It's common knowledge that cats dislike getting wet, which can make bathing them a struggle. Here, our Meadow Vista vets discuss how and how often you should bathe your cat.
The Importance of Bathing Your Cat
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 professional groomers can help reduce the amount of hair that is lost and prevent hairballs.
How Often You Should Bathe Your 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 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 of months or so 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.
Bathing Your 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 it has a different PH level to the sort suitable for cats and could damage your pet’s hair or skin.
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
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.
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 low heat and speed. You may need to confine her to her carrier 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 Fussy Cat
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.