Bathing Cats Safely

As an experienced cat owner I can fully understand doubts about bathing cats, I heard countless stories where owners gave up this potentially dangerous procedure. Don’t worry, I mean dangerous for the owners, not for the cats. Actually cats don’t mind if they get a little wet, you can easily spot kittens playing in the rain or chasing frogs in puddles when they have the chance to explore the garden. The myth that cats are frightened of water likely came from situations where older cats get stressed in unfamiliar situations and irresponsible owners forced the bath causing painful moments for themselves.

Big cats in the wild, tigers and lions, actually enjoy being in the water, because their natural habitat is in a hot environment and the water helps cool them off. Domestic cats, especially longhair breeds dislike water because most cats have coats that absorb rather than deflect moisture. It takes a long time for them to get dry after they’re fully soaked.

First we need to ask ourselves: Do cats need baths? After all, cats are particularly well-groomed animals, in addition when you have siblings from the same litter they usually grooming each other non-stop. While self-grooming might be enough to short-haired indoor cats and they may have never need a bath, longhair cats and especially those that roam the neighborhood often definitely need regular help in grooming. Bathing cats can be part of that grooming procedure, washing away the  dirt out of their hair.


bathing cats

Bathing cats safely

The best way to get used to water is regular bathing from a young age. Introduce water to kittens just by getting their feet wet, let them stand in the water and make sure that all four paws are submerged. After a few minutes when they get used to the water wrap them in a blanket and praise them, give them treats if they haven’t struggled. Move on to the next step only when they don’t show any resistance. Making progress step-by-step will be successful if you don’t force them too much.


Preparing the bath

Making the bath short is a key element to a stress-free grooming procedure. Make sure that all necessary supplies are near at hand and ready to use. You will need the followings:

  • Cat shampoo
  • Large towel
  • Small cloth to wipe the face
  • Cotton balls to clean the ears
  • Gloves (if you expect a little unrest)

You can get cat shampoo from your vet or the pet store. Always check the instructions to make sure if it’s right for your cat. Never use human shampoo, the chemicals in it can be toxic for your cat!  Don’t use dog shampoo either. If you can’t get cat shampoo in time it’s better to use only water than risking any harm to your cats.

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Brushing before the bath

It will help remove any tangles in their coat, which will be more difficult to remove once your cat is wet. If your cats like getting brushed, then you can use the brush to make them feel more at home in the bathroom.  

Steps of a safe bath

  1. Fill the tub with about 2-3 inches of warm but not hot water
  2. Stand your cat in the water and wait until all four paws submerged in the water
  3. Wet him from the shoulders to the tail and apply a little shampoo
  4. Wash the cat in a massaging motion, so he won’t be scared.
  5. Rinse the cat off with warm water, keep pouring a bit of water at a time over your the body until he is shampoo free
  6. Make sure that the water doesn’t splash into his face, wet it with a small washcloth and gently clean the face
  7. Use cotton balls to clean the ears
  8. After thorough rinsing wrap your cat in a large fluffy towel and rub gently
  9. Short-haired cats usually finish drying themselves resting on the towel
  10. Long-haired cats dry slower and you will need more towels with them. If you can’t rub all the water out from his fur you may want to use the hair dryer, but make sure your cat is not scared of the noise and the dryer is not too hot.

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Don’t forget to reward your cat

If you give your kitty treats after a good bath, then he will associate this grooming procedure with pleasant feelings instead of bad, and he’ll be more likely to tolerate baths in the future.  Give him catnip or his favorite food, and praise your kitty by petting him and giving lots of attention after the bath.


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