Cat owners know that their feline friends generally hate water and are constantly cleaning themselves, but there are times that they will require an actual bath. Our Kennesaw vets are here to share some tips on making the process go smoother.
Do Cats Really Need A Bath?
Thankfully, cats are very good at cleaning themselves, so they generally won't need to be bathed very often.
A cat’s rough tongue is covered with tiny curved barbs that transfer saliva across their fur. This is like a mini spa treatment, as each lick spreads healthy natural oils across their coat and skin. Those little spines work as natural detanglers, too, which is why you’ll often see your kitty licking and biting at fur clumps until they smooth 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 might require you to give a cat or kitten a bath. If they've gotten into something they shouldn’t ingest (e.g. motor oil, antifreeze, gasoline, paint, chocolate) or anything harmful gets on their fur needs to be washed off immediately.
Some cats can develop skin conditions that are soothed by baths, 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 who are old or obese often can't groom themselves effectively could benefit from regular baths. Cats with long hair should be bathed every couple of months or so to minimize fur matting. 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:
- A shower or bath with a handheld showerhead.
- Several towels to clean them off and help them dry and warm.
- Special cat shampoo and conditioner.
You should never use human shampoo or conditioner as is has a different PH level from that suitable for cats and could damage your pet’s hair or skin and irritate their eyes and mucus membranes.
Before you start you should brush your cat to remove any knots or tangles, particularly if they're 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 them into the shower tray or bath. Using a showerhead from above is significantly less stressful for your pet as they're far more likely to be used to being rained on than they are being lowered into 4 inches of tepid water!
Hold your cat in place by the scruff, or use a harness if you think they are going to be tricky to control. Begin washing them gently using soft confident strokes. Cats are very intuitive at picking up stress, so if you seem stressed they 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 – they're probably not as dirty as you think they are! Make sure you rinse clean and then repeat with the conditioner. Take care to avoid the eyes and nose.
Once they're clean you should towel-dry your cat as much as possible. Some cats are terrified of hair dryers, but if your feline friend isn’t then you could consider trying to dry them using a low heat and speed. You may need to confine them to a carrier in order to do this. Alternatively, you could leave your cat in the warm bathroom until their coat is totally dry. The important thing is to ensure that they are thoroughly dried before going into other parts of the house. Damp cats can easily become chilled which can make them unwell, or in the case of kittens, low body temperatures can be life-threatening.
How to Bathe a Cat Without Getting Scratched
It's no secret that most cats are no fan of getting wet. Some cats will tolerate baths, but others simply won't. If a bath is inevitable, remaining 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:
- Choose a time after your cat has eaten or played, as they'll be calmer
- If possible, carefully trim their nails before the bath, filing the ends as well after to dull them
- Plan for a short grooming session to make handling their fur much easier
- Draft a friend to help so one of you can hold the cat while the other bathes them
- Minimize running water around your cat, as the sound causes many cats to panic (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 soft, damp washcloth around the face and ears (don't get water inside their 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.