Bathing a cat with as little trauma as possible

Bathing a cat with as little trauma as possible

While dogs tend to need the occasional bath to keep them sweet smelling and in good condition, cats are very clean animals that do not, as a general rule need bathing. Cats certainly shouldn’t be bathed regularly or for no good reason, and many cats will live out their whole lives without ever needing to have to suffer through a bath!

With the exception of hairless cats breeds, which should be bathed regularly and generally very much enjoy being bathed when this is done right, most domestic cats will only need to be bathed if they get something sticky, toxic or otherwise dangerous in their fur, or if they have a medical condition (such as a skin condition) that necessitates bathing. With these caveats in mind, in this article we will look at how to bath a cat when this is absolutely necessary, with the minimum amount of trauma for both you and your cat!

What do you need to bathe a cat?

In order to make bathing as quick and stress free as possible for your cat, have everything you will need for the procedure ready beforehand. Once you have your cat in the water, you will not want to have to leave them to go and get other things!

First of all, decide where you are going to bathe your cat- your best bet for this is a sink rather than a bath or shower, and certainly not with a hosepipe! The room that you are using should also have a door that can be closed, and of course, don’t forget the windows; a wet cat that is trying to escape can be very enterprising!

Have the following things ready to go:

  • A suitable gentle, cat-friendly shampoo.
  • Plenty of towels.
  • A comb.
  • A brush for longhaired cats.
  • A bathmat or something else to put on the floor.
  • Sensible shoes for you, which will not cause you to slip if the floor gets wet.
  • A jug or other vessel to use for rinsing.
  • Someone to help you may be useful, particularly if this is someone your cat already knows.
  • The cat… make sure that they are closed in before you get started!

How to bath a cat

Fill the sink with a couple of inches of water (not too deep) that is not too hot or too cold before you get going, and then catch your cat and close them into the bathing room with you.

Hold your cat firmly but gently, and place them into the water, being prepared for your cat to try to escape as soon as they hit the liquid! This is the first point at which it can be helpful to have an assistant, as one of you can hold and secure the cat while the other party does the bathing. Once your cat is in the water, use the jug to gently wet the rest of their fur down to the skin, avoiding the face area and keeping water from going into the cat’s ears.

Use the shampoo to lather up your cat’s body, taking care at all times to avoid the eyes, and not make your cat any soapier than they need to be! Work out any knots or dirt that you need to do, and then begin to rinse the cat, starting from the neck and working down the body. You will need lots of clean water to do this, and it is vital to ensure that you check the temperature of the water every time, before you douse your cat in it.

Use a wash cloth to clean your cat’s face, never pour water over their heads or soap up their faces. Try to keep water out of the eyes and the ears at all times. Rinse the shampoo off your cat thoroughly, until the water is completely clear.

Then, towel dry your cat by patting the water off them rather than rubbing it, and wrap them in a towel to finish off. Your cat will need to dry more thoroughly than towel drying will permit, but do not point a hairdryer at them! Close your cat into a warm room until they are dry, as this will give them the chance to dry out thoroughly and safely in their own time.

Top tips

  • Never push your cat’s head under the water, or douse them in water.
  • Do not use a pressured supply, such as a shower head.
  • Keep shampoo off your cat’s face.
  • Choose the shampoo carefully, with your vet’s advice if possible.
  • Leave no trace of shampoo on the skin.
  • Handle your cat calmly and carefully but firmly, and do not pull them around. However, you do need to be confident enough to manipulate your cat around in order to get the job done!
  • Keep bathing to a minimum, and never bathe your cat without a very good reason.


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