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

Do vets give cats baths

Do vets give cats baths

It’s common knowledge that cats dislike water or getting wet. And, our feline friends are constantly cleaning themselves. However, there are times in your cat’s life where they will require an actual bath. Here, our Johns Creek vets explain.

Do Cats Need to Be Bathed? 

Cats are excellent at keeping themselves clean so, thankfully for us, our feline friends don’t require bathing very often. 

A cat’s tongue is covered with tiny curved barbs that transfer saliva across their fur. This is like a miniature spa treatment since each lap spreads natural oils across their coat and skin, preserving the health of each. Those little spines work as natural detanglers, too, which is why you’ll often see your kitty licking and biting at fur clumps until she smooths everything out.  

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

How Often Should A Cat Be Bathed?

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 develop conditions that affect their skin which can be soothed through bathing such as seborrhea, a disorder that causes flakey, red, and itchy skin. Your vet may also recommend medicated baths for the treatment of other health conditions like severe fleas, allergies or ringworm. 

Cats that are old or obese will often be unable to properly groom themselves and may benefit from more routine bathing. Cats with long hair should be bathed every couple months or so in order to minimize the matting of their fur. Hairless breeds, like the Sphynx, probably need about once a week bathing as they have an oily residue that gets on fabrics.

How To 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:

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

You should never use human shampoo or conditioner as is 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

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 – 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, you should towel-dry them as much as possible. This is because many cats are quite scared of hair dryers. If your cat isn’t, then consider using a hair dryer to dry them using a low heat and speed. You may need to confine her to her carrier in order to do this. 

Alternatively, you can lead your cat in your warm bathroom until their coat dries on its own. The most important thing is to ensure that your feline companion is totally dry before venturing into other parts of your home. 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 Without Getting Scratched

It’s no secret that cats hate water. 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 that can help ease stress so your cat is less likely to try to scratch and claw their way to freedom:

  • Use a washcloth around the face and ears
  • Choose a time after she’s eaten or played, as she’ll be more mellow
  • 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
  • Fill a sink with a few inches of warm water and wash only the parts you need to, then rinse thoroughly
  • If possible, trim her nails before the bath, filing the ends as well after they’re clipped to dull them
  • Minimize running water, the sound causes many cats to panic, and the last thing you want is to grab a slippery, sharp cat

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.

— Update: 16-03-2023 — found an additional article The Death-Defying Art of Bathing a Cat from the website for the keyword do vets give cats baths.

Do vets give cats bathsHave you ever wondered “What in the world was I thinking?” after bathing, or attempting to bathe your cat? If so, we offer 10 best practices for the death-defying art of bathing a cat…and living to tell about it! But, first, you may be asking…

Why oh why would anyone bathe a cat?

It’s true; some cats never need to be bathed. They groom themselves and regular brushing is enough.

However, some cats have bad hygiene despite their natural grooming activities. For example, heavier cats can only clean where they are able to reach, and arthritic cats can have trouble reaching all areas. Those neglected areas can become dirty and irritated, or flakey.

Cats can get into icky things like antifreeze, gasoline or motor oil, leaving their coats greasy or sticky with things they shouldn’t lick. An indoor cat may have issues in the litter box or get into paint or ashes. Every cat is a potential candidate for bathing.

Read more  Benefits And Drawbacks of Feeding Stray Cats (Explained 2023)

Long-haired cats may not be able to keep up with the grooming requirements of their longer coats. Other cats may need bathing with flea or medicated shampoo, or need medicated baths for ringworm.

Why do cats hate water?

Not all cats hate water. Some domestic cats actually enjoy water, especially those in hot, dry climates. Their big cat relatives in hot climates often enjoy soaking in water. The water is cool and refreshing, so your cat may enjoy soaking in it too. We frequently see cats who enjoy sitting in the sink as cool water drips down on them. Arthritic felines may enjoy a warm-water bath and massage.

In cooler climates, cats may not enjoy the water because it makes them feel cold. It doesn’t help that baths also tend to make them feel vulnerable and uncomfortable.

First, Prepare!

Before even considering running a bath, recruit someone to help you. You’re going to need it! Next, gather your supplies. Your hands will be busy, so have everything within easy reach. We recommend thick rubber gloves, a towel, cat shampoo (available at pet stores or your vet), and a cup, pitcher, or gentle spray nozzle for rinsing. We highly recommend a few treats to reward or bribe your cat. Additional options are a rubber tub, cotton balls for cleaning kitty’s ears and perhaps a smaller cloth for cleaning kitty’s face.

Brush your cat before the bath to remove excess hair, tangles and mats. Then dress in long sleeves in case kitty turns into a mountain lion at first hint of water. Ready? Let’s begin.

Our 10-step method for surviving your cat’s bath

  1. Here’s a little secret: help your cat stay calm with Feliway spray or diffuser in the room, or administer a calming natural essence such as Scaredy Cat, or Bach Rescue Remedy. (Is this cheating? No, because everything is fair in bath wars!)
  2. Place a non-skid surface, like a wet towel, on the bottom of the sink or rubber tub you will be bathing your cat in. This will make your cat feel more secure. If you’re using a bathtub, we recommend placing a laundry basket or rubber tub inside the tub to help kitty feel more secure.
  3. Run 2-3 inches of lukewarm water. Make sure the water is finished running before you bring your cat in, or he or she may get scared by the sound.  
  4. Pick up your cat and carry him or her to the bathing area. If you call your cat, then you place them in the bath, they may associate being called with the bath and not come to you next time.

The Nitty Gritty

  1. Getting your cat wet – wet your cat starting at the nape of the neck and working your way to the tail. You can do this with a moveable sprayer or a cup or pitcher. Be careful not to get her head wet–cats especially hate a wet face.
  2. Use cat-specific shampoo – preferably with no smell – and lather your cat from tail to neck.
  3. Rinse with the pitcher, cup or gentle sprayer, being sure NOT to get soap or water on kitty’s face. Don’t forget to rinse those out-of-the-way places, like the belly, under arms, tail and neck.
  4. Use a damp washcloth to gently wipe your cat’s face if needed. You may want to use the cotton balls now to clean kitty’s ears (or wait until they’re out of the water).
  5. Lift your cat into a towel to dry him or her off (or maybe two towels–one when they’re very wet and a second one to finish). Rub your cat to remove as much water as possible and to ensure that kitty will be warm before you let them out. Warmth is important to cats! Use a blow-dryer for long-haired cats, but only if they’re okay with the noise.  
  6. If your cat freaks out – let him or her go. In most cases, don’t force your cat to take a bath. You could get hurt and your cat severely distressed. And please don’t yell at your kitty, no matter how frustrated you will likely get.

Most importantly, prepare for the revenge your cat will be plotting!

OVRS hopes our tips for defying death while bathing your cat are of help. Hopefully, your cat won’t need a bath. If they do, you now have the steps for the most “pleasant” experience possible. If your cat has a medical need for baths and freaks out every time you try, discuss options with your vet.

Or simply drop kitty at your local groomer (or call a mobile groomer) and they will do it all for you.

The cats meow

pet grooming

you and your pet

— Update: 18-03-2023 — found an additional article Bath Time! Why and How You Should Bathe Your Cat from the website for the keyword do vets give cats baths.

Do vets give cats baths

Does the thought of giving your cat a bath fill you with dread?

Do you have extra band-aids and Neosporin on hand for your post-bath wound care?

Whether you’re already bathing your cat regularly or trying to plan ahead for the inevitable day you’ll need to, it can feel daunting.

Most cats aren’t excited about being stuck in a tub full of water. That’s a bad day from a cat’s perspective. After all, they go to great lengths to keep themselves clean. So, how do you know when your cat needs some help in the bath department? And how on earth are you supposed to bathe them without having an epic battle in the tub? Don’t worry! We’re covering all the basics and then some!

Skip to:

  1. Getting Your Cat Comfortable With Baths
  2. Don’t Want to Bathe Your Cat?
  3. Limit the Baths You Give Your Cat
  4. Cat Bath Supplies

Do Cats Need to Be Bathed?

Generally, no. Cats don’t need us to bathe them. They’re experts in staying clean. In fact, fur covered in water can feel dirty to a cat. It’s a foreign substance they don’t want on their coat. They do a great job keeping themselves clean.

But there are times when your cat may need a traditional bath.

  • Mobility: Senior cats (8+ years old) are prone to joint pain, arthritis, and other issues limiting their mobility. If your cat isn’t physically able to reach part of their body, they may need your help with bathing.
  • Safety/Emergency: A bath is a must if your cat gets into something they shouldn’t ingest. Chemicals, oils, and even the pollen of true lilies can be dangerous if your cat licks them off. If you’ve put your dog’s flea control product on your cat, you will definitely need to bathe them, as pyrethroids are extremely toxic to cats. You should be seeking veterinary help as well.
  • Messy poop booty: Sometimes things get messy at the backend, and a pet wipe won’t cut it.
  • Long coat care: Long-haired breeds may need baths to keep their coat free of painful mats — though daily brushing can go a long way to cut back on that need, as well as sanitary area trims.
  • Lack of energy: If your cat is lethargic from age or medical issues, bathing themselves may not be high on their priority list.
  • Wound care: If your cat has been injured, your veterinarian may recommend bathing as part of wound care. In this case, it’s vitally important that you follow their instructions to the letter.
  • Skin conditions: Cats with allergies, fleas, ringworm, or other skin conditions may need special or medicated baths for treatment. Again, following your veterinarian’s instructions is key.
  • Weight: Similar to cats with arthritis, overweight cats can’t always reach every spot of their body to properly clean themselves.

Read more  5 Cat Foods for Urinary Health

Do vets give cats baths

Getting Your Cat Comfortable with Baths

Some cats enjoy water. But most prefer to avoid getting wet. If your cat is comfortable in water, consider yourself lucky. Slowly introducing them to the bathing process is still a good idea.

If your cat doesn’t like water, you have a little more work to do before their first real bath. It’s important to remember that this is not normal for your cat. In fact, they’re instinctively programmed not to do what you’re about to make them do. So, please be patient and understanding.

Throughout this process, remember that cats put their guard up if they don’t have choice and control in a situation. This is what keeps them alive in the wild. They don’t respond well to being forced into going somewhere or doing something before they’ve confirmed it’s safe. And they feel at risk if they don’t have the choice to leave to protect themselves. Respecting this need will make bath time much easier. 

Before You Give Your Cat a Bath

  • Trim your cat’s nails so they have more stability in the bathtub or sink and can’t scratch you as easily.
  • Brush their coat to remove any debris and loose fur.
  • Have all your supplies ready next to the bathtub or sink. See our list of must-have supplies below.
  • Pre-warm the water before putting your cat in.
  • Turn up your “patience” dial.

Do vets give cats bathsSteps to Bathing Your Cat 

The following steps take you through the desensitization and bathing process. It may take several sessions to get your cat comfortable.

  • Don’t try to go from fear of water to fully bathed in one day. Try a minute or two here and there and gradually work up to an actual bath.
  • As you introduce your cat to water, take baby steps and let them leave when they want to leave. You want the experience to be positive, so they won’t resist. When you get to the shampoo step, they should be willing to stay in the bathtub.
  • Most importantly, reward, reward, reward during each step!

Step 1: Consider starting with a big bowl or sink with a little water. Give your cat a reason to investigate and splash around by dropping in some toys. You can even get mechanical fish toys that swim around. Have treats handy to reward them for engaging with the water. You’re already building positive associations with getting wet.

Step 2: Next, fill the front of the bathtub with a very small amount of lukewarm water, just an inch or two. Leave the back half of the tub empty, so your cat has a dry place to stand. Place a textured mat across part of the dry and water-filled area.

Step 3: Use a toy or treat to lure them into the dry end of the tub. Avoid picking them up and putting them in the tub. That removes their choice, and their instinct will be to jump right back out. They’re more likely to stay if they choose to go in after the toy or treat.

Step 4: As you did in the first step, encourage them to investigate the water and reward them. Use toys and treats to lure them into the water if they’re willing. If not, work in the dry end of the tub. 

Step 5: Very gradually start to get their fur wet. Start with a wet hand, sprinkling a tiny bit of water on the legs or back. Increase the amount of water over multiple sessions until you can use a plastic cup to pour water over them. Avoid the head, so you don’t get soap or water in the eyes and ears. In time, you may even be able to use a pet water wand. But that’s down the road a ways. To protect your cat’s eyes you can use artificial tears.

Step 6: Before you use shampoo for the first time, get them used to the handling. While your cat is wet, rub your hands around their body like you will when you’re shampooing them.

Step 7: When they’ll allow you to rinse and pretend-shampoo them, and they’re willing to stay in the tub, you can use a small amount of shampoo. Be sure to rinse thoroughly to avoid skin irritation. It’s best to use soap-free, hypo-allergenic shampoo. Follow the same steps if using a conditioner, although there are some leave-in conditioners. 

Step 8: Dry them as much as possible with a towel. Most cats see water on their fur as a foreign substance, and will start obsessively grooming to get rid of it. A wet coat can also be heavy and cold. The dryer they are, the better they’ll feel.

Step 9: If you want to use an air dryer, you’ll need to go through a similar, very slow desensitization process. That’s another experience your cat doesn’t expect in everyday life. Be sure to use an air dryer designed for small pets or a human hair dryer on the lowest heat and airflow setting. Regularly run the dryer over your skin to check that it’s cool.

Step 10: End on a positive note with the biggest and best reward. This is where an all-time favorite treat or big play session is perfect!

Grooming your cat in between baths is a great time to check for fleas, remove excess fur, and build a stronger bond through brushing. Click here for tips.

Do vets give cats baths

What If You Don’t Want to Bathe Your Cat?

You can help keep your cat clean without all the water. Unless your cat needs a full bath, I’d lean on these options. They’re less intrusive and unnatural for your cat, leaving more of their scent intact.

  • Pet wipes – look for pet-safe, unscented, hypoallergenic options, like these. And remember, just because it’s made for a cat doesn’t mean it’s good for a cat. Just the other day, I bought some wipes. When I got home, I realized they were citrus scented. Cats have a natural aversion to citrus! That would be like me walking around all day smelling like broccoli. I’d never do that to my cat. 
  • A wet washcloth – you can target specific messy spots or give a light, all-over wipe down without adding a lot of water and weight to their coat.
  • Dry pet shampoo – again, look for natural, unscented, hypoallergenic options if possible. We provide a few good waterless shampoos in this list.
  • A good brush – often, removing loose fur and debris is all your cat needs. We have brush recommendations for different coat types.
  • Don’t use products made for people unless directed by your veterinarian.

Why You Should Limit Baths for Your Cat

If you have more than one cat, you’ve probably experienced non-recognition aggression. You take one cat to the vet. When they come home, their buddy cat gets aggressive. That’s because the cat who went to the vet has a different smell. That’s how important a cat’s natural scent is. They’re unrecognizable if it changes. They will use scent, even before sight, to distinguish friend from foe. A bath, and especially one with scented products, can alter their scent. Not only can this cause problems between cats, but it’s also stressful for the bathed cat to suddenly smell different.

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Your cat’s coat is also full of natural oils that are important for their fur and skin. A bath washes those away.

Reserve baths for those times when they’re really necessary. But it’s still a terrific idea to get your cat comfortable with water. They may learn to enjoy it. And you’ll both be prepared for that inevitable day when they roll around in something they shouldn’t.

Supplies for Bathing Your Cat

You’ll need a few things for bathing your cat safely, and for the desensitization process to get them comfortable in water.

  • Bathtub or large sink
  • Textured mat to keep your cat from slipping. A regular bath mat, yoga mat, or a plush towel will do.
  • Unscented cat shampoo and conditioner – even some natural ingredients have a strong scent. Soap-free, hypoallergenic is also a great option. Check out our list of pet-safe shampoo and conditioners, including unscented ones.
  • Artificial tears to protect your cat’s eyes from the shampoo.
  • Ear cleaner is beneficial to dry their ears. Even one drop of water can cause an issue. And ear cleaner is another thing to get your cat used to accepting.
  • Plastic cup or similar container to rinse their fur
  • Water-friendly toys for enticing engagement in the tub
  • Favorite treats to reward behavior
  • Calming treats like VetriScience Composure. You can pre-treat to calm them before bathtime.
  • Large towel
  • Pheromones – these plug-in diffusers are often used in veterinary exam rooms to calm cats. It may help take the edge off for your anxious cat. Plug it in 30 minutes before starting bathtime.

— Update: 03-04-2023 — found an additional article Cat Bathing: Do They Really Need It? from the website for the keyword do vets give cats baths.

Are you a cat owner? Do you feel like your cat isn’t as clean as she could be? Does she need a bath? The short answer to whether or not cat bathing is needed is “sometimes.” Although it might not be your idea of a great time (or your cat’s!), it’s important to know when you should give your cat a bath and when you can skip it.

Do vets give cats baths

6 Situations When Your Cat Needs Bathing

In this article, you’ll find out more about the situations in which your cat needs some help with her grooming. You can use this information to decide whether or not it’s time to bathe your feline friend.

6 situations when cat bathing is needed include, but aren’t limited to:

Healthy Adult Shorthaired Cats

Most healthy adult cats with short hair do not need to be given a bath regularly. Although there may be situations that arise that require your cat to be bathed, for the most part, you can let her do her own thing in terms of her bathing and grooming.

However, if your cat is prone to getting mats in her fur, she may need to have a bath every so often. A few baths a year are usually enough to help shorthaired cats who are prone to fur matting.

Longhaired Cats

Longhaired cats are another story. Many longhaired cats simply can’t keep up with their own grooming needs, and they may develop chronic hairballs from trying. If your cat is having trouble grooming herself because of her long, luxurious fur, you may want to help her out a little bit.

Get your cat used to having regular baths so you can bathe her more easily. For longhaired cats, it’s best to have a bath about once every six weeks or so. You should also be brushing your longhaired cat at least every week or more often if possible.

Cats with Fleas

When your cat comes down with an infestation of fleas, it’s definitely time for a bath. A serious case of fleas can only be resolved with a bath and the proper treatment for the flea issue after that. This type of bath should be given by a veterinarian or a groomer if possible.

After a flea bath, it’s important to check your cat’s skin for signs of irritation. Since the type of shampoo used for bathing a cat with fleas is a little bit harsher than the norm, your cat may have some skin irritation following her flea dip.

Cats with Very Dirty Fur

Sometimes, cats get into things they shouldn’t. This is just part of being a cat! However, in some instances, those things are very dirty. Your cat may end up covered in mud or could wind up with something stuck in her fur. In these situations, cat bathing will be very important.

You should be prepared to give your cat a bath in these one-off instances, even if you don’t usually bathe her. However, your cat may not be as prepared for this as you are, so consider working with a groomer or vet if necessary.

Older Cats

When your cat gets older, she may have trouble cleaning herself the way she used to. She may not be able to reach all the parts of her back, and she may have trouble cleaning her genital region and tail because of this, too. Older cats have trouble with mobility and therefore can’t bend like they once did.

You may need to help your older cat with her bathing routine. However, it’s also important not to overly stress your cat at this point in her life. Cats who are older and need grooming help may do well with waterless shampoo.

Overweight Cats

Overweight cats may have many of the same mobility issues as older cats, even if they’re still young. They may not be able to groom themselves well because of their size, and you might need to help your cat take care of her coat if she is overweight.

Although this is fine for a short time, you also need to address your cat’s weight moving forward. If your cat is overweight, this condition can lead to serious illnesses and may cause your cat to become diabetic. Talk to your veterinarian for more information about helping your cat lose weight in a healthy way.

Call The Village Vets for More Advice on Cat Bathing

As you can see, there are some situations when it’s necessary to give your cat a bath. For the vast majority of the time, however, it’s better to just let your cat take care of her own grooming needs.

If you do need to bathe your cat but you don’t think you can do it yourself, look around for a reputable groomer who also handles cats. If there are none in your area, your vet may be able to help by giving your cat a bath and taking care of her ears, nails, and other general cleaning needs.

For more information on cat bathing, don’t hesitate to contact our team at The Village Vets! We’re here to help you with all of your cat’s needs.