your cat’s bath is necessary, but they’re likely to be very stressed by the experience, consider asking a vet about sedative options.
So how often should you bathe a cat?
If you have an indoor cat, you may not necessarily need to bathe them unless they get into a mess. This is because cats are very efficient at grooming themselves. Their tongues have very small barbs on them that effectively remove debris from their fur.
Cats also love to be clean – you’ve probably already noticed that self-grooming is a huge part of your cat’s daily routine. Because of this, you really shouldn’t have to worry much about bathing your indoor cat regularly unless they get older and are unable to clean themselves.
However, it may be a different story if you have an outdoor cat. Most cats still should not need to be bathed regularly, but the likelihood of them getting themselves into a mess is much higher if they go outside. Still, the advice is not to bathe them unless it’s necessary.
What are the benefits of bathing a cat?
While cats are perfectly capable of cleaning themselves effectively, there are some benefits to giving your cat an occasional bath.
The biggest benefit is that it will keep your cat cleaner – a bath can also remove dead skin cells, loose hair, and small pieces of debris that may have gotten stuck in your cat’s fur. Whilst your cat might have got rid of these naturally, a bath will generally do it quicker.
Freshly bathed cats will also smell lovely and clean, and their coat will often be shiny – and it’s for these reasons that people that show their cats will bathe them before a show.
Bathing your cat can also help keep your house clean, because it will minimize shedding and can prevent your cat from tracking dirt around your house.
Tips For Bathing A Cat
Since cats typically don’t enjoy water, giving them a bath can be very tricky. A little bit of advance preparation can make bathing your cat much easier. Here are some tips to make bathing your cat easier.
Play with your cat ahead of time to tire them out
Your cat will be more likely to cooperate with a bath if they are tired and relaxed. To get them in this state, try playing with them earlier in the day. After they’ve run around and calmed down, they might be more likely to cooperate with a bath.
Brush them thoroughly before putting them in the water
A good brushing session will remove loose fur, making it much easier to bathe your cat. This is particularly important for long haired cats, who are more likely to get clumps of matted fur or get small pieces of dirt stuck in their fur.
Use warm water
If the water is too hot or too cold, your cat might start to feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable. Remember that a cat’s body temperature runs at least a degree hotter than a human’s – so they’ll need a slightly warmer bath than lukewarm – about a degree warmer than you would for a baby.
Consider using a handheld sprayer
Many cats understandably will not want to go directly into a full bath of water. In these cases, your cat may respond better to being wet down with a handheld sprayer. A sprayer is less intense, but is still an efficient way to get your cat nice and clean.
Use a rubber mat to keep your cat comfortable
One of the reasons why cats hate baths so much is because the surface of the bathtub is slippery, so it’s difficult for them to get on even footing. A rubber mat gives them a stable surface to stand on so they won’t feel out of control.
You should also make sure you have towels in the area surrounding the bathtub, not only to dry them off but also to dry off nearby surfaces so they won’t slip.
Follow the instructions on your shampoo
Make sure you follow the instructions on your cat shampoo to get the right ratio for use. Some shampoos should also be left in contact with the skin for a period of time before rinsing. Make sure you’re familiar with all instructions before you use your shampoo. Start at their head and work your way back to their tail, then rinse thoroughly.
You may also want to use a washcloth for their face, as this will feel much more gentle.
Distract your cat with a toy
If you put a small floating toy in the water, it can distract your cat from the stress of the bath. This is a good way to make the bath a little more enjoyable for them. Treats just within reach can also work well.
How To Bathe A Kitten
Kittens can struggle to regulate their body temperature and get hypothermic easily, so you have to be extremely careful if you’re bathing a kitten. As with adult cats, most kittens don’t need to be bathed – there are limited scenarios where bathing a kitten is a good idea. If you can avoid it and use a damp cloth or wet comb to ‘groom’ your kitten instead, you should do so.
If you do find you need to bathe a kitten, here are some tips for bathing kittens.
Use the kitchen sink
A full bathtub will likely be too large for your kitten, so use the kitchen sink, or a washing up bowl instead for an easier, more comfortable experience.
Lower your kitten into the water to soak and rinse
While the spray bottle method works well for older cats, it’s more efficient to quickly soak your kitten in water. Make sure you’re holding them securely, and lower them gently into the water to get them wet.
Massage thoroughly with cat shampoo, and then repeat the process to rinse off.
Make sure you thoroughly dry your kitten after a bath – keep the house warm and ensure they don’t get out or go anywhere drafty until they’re completely dry.
Bathing your cat can be a challenge, but it may be necessary if they’ve rolled in lily pollen or oil. Hopefully our tips will help you bathe your cat safely – Happy Bathing!