Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

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

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

Many cats strongly dislike water. They regularly groom themselves. However, there are occasions when they require a bath. Our veterinarians in Pittsboro provide guidance on bathing your cat in this article.

Do cats need to be bathed?

Cats are fantastic at cleaning themselves, so it's fortunate that our four-legged friends won't need to be bathed too often. 

A cat's tongue has tiny, curved barbs that distribute saliva on its fur, akin to a miniature spa treatment. This process spreads natural oils over their coat and skin.

These small barbs also function as natural detanglers, prompting cats to lick and bite at tangled fur to smooth it out.

However, routine bathing at home can help reduce the amount of hair loss and prevent hairballs from developing. 

How often should you bathe a cat?

Your kitten or cat may require a bath in specific situations. For instance, if they have consumed harmful substances like gasoline, antifreeze, paint, motor oil, or any materials that can adhere to their fur and pose a threat. It is essential to wash off these substances promptly.

For some cats, baths can soothe skin conditions that may include seborrhea, a disorder that results in flakey, itchy, red skin. Your veterinarian may also recommend medicated baths for treating other health conditions, including severe flea allergies or ringworm. 

Obese or senior cats might struggle to groom themselves effectively, and regular baths could be advantageous for them. Long-haired cats should be bathed approximately every two months to prevent their fur from becoming tangled. Hairless breeds like the Sphynx will typically require weekly baths due to the oily residue they leave on household fabrics.

How do you bathe a cat?

Think of how you prepare to bathe a baby; you have everything you need within arm's reach before you start. You should use the same rule of thumb when bathing a cat. Here are some items you'll want to have close by: 

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

Never use shampoo or conditioner intended for humans as it has a different pH level than the type suited for cats and could damage your pet's skin or hair. 

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 run 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 she is clean, you should towel-dry your cat as much as possible. Some cats are petrified of hair dryers. If your feline friend isn't, then you could consider trying to dry her using low heat and speed.

You may need to confine her to a carrier in order to do this. Alternatively, you could leave your cat in the warm bathroom until her coat is totally dry.

The important thing is to ensure that she is 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, particularly low body temperatures, can be life-threatening.

How to Bathe a Cat Without Getting Scratched

Many an owner has puzzled over the question of how to bathe a cat that hates water, as most cats do. 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 to help ease some stress so your cat is less likely to try to scratch and claw 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.

It will sometimes be necessary to bathe your cat. For advice on how to make the process easier, please contact our vets inPittsboro  today.

Welcoming New Patients

Our vets at Hope Crossing Animal Hospital are now accepting new patients! Our talented veterinary team is passionate about caring for the pets of Pittsboro. Contact us today to book your first appointment. 

Contact Us

Book Online (919) 542-1975