wet orange Persian kitten wrapped in towel
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How To Give a Cat a Bath

Est. read time: 5 min.

Giving a cat a bath can be a truly intimidating situation. Most cats abhor being immersed in water. Even if you have a unique cat that likes water, bathing a feline is an exercise in patience and, sometimes, pain tolerance. Let’s explore how to give a cat a bath, pain-free—with or without water.

First, do cats need baths?

grey cat cleaning paw

You may wish to spare your cat needless trauma and yourself needless pain by skipping a cat bath—and most of the time, you can! Cats are generally fastidious about grooming themselves, which means they rarely require washing on your end. Instead, regularly brushing your cat may be the best way to help them maintain a healthy coat. 

So when do cats need baths? Usually a cat bath is necessary only if they’ve soiled themselves, or if they’ve gotten into a messy situation in the house (such as dust, cobwebs, or chimney ash) or outside (such as mud, feces, or a skunk attack). Certain fungal diseases like ringworm or infestations like fleas may require giving a cat a bath, as well.

Hairless cat breeds such as the Sphynx require weekly sponge baths to remove sebaceous oils from their skin. Cats with fur usually absorb these oils; hairless cats that are not wiped down may feel sticky to the touch and develop skin problems

How to give a cat a bath – without water!

We’ve explored why most cats hate water, the reasons being a combination of their descending from the desert and moisture-absorbent fur coats. Enter a waterless solution:

British Shorthair cat wrapped in towel next to Litterbox.com Cat Bath Foam Wash

Litterbox.com Cat Bath Foam Wash is a catnip-infused foam wash for your cat. Similar to using dry shampoo, this foam wash doesn’t require water in order to clean your cat’s fur. This wash uses safe ingredients like glycerin to retain moisture and leave a nice shine on your cat’s coat. It also detangles hair, moisturizes skin and coat, reduces itchy skin, and reduces skin flaking.

The best part? Because it is catnip-infused, your feline will likely find the application irresistible! Just be sure to avoid direct contact with eyes and ears.

How to give a cat a bath in 3 steps:

  • Apply a dollop of Litterbox.com Cat Bath Foam Wash to your hand or on a cloth.
  • Massage the foam wash into your cat’s coat, including their back, sides, legs, stomach, and tail.
  • Gently brush the excess foam out of their coat.

How to give a cat a bath – with water

First, put up a sign on your bathroom door: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here…” Just kidding! There are a few tricks to giving a cat a bath the regular way.

Gather the right supplies

Grab rubber gloves to protect yourself from your cat’s claws, cotton balls to protect their ears, and a gentle spray nozzle or plastic pitcher for rinsing. Have a large towel and soft cloth nearby for drying.

Make sure you use only a vet-recommended shampoo specially formulated for cats! (Don’t use human shampoo!)

Can I use dog shampoo on my cat?

You should never use dog shampoo on a cat. Dog shampoos may contain ingredients that are toxic to cats, including permethrin (also found in over-the-counter flea and tick medications for dogs) and certain essential oils. Furthermore, cats and dogs have different skin PHs; dog shampoo (and human shampoo) is typically too acidic for cats.   

Can I use Dawn to wash my cat?

In a pinch, Dawn dish soap can be used to bathe adult cats. However, bathing your cat frequently with Dawn dish soap can irritate the skin or cause complications. Stick with a cat shampoo recommended by your vet for usual bathtime.

Dawn dish soap is only really recommended for use on kittens—not adult cats—that have fleas and don’t weigh enough to safely use flea medication.

Groom and prep

Prior to bathing your cat, it’s a good idea to trim their claws and brush their hair to get rid of any errant fur or mats. Place cotton balls in their ears to keep water from getting in.

Use lukewarm water

Please, don’t use hot water on your cat. Fill your tub or small basin with a few inches of lukewarm water. Wet your cat from the shoulders to the tail. Follow the instructions on the cat shampoo bottle regarding the amount of shampoo to use, and lather your cat’s coat thoroughly. Rinse using the gentle spray nozzle or plastic pitcher.

Avoid wetting your cat’s face

If you must clean your cat’s face, use a damp cloth to gently wipe their ears, eyes, and nose. Plain water will probably suffice for your cat’s face, or use a very diluted cat shampoo. 

Wrap it up

Make sure all shampoo residue has been rinsed from your cat’s fur, as leaving it on can dry out your cat’s skin or irritate their stomach if they lick it off while grooming. Once you’ve confirmed your cat is shampoo-free, wrap them in a warm towel and rub their fur as much as they’ll allow. If your cat tolerates noise, you can use a blow-dryer on low heat to speed up the process. 

There’s no one secret for how to give a cat a bath. If all else fails, you can take your cat to a professional pet groomer or pet care clinic for a bath. Cats will often become much more docile at the hands of a stranger in a strange environment.

Source: The Dodo

Cover photo by Dan Wayman on Unsplash; photo by Eric Han on Unsplash.

orange himalayan cat with wet fur on face wrapped in a white towel - how to give a cat a bath