How To Safely Bathe A Cat: The Complete Guide

Does the idea of bathing your cat scare you? Have you heard horror stories of wet, clawing cats creating chaos? You're not alone. But don't worry, it doesn't have to be this way.

In our guide "How To Safely Bathe A Cat: The Complete Guide," we're going to show you how it's done. We'll talk about why sometimes it's important to bathe your cat, how often you should do it, and what tools you need.

We'll take you through the process step by step, so you can do it without stress or fear. We have practical advice that can make bathing your cat easier than you think. So, keep reading! There's lots of good stuff in here that can make your life, and your cat's life, better.

Taming The Wet Beast: A Guide To Cat Bathing

It's common for cat owners to feel a bit nervous about bathing their feline friends. We've all heard the stories of wet, frantic cats causing havoc. And it's true, many cats aren't big fans of water. But did you know that with a bit of patience, you can teach your cat to accept bathing as part of their routine?

Professional cat breeders often bathe their cats as a routine part of their care. You might be surprised to learn that with regular exposure, most cats can learn to tolerate, and sometimes even enjoy baths.

Think about it - big cats in the wild aren't afraid of water. They wade in rivers, fish for dinner, and play in the shallows.

So, how can we help our domestic cats get comfortable with baths? The key is to stay calm and relaxed. This can help put your cat at ease.

We've got a few tips and tricks that can help make the process smoother. They might not work for every cat, but they're worth a shot.


How To Safely Bathe A Cat: The Complete Guide

Woman shampooing a tabby gray cat in a grooming salon, How To Safely Bathe A Cat: The Complete Guide
Wet Bengal cat after washing with a white towel draped over his shoulders, How To Safely Bathe A Cat: The Complete Guide

Why Should You Bathe Your Cat?

You might be wondering why you should even consider bathing your cat. After all, cats are known for their self-grooming habits, spending hours each day keeping themselves clean.

Most of the time, they don't need our help. But sometimes, a bath is necessary. Here's why:

  • If your cat gets into something harmful that you don't want her to lick off, like machine oil, pesticides, or cleaning products.
  • If your vet prescribes a medicated shampoo to treat a skin condition or rid your cat of fleas.
  • If you're planning to show your cat. Show cats usually need a bath a few days before the event.

Because there might be times when a bath is necessary, it's a good idea to get your cat used to the idea while she's still young.

Little kittens usually don't mind water too much, especially if you approach the bath in a gentle, confident manner. By starting early, you'll make things easier for both of you when you need to give an emergency bath.

How Often Should A Cat Be Bathed?

Every cat is unique, and so is their comfort with baths. Don't rush into making bath times a frequent affair. Cats have natural skin oils that keep their fur smooth and shiny. Over-bathing can strip away these oils and make their coat dull and dry.

Tools and Equipment

Moving ahead with this? You will need several basic items to help you with the task.

  • Shampoo - Choose a safe cat shampoo, especially if you use one that is medicated. If you must bathe the cat in a hurry, and you don't have cat shampoo, the only alternative is tearless baby shampoo. Regular shampoos for people are usually too harsh for feline skin and may cause irritation. If you need to use medicated shampoos, such as anti-flea solutions, make sure that they are cat-specific. Dog shampoos can be toxic and even deadly to cats!
  • Towel - It should be dry and fluffy. You can warm it slightly before bath time, but make sure it's not too hot!
  • A soft washcloth - You will need it for cleaning the cat's face.
  • A couple of cotton balls - These will go into the cat's ears.

Prepping Like A Pro

If you're new to this or your cat is nervous, find a helper. Pick someone your cat is familiar and comfortable with.

Prepare the bathing area in advance. Make sure all your bathing tools are ready and remove any breakable items from the bathroom. Place a rubber mat in the tub; it gives your cat something to grip and helps them feel more secure.

Before the bath, groom your cat and brush out any mats in their fur, especially if they have long hair. Trim their claws beforehand to prevent any accidental scratches. Once you've set up everything, gently get your cat ready for the bath by placing cotton balls in their ears.

Bath Time: Keeping It Smooth

Here's the step-by-step for a stress-free bath time:

  1. Preparation: Bring your cat into the bathroom and close the door to prevent a soapy cat chase through your home. Gently place your cat on the rubber mat in the tub.
  2. The Bath: Use a gentle stream of warm water. Keep it at your cat's body temperature, around 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit or roughly 38.5 degrees Celsius. Wet their coat but avoid the face. Apply shampoo to their wet fur, gently massaging it in. Rinse thoroughly to avoid any leftover shampoo.
  3. Face Time: With a washcloth and warm water (no soap), gently clean your cat's face. Remember, never spray water directly onto the cat's face.
  4. Drying Off: Lift your cat from the tub and wrap them in the towel. Keep them in a warm, draft-free room until dry. Some use a blow dryer but if your cat is uneasy, air drying is best. If you do use a dryer, keep it on the lowest setting and never point it directly at your cat's face.

Remember, the key to a successful cat bath is patience. Maintain a calm demeanor and speak in soothing tones throughout the process. If done with care, bath times can become a stress-free experience for you and your cat.

Easing Your Cat Into Bath Time: The Gentle Introduction

Diving right into a full-on bath can overwhelm your cat. The solution? Help your fur baby grow a friendship with water, bit by bit. Here's how:

Start Small

Begin by introducing your cat to a tiny amount of water. You could simply wet your fingers and gently stroke your cat’s fur. This lets your cat experience the feeling of wetness in a mild, non-threatening way.

The Damp Cloth Trick

Next, use a damp cloth to simulate the bathing process. Gently rub your cat’s fur with the cloth, mimicking the strokes you would use while bathing. Focus on the areas your cat usually enjoys being petted to create a positive association.

Wet Paw, Happy Cat

Try dabbing a little bit of water on your cat's paws. It's a clever trick to get them used to the sensation of water. If they don't seem bothered, you're on the right track.

Splash-Free Zone

Create a comfortable, stress-free zone around a shallow basin of water. Encourage your cat to explore it. Keep it fun by tossing in a floating toy. If your cat paws at the toy and gets their fur a little wet, it's a small victory!

Small Steps, Big Wins

Remember, it's not a race. Introduce these steps slowly, over a period of weeks. Allow your cat to dictate the pace. Some days, they might be more willing than others. Be patient and celebrate small victories.

These methods won't transform your cat into a water-loving feline overnight. However, they'll certainly help make bath times less of a struggle and more of a routine your cat can get used to.

Be patient, be gentle, and remember to reward your cat's bravery with plenty of love and treats. Bathing doesn't have to be a battlefield. Not anymore.

The Final Rinse: Bath Time Wisdom

Now that you're armed with the know-how to bathe your cat, remember that patience and persistence are key. All cats are unique and may react differently to baths, so don't be disheartened if it takes time for your feline friend to adjust.

Use rewards like treats and cuddles to reinforce positive associations with bath time. Regular, not excessive, bathing keeps your cat clean and their skin and coat healthy. Preparation before bath time is crucial—have all your necessary supplies ready.

Bathing also serves as a good time to check your cat for any skin or coat abnormalities. While daunting at first, with these tips, bathing your cat can transform from a task to a bonding experience. Good luck!

Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!


You might also like:

7 Crucial Tips for Safely Bathing Small Kittens

7 Reasons Why You Really Should Groom Your Cat Regularly

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26 comments on “How To Safely Bathe A Cat: The Complete Guide

Spookyandsammy October 28, 2020
After spooky gets a bath i wrap her in towels and put her in her carrier so she can get warm and she gets catnip as a treat and mom is scratched up just a little i was gonna try baby socks see if that might work
mikpointe September 15, 2018
Our kitty will do anything for tiny bits of fish. :) He doesn't mind at all. My last cat couldn't tolerate anything.
Katt13 September 11, 2018
I am a licensed vet tech and the thing we always recommended to cat owners is to put a window screen in the end of the tub for the cat to hold on to...It WORKS!!!! if they are holding on to a screen they can't/won't be able to scratch your eyes out.....
kommunity kats January 1, 2018
bianco maple said:
Yup, Good instructions- We bathe our white fellow every 10 days! He loves the bath and we use really good cat shampoo-first shampoo to remive the dirt and grime and 2nd shampoo to make him smell sweet , the 2nd time the lather is so good-We used to use a special oatmeal conditioner but now we use it every alternate bath As you will see from the video Bianco enjoys bath time- It's true that bathing often may take away the essential oils but so far alls well- BTW , are there any products that one can spray or use as dry shampoo? Please let me know -thanks
Diatomaceous earth --food grade-- has been used as dry shampoo. I've even used it on myself..
    Dan & Rosi December 16, 2020
    Diatomaceous earth will cut lesions in the lungs. It is very dangerous. Since it is like shredded glass, it is used to clean pool filters. Never use near a living being. I know you meant well. Just wanted to warn to avoid any injury to your precious ones. Love, Dan & Rose and Kitty Leah
queen sparkle April 3, 2016
This article was so useful my kitten ow loves his baths he used to be a nightmare!
amin91 October 10, 2015
I think also using treats and praises system is good. Especially for kittens. I read online about a technique to get them to like bathing. Start with putting their paws in water then give treat, next day, little water on coat, again treat, and finally full bath and a good treat. Of course treats should be given if cat doesn't resist in a very aggressive way, otherwise repeat specific step at which cat was aggressive.
posiepurrs March 16, 2015
A couple of comments... If first time bathing a long hair it will be difficult to wet the hair due to the oils in the coat. Mix a little shampoo with water and apply to dry coat. It makes it easier to get the coat wet. I always dilute my shampoos to make it easier to rinse them out. If you use a human dryer be very careful as it will burn the cat if held to close even on low setting.
mimibky March 16, 2015
My cat has medium-long hair and I adopted her when she was around 3 months old and have been bathing her since, she still doesnt like it but she does not make it a nuisance anymore when i shower her, she kinds of takes it easy now
juleskk5 March 1, 2015
Thanks Anne i will post on there then
Anne March 1, 2015
That's an interesting idea. Why not ask about it in the Cat Care forum?
juleskk5 March 1, 2015
Great information ! i am dreading bathing my cats though!! they both dont really like you to touch them to much as it is, anyway i have an idea was thinking to put socks on them to stop claws getting at me.What do you think?
wanja September 10, 2014
I have a long hair kitten and started bathing her from day 1 because of a medical condition and from day 1 there was blood and hair everywhere. Usually she is very calm and cuddly and is not an ''aggresive" player. But the moment i put her in the water she starts biting and scratching and yes turn into 1 of that horror stories. Thankfully 5min after she is out of the bathroom she forgets and is her old self again. I will try using the nozzel hope it works.
bshoemaker May 10, 2014
I recently bathed two of my kitties. They actually had a nice shower! The suggestion of a handheld shower unit is an irreplaceable tool for a successful, less stressful bath. These two kitties were not used to being bathed, so I put them in my step-in shower, closed the door, put them on the seat, and turned the shower on gently, having pre-warmed the water, and set the shower head on a small diameter spray pattern. Both were nervous initially. However, after I discovered putting the nozzle directly on their coat reduced the noise of the water, my boy, Victor, seemed to enjoy being "scratched" all over. The handheld shower made it simple to get all the shampoo from their fur. Now both my kitties coats are glossy, and smell fresh and clean.
catdancing1 March 24, 2014
I have two wobblers and occasionally a bath is required as their are litter box incidents - usually they have fallen into whatever they left in the box - so first cat is totally freaked out and then well, you know the rest.  Have found using a small tub (like a litter box) so that they can have their front feet on the lip keeps everyone a little calmer through the process.  You will also need a least three towels to get the cat even reasonably dry as the fur is like a giant sponge!  Raffles knows he is getting a bath and it's particular hell to catch him however once he is in the water is calms down and he seems to really enjoy the rub down after.  He usually forgives my about 8:30 when the cat treats come out.
joannie01 February 8, 2014
I am afraid too bath the cats !
please January 6, 2014
I'm bathing Belle for the first time because she smells like poo and her white isn't white anymore xP This will be fun. And this article is very informative o:
lianaspoken May 30, 2013
I have only ever bathed one of my cats and it was for her benefit. I have had her since a kitten and so I have the luxury of getting here used to it a young age, however "used" to it she never became. Nevertheless her reaction is still fear but less trying to claw her way up to my chest. Few tricks brought out from past mistakes ... -Never run the water with them in the tub, the sound will terrify them -I now stash the soap permanently under the sink .. a place she often goes so the smell of it no longer freaks her out that shes about to get a bath -No wash Clothes! Ever! -Brush and cuddle afterwards ... my cat gets a little dish of whipped cream and milk after which immediately makes her forget the trama :]
daisy the cat September 30, 2012
ok, nice artical but i have one more thing i could add because i was a professional show dog/show cat groomer once with my own shop. still no matter what, some cats will try to shred and bit and even hurt themselves if you atempt to bathe them. what i did was this: take some wire with the small holes in it, like small squares (not chicken wire because the holes are too large) then turn the sharp edges uder and use a staple gun to tack them down to a wooded frame you made out of narrow nice sanded wood. keep it taught. when the kitty starts to freak out... it will naturally dig it's little claws into the wire to hold on for dear life. this sometimes ommits you as being the one it's claws go into. also it helps aid them in being in one place for a while. still i had to sometimes use a mild tranquilizer that doesn't put them to sleep yet only makes them sort of drunk and not fight. persians and the flatter faced kitties never faught, don't get mad at what i am about to say but they are more on the sedative side naturally so they only just meowed.
catgroomer602 February 29, 2012
This is one of the best articles I've read on bathing your cat. Getting a cat use to regular bathing when young helps when he's older. Older kitties tend to stop grooming themselves as much and need help grooming even more then when they were young. If they have had the advantage of already understanding the bathing process it won't be so upsetting.
Anne January 17, 2012
AngelAlice, thank you for sharing your story and I suggest you try the cat care forum for your question -
angelalice January 16, 2012
We love being bathed!! As persians we are so used to the tub - we've been doing it since we were kittens. It's true though, we don't like the hairdryer blowing staright into our faces. Did someone say dry shampoo?? We'd be willing to try that....
Anne January 6, 2012
I think that's an excellent question for the cat care forum - maybe start a thread there asking about dry shampoos and sprays?
bianco maple November 12, 2011
Yup, Good instructions- We bathe our white fellow every 10 days! He loves the bath and we use really good cat shampoo-first shampoo to remive the dirt and grime and 2nd shampoo to make him smell sweet , the 2nd time the lather is so good-We used to use a special oatmeal conditioner but now we use it every alternate bath As you will see from the video Bianco enjoys bath time- It's true that bathing often may take away the essential oils but so far alls well- BTW , are there any products that one can spray or use as dry shampoo? Please let me know -thanks

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