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How to give a cat a bath?

By Ashley Murphy Content Writer

Updated on the

It’s a well known fact that most cats hate water. But a cat still needs an occasional bath. Given their fear of water, you’ll definitely need these tips on how to bathe a cat

It’s a well known fact that most cats hate water. But a cat still needs an occasional bath. Given their fear of water, you’ll definitely need these tips on how to bathe a cat.

While some owners prefer to a let a professional groomer do the job, it’s still a good idea to know how to clean you cat.  This will make those rare occasions much easier for you and your cat. When it comes to bath time, preparing your cat for the experience is probably more important than the actual bath.

You’ll need to clean their eyes and ears while giving their full body a good (but gentle) scrub. You then to make sure they’re completely dry, which may mean introducing your cat to a hair dryer. This won’t be easy, especially if it's your cats first time!

Can you bathe a cat?

You can certainly try! Whether or not your cat will go anywhere near the water is another question. That's because most cats don't like water, and some of them absolutely hate it!

Why do cats hate water?

Cats seem to have a natural aversion to water. Although experts can't pinpoint the exact reasons why, some of them think it's related to the way cats evolved. Unlike the modern domesticated dog (who evolved in human settlements which were often located near major water sources) cats developed in dry, arid environments where they were not exposed to rivers, lakes, or much rain.

Or it could be that they don't like getting wet. Cats take great pride in keeping their coats clean, and soggy fur is uncomfortable, heavy, and takes a long time to dry.

How to wash a cat

Luckily, the majority of cats will keep themselves clean. You might need to give their ears or their eyes an occasional wipe, but cats do an excellent job of maintaining their coats. In fact, cats dedicate up to half their waking hours towards cleaning and grooming.

But if they do come home looking especially dirty, or are suffering from a condition that limits their ability to take care of themselves, then you might need to bathe them yourself.

How to bath a cat?

The first thing you need to do is prep your cat for their bath. Start off by trimming their nails. When it comes to staying dry, your cat may use any means necessary, which includes scratching the person who's trying to get them wet.

Step two is brushing your cat. Most vets strongly recommend it, as brushing removes any tangles or knots from the cat's fur. These will be much harder to brush out once they become wet. It can also be a very painful experience for your cat.

Fill the bath or the sink with some warm water. Make sure it's not too hot or too deep (about 6-9 inches of water is enough for an average sized cat.) It's also really important that you get the right shampoo. Speak to a vet or animal specialist for more advice. NEVER use human shampoo. It can dry out a cat's skin and may contain some chemicals that are toxic to cats.

Use a cat shampoo or a medicated shampoo recommended by your local vet. And always apply a small amount to begin with, even if your cat has long hair. You can always add more when needed.

Lower your cat into the water, giving them lots of praise and reassurance. Stop if they show any signs of distress. Once they've calmed down, try again. If the distress signals continue or   any worse, then it might be time to consider some "dry-cleaning" options.

Once the cat is in the water, start soaking them from the neck down. Use your hand or a plastic cup to pour the water over them. Don't use the shower head. The sound of running water is very unsettling to a cat. Start applying the shampoo, using small, circular motions to massage it through your cat's fur.

Rinse out all traces of the shampoo, making sure you don't get any in their eyes, ears or mouth. When it comes to washing their face, just use a damp cloth.

Dry your cat off

Start off by patting them down with a clean towel. Then wrap the towel around their body and gently rub them dry. You could also use a hairdryer to finish the job. Some cats will love the feeling of the warm air running through their damp fur, while others will prefer the manual approach!

Reward your cat

This is really, really important. Very few cats will have enjoyed bath time, and so some affection, catnip, or extra special treats are well-deserved. Not only does this reduce any stress or anxiety, but it will also increase the likelihood of your cat cooperating in the future.

Cat bath time: a few extra tips

Tip #1: Avoid getting into a battle with your cat. This will be stressful for both of you.  Just leave them be and try again another time.

Tip #2: Schedule bath times to coincide with your cat’s more docile moments, like after their dinner or post-playtime.

Tip #3: Protect yourself! Make sure you wear something with long sleeves. Even if you've trimmed your cat's nails, they're still capable of causing a few nasty scratches.

Trying to bathe your cat can be one of the most difficult things you need to do as a pet owner. When possible, stick to the dry cleaning options, such as a dry shampoo or even baby wipes. Believe me, this is going to be a lot easier!

But if your cat really needs a proper bath, then it's really important to make the experience as comfortable as possible. So give the cats lots of praise and reassurance, have a few treats on stand-by, and good luck!

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