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

Although we all know that cats dislike water and are constantly cleaning themselves, there are times when they require a bath. Our Orange Park veterinarians can help.

Do Cats Need to Be Bathed? 

Cats are very good at cleaning themselves, so thankfully for us, our feline friends won't need to be bathed very often.

The rough tongue of a cat is covered in tiny curved barbs that carry saliva across its fur. Each lap spreads healthy natural oils across her coat and skin, making it feel like a mini spa treatment. Those little spines also act as natural detanglers, which is why you'll often see your cat licking and biting at clumps of fur until they're smoothed out.

That being said, routine bathing either at home or with experienced groomers can help reduce the amount of hair that is lost and prevent hairballs. 

How Often Should You Bathe a Cat?

Certain circumstances require you to give a cat or kitten a bath. If they've gotten into something they shouldn’t ingest, such as motor oil, antifreeze, gasoline, or paint. Basically, anything that gets on her fur that could be harmful needs to be washed off immediately. 

Some cats can develop skin conditions that are soothed with bathing, such as seborrhea, a disorder that causes flakey, red, and itchy skin. Your veterinarian might also recommend medicated baths for treating other health conditions, such as severe flea allergies or ringworm.

Cats that are old or obese find it difficult to groom themselves and may benefit from regular baths. To avoid fur matting, cats with long hair should be bathed every couple of months or so. Hairless breeds, such as the Sphynx, should be bathed about once a week because they leave an oily 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 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 than 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

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!

If you think your cat will be difficult to control, hold her by her scruff or use a harness. Begin gently washing her with soft, confident strokes. Cats are very good at picking up on stress, so if you're stressed, she'll be on edge as well, and she'll be far more likely to lash out or flee!

Apply small amounts of shampoo – she’s probably not as dirty as you think she is! Make sure you rinse clean and then repeat with the conditioner. Take care to avoid her eyes and nose.

Drying Off

Once your cat is clean, try to towel-dry her as much as possible. Hair dryers are terrifying to some cats. If your feline companion isn't, you could try drying her with low heat and speed. To accomplish this, you may need to confine her to a carrier. You could also leave your cat in a warm bathroom until her coat is completely dry. The most important thing is to make sure she's completely dry before moving on to other areas of the house. Damp cats can easily become chilled, causing them to become ill, or, in the case of kittens, life-threateningly low body temperatures.

How to Bathe a Cat Without That Hates Water

It's no secret that cats despise being near water. Baths are tolerated by some cats, but not by others. When a bath is unavoidable, staying calm will benefit you both. Here are a few stress-relieving tips to help your cat avoid scratching and clawing 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 pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Bathing your cat is sometimes necessary. For tips and tricks to help make the process easier, contact our team at Animal Friends Dermatology Service.

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