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How to Bathe a Cat & How Often You Should Do It

How to Bathe a Cat & How Often You Should Do It

Most cats dislike water and are pretty good at keeping themselves clean. But there might come a time when your furry friend needs a proper bath. In this blog, our Little Elm vets will walk you through the fundamental steps of bathing your cat. 

Do cats need to be bathed?

Cats are great at keeping themselves clean, so luckily, we don't have to give them baths very often.

Tiny, curved barbs cover a cat's rough tongue. These barbs spread saliva across a cat's fur. Think of this act as a mini spa treatment - each lap spreads healthy natural oils across her skin and coat. These little spines also function as natural detanglers, so you'll often see your feline friend biting and licking at clumps of fur - it's his way of smoothing everything out. 

However, giving your cat occasional baths can help reduce shedding and prevent hairballs. 

How often should you bathe a cat?

Sometimes, your kitten or cat may need a bath for specific reasons. If they accidentally swallow something harmful like antifreeze, paint, gasoline, motor oil, or anything that can get on their fur and prove harmful, it will need to be washed off immediately. 

Baths can also be helpful for certain skin issues that some cats experience, like seborrhead, which makes their skin red, itchy, and flaky skin. Your veterinarian may also recommend medicated baths for treating other health conditions, including ringworm or severe flea allergies. 

Senior or overweight cats might have trouble cleaning themselves effectively, so giving them baths can be beneficial. If your cat has long hair, it's a good idea to bathe them every couple of months to prevent their fur from tangling. And for hairless breeds like the Sphynx, regular weekly baths are usually necessary because their skin can get oily and leave residue on fabrics.

How do you bathe a cat?

Just like bathing a baby, bathing a cat requires everything that you need to be within arm's reach. You should have:

  • A shower or bath with a handheld showerhead.
  • Several towels were used to clean her off and help her dry.
  • Special cat shampoo and conditioner.

You should never use human shampoo or conditioner as it has a different PH level to the sort suitable for cats and could damage your pet's hair or skin.

Pre-Bath Prep

Before you start, you should brush your cat to remove any knots or tangles, particularly if she is a long-furred breed.

Set the water temperature to warm and have it running through the showerhead at a medium-level spray.

The Bath

When giving your cat a bath, follow these steps to keep her calm and comfortable:

  • Gently place her into the shower tray or bath.
  • Place them in the shower or bathtub gently
  • Using a showerhead from above is less stressful
  • Hold her by the scruff of her neck or use a harness if she's feisty
  • Start washing her with gentle strokes, avoiding stressing her out
  • Use a small amount of shampoo; your cat might not be as dirty as you think
  • Rinse thoroughly, then repeat with conditioner
  • Be careful around her eyes and nose to avoid discomfort. 

Drying Off

After you've cleaned your cat, gently pat her dry with a towel. Some cats get scared of hair dryers, so if your cat isn't afraid, you can try using it on low heat and speed to dry her. You might need to put her in a carrier for this. Another option is to let her stay in a warm bathroom until her fur is completely dry. The key is to make sure she's fully dry before letting her roam the house. Wet cats can get cold, which can make them sick, especially kittens, which can be at risk of dangerously low body temperatures.

How to Bathe a Cat Without Getting Scratched

Many an owner has puzzled over the question of how to bathe a cat that hates water, as most cats do. Some cats will tolerate baths, but others simply won't. When a bath is inevitable, staying calm will help you both. Here are a few tips to help ease some stress so your cat is less likely to try to scratch and claw their way to freedom:

  • Choose a time after she's eaten or played, as she'll be more mellow
  • If possible, trim her nails before the bath, filing the ends as well after they're clipped to dull them
  • Plan for a short grooming session to make handling her fur much easier
  • Recruit a friend to help so one of you can hold the cat while the other bathes them
  • Minimize running water; the sound causes many cats to panic, and the last thing you want is to grab a slippery, sharp cat
  • Fill a sink with a few inches of warm water and wash only the parts you need to, then rinse thoroughly
  • Use a washcloth around the face and ears

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

Bathing your cat is sometimes necessary. For tips on how to keep them calm and advice on conditions that may need examination, contact our Little Elm vets today.

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