Giving a Cat a Bath: A How-To Guide

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's can also be a great way to give her a healthy coat and healthy skin.

Whether you're looking to pamper her or clean her up from her 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. 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. VCA Animal Hospitals points out that "sometimes two hands isn't enough when dealing with four paws," so it's recommended that you enlist a trusted friend or family member to help out. For obvious reasons, a fellow cat lover who understands how to properly handle a cat is best.

2. Gloves and Protective Clothing

Washing your cat can be a contact sport, so you should prepare yourself with the right equipment. Thick, vinyl dishwashing gloves (you know, the yellow ones) will protect your hands and forearms. Long sleeves are a good idea, too. Basically, expose as little skin as possible just in case kitty reaches out to scratch. Pet parents also have been known to wear goggles due to excessive splashing.

3. Towels

You'll need one washcloth for your cat's face and head, a second for her body and one big bath towel to wrap her up in afterward. Have extra towels on hand for the unexpected.

Gray and white kitten being washed in a kitten sink.

4. 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 she doesn't have any allergies to any of the included ingredients.

5. Treats

Unless she's a rare exception, your cat will not be very happy with you after bath time. It may be a good idea to have some of her favorite kibble on hand to reward her for getting through the experience.

Let the Bath 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 place your cat 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, or a clean, separate washcloth.

When she's 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.

As PetMD points out, 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 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 Obrien

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


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