It’s safe to say that for most cats, they do not take to water well. Thankfully for them, cats can spend up to 50% of their waking hours grooming to clean and cover themselves with their scent, so cat owners do not actually need to bathe them much.
On some rare occasions though, you would have to give them a quick shower, such as when:
- Your cat has soiled himself or is covered in filth
- Your cat is a hairless breed, in which case they’ll need to have a bath once a week because of their oily and sweaty skin
- Your cat is a recent rescue from the street and is exceedingly dirty and/or is covered with fleas
- Your cat is elderly and doesn’t groom much anymore, or you have a long-haired breed that needs more help in maintaining its hygiene (You only need to bathe them once every 4-6 weeks, or give them a wipe down more regularly with a pet-safe wet wipe.)
Here’s how to gently ease them into baths:
Note: Elderly and ill cats may not cope well with bathing, so we recommend consulting with your veterinarian first before attempting to shower them.
Determine the shampoo type
If your cat has a specific problem such as fleas or a skin infection, choose a specialised shampoo that is specially formulated for the problem and recommended by your vet.
For example, if your cat has fleas, there are shampoos made to remove fleas and prevent them from laying eggs, and there are medicated shampoo for cats that can be used to treat bacterial skin infections, yeast infections, skin allergies, and dandruff. Otherwise, a simple grooming shampoo labeled specifically for cats would suffice.
However, remember to read all product instructions carefully before using them on your cat!
Go slow and steady
Spraying your cat with water can be a frightful experience for them, so try to bathe them in a bath if possible, or use a ladle to scoop water onto them slowly. Otherwise, use your spray nozzle on a low force and keep the nozzle close to the fur so that your cat doesn’t see the spray.
Offer plenty of praise and reassurance throughout the bath, and use treats or toys as a distraction.
Never spray or splash your cat with water in the face, either! Instead, use a damp cloth to wipe down that area carefully, and make sure to avoid getting water in its ears, eyes, and nose. If your cat starts struggling, do not force it to stay in the water. Carry it out, calm it down, and use a wet cloth to wipe off the dirt instead.
Ensure that your cat can stand in the bath
Cats hate the insecure footing of slippery surfaces, and not being able to stand firmly on its feet will make the whole bathing experience very stressful. To allow your cat to stand and feel more at ease, try placing a towel or rubber mat on the bottom of the tub or sink that you’re using to bathe your cat.
The water level in the bath should also come up to no higher than your cat’s belly when it’s standing, and the water temperature should be slightly warm at around body temperature, so that your cat doesn’t catch a cold. Take note to keep one hand on your cat at all times to prevent escapes.
Dry your cat thoroughly
Always make sure to dry your cat thoroughly so that it does not catch a cold or develop skin infections. Wrap your cat in a dry towel and towel-dry your cat as best as you can – be prepared to use more than just one towel for long-haired breeds! Or, if your cat tolerates or enjoys the blow dryer, use only the lowest heat setting to avoid burns.
Some cats will enjoy the bath and others will not. Regardless, always remain patient and refrain from scolding your cat during the bath. Instead, use plenty of praises and rewards, and if your cat is still hating the bath, rinse off the soap and try again next time after you’ve consulted with your vet or a professional groomer for tips on how to make getting clean a stress-free experience for your kitty.