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How to Bathe a Cat

Cats are well-known for their aversion to water and their meticulous self-cleaning habits. In this article, our Sonora vets guide you through the steps of bathing your cat, even if they have a strong dislike for water.

Do Cats Need To Be Bathed?

Due to their exceptional self-cleaning abilities, cats typically do not require frequent baths.

A cat's tongue is equipped with numerous small, curved barbs that effectively distribute their saliva across their fur. This natural grooming mechanism acts as a miniature spa treatment, spreading healthy oils throughout their coat and skin. The barbs on their tongue also assist in detangling their fur, explaining why you may often observe your feline companion meticulously licking and biting at any knots or clumps, ensuring that their fur remains smooth and well-groomed.

However, routine bathing either at home or with our professional pet groomers can help reduce the amount of hair loss and prevent hairballs. 

How Often Should You Bathe a Cat?

Kittens and cats, being naturally inquisitive, sometimes find themselves in situations that require a bath. For instance, if they have accidentally ingested harmful substances like gasoline, antifreeze, paint, or motor oil, it becomes crucial to wash off these substances from their fur immediately to prevent any harm.

In addition, some cats may develop skin conditions such as seborrhea, characterized by itchy, flaky, and red skin. A bath can help provide relief for these conditions. Medicated baths may also be recommended by your veterinarian to address other health issues like severe flea allergies or ringworm.

Obese or senior cats may experience difficulty in grooming themselves effectively, making regular baths beneficial for them. It is advisable to bathe long-haired cats every couple of months to minimize the chances of their fur becoming matted. Hairless breeds like the Sphynx may require weekly bathing due to the oily residue that can transfer onto fabrics.

Understanding when and why your cat may require a bath allows you to address specific situations and ensure their well-being and comfort. Consulting with your veterinarian can provide further guidance on the appropriate bathing frequency and techniques tailored to your cat's individual needs.ics. 

How Do You Bathe a Cat?

Similar to giving a baby a bath, you'll want everything you need to be in arm's reach when you're bathing a cat. Have these items at your side:

  • Special cat shampoo and conditioner
  • Several towels to help clean and dry him
  • A shower or bath with a handheld showerhead 

Never use human shampoo or conditioner since it has a different pH level than the kind suitable for cats and may damage your pet's skin or fur. 

Prepare Your Cat's Bath

Before you start you should brush your cat to remove any knots or tangles, particularly if he 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

While talking to your cat and offering lots of reassurance and praise, gently place her into the shower tray or bath. Using a showerhead from above is significantly less stressful for your pet as she is far more likely to be used to being rained on than she is being lowered into 4 inches of tepid water!

Hold your cat in place by her scruff, or use a harness if you think she is going to be tricky to control. Begin washing her gently using soft confident strokes. Cats are very intuitive at picking up stress, so if you seem stressed she will be on edge too, and far more likely to lash out or try to make a run for it! Apply small amounts of shampoo. Make sure you rinse clean and then repeat with the conditioner. Take care to avoid her eyes and nose.

Drying Off

Once she is clean you should towel-dry your cat as much as possible. Some cats are petrified of hair dryers. If your feline friend isn’t then you could consider trying to dry her using a low heat and speed. You may need to confine her to a carrier in order to do this. Alternatively, you could leave your cat in the warm bathroom until her coat is totally dry. The important thing is to ensure that she is thoroughly dried before going into other parts of the house.

Damp cats can easily become chilled which can make them unwell, or in the case of kittens, particularly low body temperatures can be life-threatening.

How to Bathe a Cat That Hates Water

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:

  • Stay calm. Since cats tend to pick up on their owner's energy, staying calm yourself may help to keep your cat calm. You may want to use a calming diffuser in the bathroom to mimic pheromones that help a cat know the environment is safe and secure. 
  • Allow your cat time to get used to the idea of a bath by getting the paws wet, and giving him treats. You may try floating a kitty toy in the water. As your cat gradually gets more comfortable with water, get him more wet. He may also need comfort during his bath.
  • 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 or tub with a few inches of warm water and wash only the parts you need to, then rinse thoroughly. Have another side of the sink or tub to wash out all the flea product, shampoo or conditioner. 
  • Use a washcloth around the face and ears.
  • 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.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Some owners find it difficult to bathe their cat. For advice on making the process easier or to schedule a professional grooming session, contact our vets at Mono Way Veterinary

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Mono Way Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! All of our knowledgeable vets are passionate about helping companion animals in Sonora feel happy and healthy. Contact us to schedule your pet's appointment.

(209) 532-5507