7 Crucial Tips for Safely Bathing Small Kittens

You're home with a cute, fluff-ball of a kitten. Everything is picture-perfect until that tiny bundle of joy runs into a messy situation that leaves it all dirty.

Now you're left wondering, "To bathe or not to bathe?" Good question!

This article has got your back, folks!

bathing a kitten

Sure, kittens are tiny and delicate - think of a porcelain doll that purrs.

You might not realize it, but their little bodies are way different from ours or even from adult cats. They're more like half-baked cookies that need more time to fully prepare.

Their tiny size makes them more susceptible to environmental changes, and their immature systems are still working out the kinks, like regulating their body temperature.

We're going to break down the potential dangers of bathing kittens: hypothermia (that's a fancy word for getting too cold), scalding, and even dry skin. Yes, kittens can get dry skin too! Who knew, right?

But sometimes, you'll be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Your little fluff might get fleas or get covered in something yucky, and suddenly a bath doesn't seem like such a bad idea anymore. Don't sweat. We've got you covered there too. You'll find some handy tips and tricks for bathing your kitten safely here.

We'll walk you through setting up a cozy bath space, choosing the right water temperature (there's a perfect range, trust us!), picking a kitten-friendly shampoo, and lots more.

bathing a kitten

So stick around, and let's sort out this kitten-bathing business together. After all, there's nothing quite like a clean, happy kitten to make your day, right?


Should You Even Bathe Kittens?

The short answer is: No. Unless you have a very good reason to, do not bathe kittens.

Kittens are fragile little creatures. The younger they are, the more fragile they are.

Their small body size means they have a lot of skin relative to their mass, and that ratio makes them more sensitive to changes in their environment.

Also, some of their systems just haven't yet fully matured. Just like their eyes take three more weeks to develop, so do other parts of their body, including their immune system and the systems that control their body temperature.

What Are the Risks?

There are several risks associated with bathing kittens:


Kittens cannot regulate their body temperature very well and are susceptible to getting chilled. A cold kitten cannot digest its food well, making it even harder for its tiny body to get the nutrients it needs to keep warm.

A chilled kitten can die very fast unless treated properly, making this a medical emergency. Call your vet immediately if you think you have a chilled kitten on your hands.

Water is often used for cooling off the body. Getting a kitten wet always puts it at risk of chilling, making this the number one risk associated with bathing kittens.

Scalding and overheating

A kitten's sensitive skin can get scalded very easily. Even if the temperature is not hot enough to cause a skin burn, you can still overheat the kitten's little body.

Dry Skin

Washing the kitten with water, especially water containing even mild soap or shampoo, can dry up the kitten's skin, sometimes to the point of creating a rash. The risk increases the more frequently you bathe the kitten.

kitten after a bath, wrapped in towel

When To Bathe A Kitten

There may be situations when bathing a kitten, even a very small one, is the lesser of two evils.

Such is the case with a flea infestation when you can't use topical anti-flea remedies because they are too toxic for kittens, a scenario rescuers often face when taking young kittens off the street.

If a kitten manages to become covered in a substance that needs to be removed, a bath may sometimes be the only solution as well.

Here are some guidelines and tips for bathing your kitten safely:

Preparing for the Kitten's Bath

Warm up the bathroom as well as the room where the kitten will stay after the bath. Make sure both rooms are draft-free.

Choosing the Perfect Bathing Spot

Use a sink or a very large bowl for the kitten's bath. Make sure you have enough room to work comfortably. You can place a folded towel in the middle of the sink, allowing the kitten a place to rest those feet and feel more stable.

Gathering Your Bath Time Materials

Prepare dry towels and warm them up a bit in advance. Use them to wrap up the kitten and gently yet thoroughly dry her/him after the bath.

Setting the Ideal Bath Water Temperature

Use a thermometer for the bath water and make sure the temperature is 101-103 degrees. Use a baby bath water thermometer that can float around and let you know if the water is cooling.

Choosing the Right Shampoo for Your Kitten

Use a gentle cat shampoo. Many rescuers use Dawn soap instead, and it seems to do the trick. Never use medicated shampoos or shampoos intended for humans or dogs!

How to Safely Wash a Kitten

Make sure to never wash the kittens' ears or eyes. To be on the safe side, it's best to avoid washing a kitten's head altogether. You can use a damp washcloth to wipe off any dirt from that area later on.

Bathing Multiple Kittens

Wash one kitten at a time and towel dry thoroughly before moving on to the next kitten. If the kittens are small enough, prepare confinement boxes where you can keep the kittens safe while they're waiting for their turn, or waiting for their siblings to be bathed.

After-Bath Care for Kittens

Remember to check the kittens after they are washed and dry. If a kitten feels cold and unresponsive, keep it warm and call your vet ASAP.

Must wash your cat? Try these gentle cat shampoos:

Magic Coat Cat Tearless Shampoo

Vet's Best No-Rinse Clean Waterless Cat Shampoo

Vet's Best No-Rinse Clean Waterless Cat Shampoo

Earthbath All Natural Pet Shampoo

It's possible to bathe kittens safely, as long as you're aware of the risks and do all you can to avoid them.

FAQs: Everything You've Wanted to Know About Bathing Kittens

1. How old should a kitten be before I can bathe it?

Oh, the big question! You know what? If at all possible, it's best to hold off on that first bath until your little fur baby is at least eight weeks old.

As we mentioned, their tiny bodies are still figuring things out before then, so it's safer to wait. Remember, patience is a virtue (especially when it comes to kittens and baths!).

2. Can I use human shampoo or dog shampoo on my kitten?

Please, don't! Kittens have super sensitive skin, and using human or dog shampoo can be too harsh and potentially harmful for them.

Stick with a gentle, kitten-friendly shampoo or a trusted soap like Dawn. Your kitten's skin will thank you!

3. How often should I bathe my kitten?

Unless they've rolled in something super gross, kittens do a pretty good job of keeping themselves clean. Aim for no more than once a month if you absolutely have to.

But always remember: less is more when it comes to kitten baths!

4. What should I do if my kitten is scared of water or resists bathing?

Well, who wouldn't be a bit nervous about their first bath? It's important to keep things calm and soothing.

Talk to your kitten in a gentle voice, make sure the water is lukewarm and isn't too deep, and never rush the process. With a bit of time and patience, your kitten might just start to relax!

5. What should I do if my kitten feels cold or looks unwell after a bath?

This is super important! If your kitten feels cold to the touch, wrap them in a warm towel straight away.

If they still seem unresponsive or unwell, call your vet ASAP. It's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your kitten's health!

And there you have it, folks - the top 5 questions about bathing kittens. Remember, we're in this together, navigating the choppy waters (pun intended) of kitten bathing!


You might also like:

How To Train Kittens To Use The Litter Box

Weaning: How To Get Your Kittens To Eat On Their Own

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29 comments on “7 Crucial Tips for Safely Bathing Small Kittens

omar fa April 3, 2023
why is it wrong to clean something that gets dirty? if something gets dirty, you clean it. you clean your damn car for ####'s sake! i mean, i am NOT Jesus!!! but is it not common sense ? you clean computers, u would clean ur robot if you had one. but your gonna let that poor fellow live its entire life in the dirt never knowing that "fresh getting out of the shower" feeling all creatures must have if they are conscious... ? my neighbor is one of many i know who FIRMLY believe that it is BAD to help a cat in ANY way to get washed up.. he beleives that their tiny little tongue that eats feces and the like is the best tool for the job. raising on the topic in any way causes many issues. because of articles on the internet like this one, people have changed their beliefs from "oh look, its a dirty baby, lets get it clean again." to "its healthier to let it sit there like that for a while" ... i know this change does not seem like a big one. but the paradigm shift is there. and there is a correlation in my opinion. it is incest and incest related behavior. i have noticed it dogs now too.
    no body June 3, 2023
    they can get hypothermia and die. keeping them alive is what is most important. and yes older cats are usually very capable of keeping themselves clean unless they get into a mess.
jkjn November 5, 2021
I have a kitten, he is too violent if bathed he will claw me so how do I want to bathe him?
Elle May 9, 2021
Hello! Can I ask if how can I teach my little 3-4 weeks old kitten to poops or urinate in litter box?
    princesskitties October 8, 2021
    U can try to keep showing the kitten the litter box by keep putting kitten in it until it uses it try to use a smaller litter box pet stores do have young kitten litter boxes it's just the bottom of litter box or get creative find a small plastic bin that's little bigger than kitten so they have room to cover after using potty. Also when it kittens 1st time using litter box they usually play with the litter so try to get a natural litter like the cedar wood shredding or the recycle litter that looks like Cotton material. Petco, pet smart, pet supplies and chewy.com has Great stuff chewy.com has the stuff cheaper. I would look on chewy.com for everything for kitten before going into stores. Hope this helps you!
alysha September 19, 2020
i have a kitten but no mother cat how am i going to groom my kitten? ( my friend gave me a kitten)
    Furballsmom November 26, 2020
    Alysha, if you come back, please consider joining The Cat Site. It is free, and then post in https://thecatsite.com/forums/pregnant-cats-and-kitten-care.36/ this forum. We can help :)
Nicola September 1, 2020
I have got two week old baby kitten has fleas what can I do with it?
    MarkMDP September 2, 2020
    Hello Nicola! No online advice beats professional diagnosis. Please go to your vet immediately. If you insist on seeking for online advice, you might want to start a thread in the Cat Health forums here: https://thecatsite.com/forums/cat-health.4/
    princesskitties October 8, 2021
    Apple cider vinegar with the mother's u filtered check out brand BREGGS. Mix 2:1 with water for 2 week out would use my water mix it together then u should put something over u and under kitten because the fleas will jump off kitten. I Put kitten in bathtub with out water in tub and I put both bowls in tub too. To keep fleas in tub so they don't jump out u. Can spray around inside of tub with large spray bottle and mix 2:1 of acv with mother's u filtered and water spray around inside on the sides of tub it will create a small barrier so fleas don't jump out also spray yourself so they don't jump on you. Little tricks I do that really do help. And so kitten doesn't get scared in tub without water you can out kitten in a plastic bin and put bin in tub it will help a little keeping kitten calm . But I've used flea comb dipped in bowl with the A.C.V & water mix solution then combo the kitten starting at the head keep away from kittens eyes. Have an extra bowl with hot water each time ur done with each stroke of combing dip comb in hot water bowl keep in hot water for about 1 min to kill fleas on flea comb then repeat the 1st step dip comb in ACV BOWL comb and repeat 2md step dip comb in hot water bowl 1 minute repeat until kitten is done. When no more fleas are on comb then your done. Make sure dry kitten if kitten is wet. Also vacuum any rugs and furniture. In a large spray bottle you can add 2:1 a.c.v & hot water shake spray bottle to mix it and can be used on furniture, carpet, bedding, clothes, fleas don't like the smell of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar (A.C.V) WITH MOTHERS unfiltered. Hope this helps you! It helped me on my dog and kittens before. I don't like using flea drops, flea collars, flea pills, etc. My dog has sensitive skin and has a reaction Amy time we use in natural stuff plus it's safer to use all natural when it comes to your fur baby/s GOOD LUCK!
Sean Jose May 30, 2020
Hello what breed of cat is this? I have exactly the same one
Sean Jose May 30, 2020
Hello! What breed of cat is this I got exactly the same onee!
Patricia April 16, 2020
>l have a3wk.old kitten she has a mother feeding her. But has really bad crust on her eyes so bad they can't open. What do I do..
    Kay June 4, 2020
    Obviously take her to a vet. Crusty eyes can mean a respiratory infection among other things. You probably shouldn’t use shampoo or dish soap on a 3 week old kittens eyes under any circumstances.
    Julie July 16, 2020
    Salt water and warm water and eye drops I hve 11 kittens right now and two of them have this issue
    princesskitties October 8, 2021
    Call vet. In mean time until can get in vet use a small soft cloth with Luke warm water nland cover the eye with it DONT USE SAME CLOTH ON OTHER EYE. ESPECIALLY IF OTHER EYE IS FINE YOU DON'T WANT IT TO SPREAD TO OTHER EYE. keep patting the crusty eye with wet cloth rinse cloth in a bowl with warm water in it. You can also take kitten to nearest pet store their is eye drops for kittens. But ask someone at pet store if they can help you with this if they can take a look at kitten. The eye might not be infected try warm wash cloth do this each time it gets crusty like as soon as it starts getting crusty but if it's still not helping by the next day yes it could mean other medical problems like respiratory. Hope this all helps
    Anna June 4, 2023
    Take a damp warm cotton and wipe the eyes until they open and do it every time they're crusted over
Dana Marie Young April 6, 2020
I’ve always been a cat person but recently I was a dog mama for two brown chihuahuas once every 2weeks I bathed their butts in dawn because the puppy shampoo never really cut the puppy stink I knew dawn was safe since we use it was at the animal rescue I volunteer at to wash oil covered ducks from an oil spill rescue so now I’m back To being the crazy cat lady in my neighborhood but seems I’ve forgotten a thing or two and had to come find find out i knew what to do I just forgot it lol
Anne March 21, 2017
@HappyChick1 the best place to ask this question would be in the Pregnant Cats & Kittens forum. The articles are not a good place for questions as fewer people see them. I see you already have a thread there, so please add your question to the thread. Thanks!
happychick1 March 21, 2017
hi, my litter of four are 2 weeks and 5 days old.  i want to check them for fleas as it is a multi-cat house and only mum hasnt been treated for fleas.  i dont want to handle the little ones too much as i am already weighing them every other day and dont want mum to get too upset. 
catmom marcia August 29, 2016
Boosty35, you can probably do it safely if you follow the guidelines here.  I place a ring of soap around the neck to keep the fleas from migrating up to the head then wet and shampoo the body.  I recently learned that for the fleas to die they need to drown and/or be submerged in soapy water for 5 minutes.  Buggers are hard to kill so take your time with the shampoo bath.  I used a towel to semi dry then a hair dryer on very low to keep babies warm.
boosty35 August 6, 2016
Hi, I have recently been adopted by a tiny 4wk old kitten, she is blind (hopefully not forever but who knows) I am treating her eyes with drops from the vet.  She's actually doing really well, 3 days in and shes playful, eating and going to the loo.  BUT she has fleas (a lot of fleas) I have bathed her once yesterday in mild dish soap (fairy) which got quite a few of them off but there are more.   How many times can I safely bathe her to try to get rid of the fleas? 
StefanZ April 27, 2015
That 101-103 degrees is of course Fahrenheit.  Its about 39 C, as cats are a little warmer than human body.  The bathing temp will thus be a tiny slightly higher than their normal body temp. Also, if they dont have a mom warming them,  its wise they have a heat pad afterwards, put on low.   People after a bath tends to feel chilly even if they had dried themselves, no?   And we dont want to take risks, as the article is very clear with.
nansiludie April 19, 2015
@GravyBaby No, I use baby shampoo and also rinse twice, then blow dry the kitten on low, warm with the kitty on my hand, if my hand gets warm, I gently move the dryer farther away. I've even jump-started chilled newborns with a blow dryer.
silmarien November 20, 2014
My kitten has chronic diarrhea from antibiotics and I constantly am cleaning his rear end. I use a blow dryer on low and have read in books that it's fine, as long as you don't burn the skin on the poor little kitty.
gravy baby July 16, 2014
I have a 4 week old tabby I found in a shopping plaza. I took him to the vet and found out he has fleas and worms. They gave him medicine for both and to me to bathe him. That was last week. I notice he had food clumped in his fur I bathe him again today and dried him with my blow dryer on low. Was that too much?
ashley davidson June 27, 2014
I had no idea a kitten can fall ill so easily :( I used to bathe my kitten before not even thinking about that. Good thing I always dried it with a towel afterwards and kept it warm  in there like a baby until it calms down. This is a really good advice. Thank you.
praisebast June 16, 2014
I am SOOO glad this is on this site. THANKS
therese May 14, 2014
This is very good advice.  I fostered four 3.5 week old kittens until they were a few months old and had to bathe them right away because they had fleas and had been living outside in the heat.    I got dawn dishwashing liquid, which apparently is what they used to wash the oil-spill birds and wildlife.  I diluted mine, however, a drop or two of Dawn in almost a cup of warm water.  It killed the fleas and yet was pretty easy to rinse off, given that it was diluted.  And because we had tile in our house, and of course, kept them indoors, they never got fleas after that.  Keeping these kittens super super warm, I learned, is critical to saving their lives.  I learned as I went along, and with good advice from several people, the vet and a rescue group, we saved all four of them. Thanks for a good article. 

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