How to Give a Cat a Bath (and Survive!)
One would think that any creature that can so beautifully emulate the flow of water would not harbor such a longstanding hatred and fear of it. The fact is, most domestic cats do not enjoy getting wet. Some will even lift their noses at the thought of walking over a damp floor. The information in this article will help you prepare for giving your pet a bath. It may not be a joyful experience for all involved, but it will be relatively quick and painless.
Fast Cat Fact:
In the wild, there are many species of big cats that actually enjoy the water. Tigers and jaguars like to soak in water, most likely because their usual habitat is in a hot environment and it helps keep them cool. Tigers will actually swim in deep water and they have been observed catching fish.
Domestic cats may have evolved to dislike water because most breeds have coats that absorb rather than deflect moisture. It's harder for them to get dry after they're soaked.
Why Would A Cat Need A Bath?
In most cases, a cat would not need to be washed with water. Cats groom themselves naturally, so regular brushing is usually enough to keep your pet looking clean and comfortable. However there are occasions when a real bath is necessary. They may have soiled themselves in the litter box. Cats have been known to try to climb up the inside of a chimney. Perhaps you've just adopted a new cat and it is home from the animal shelter for the first time. Sometimes cats will also need bathing with flea or fungicidal medications.
How Should I Prepare To Give My Cat A Bath?
Too bad you can't sit little Cleo down in front of the TV to see how much tigers love the water on the National Geographic channel. That won't work, not all cats are fans of television. They love the Internet though, but unfortunately many of the animal videos on the web show cats that can't stand having a bath!
The best solution is to make sure that you have all the necessary supplies handy, so you can make your cat's bath very quick:
- Rubber gloves (even the most placid feline may scratch during a bath)
- Cat shampoo (various brands available at pet stores or supermarkets)
- A large pitcher for rinsing or (even better) a gentle spray nozzle
- A large towel
- Cotton balls to clean the ears
- A small cloth to clean the face
It's much easier to wash your cat in a kitchen or bathroom sink than bending over a bathtub. Following is a step-by-step procedure for the quick and painless cat bath:
Fill the sink with about 2 or 3 inches of lukewarm water
Wet the cat from the shoulders to the tail and apply shampoo.
Just like your own hair, lather and rinse thoroughly
Since most cats really hate having water splashed on their face, use a damp washcloth to gently clean your cat's head.
Use a cotton ball to clean inside the cat's ears. Never put any kind of object (not even a Q-Tip) in your cat's ear.
After a thorough rinsing, lift your cat onto a large towel and fold it around them.
Rub as much water from their fur as possible
Longhaired cats may require the use of a blow dryer, but only if the noise does not terrify them. Set it on low and see if the cat will tolerate it.
It's best if you have the time to purchase a shampoo specifically formulated for cats. Virbac is a good brand that many veterinarians recommend, and it comes in medicated, hypoallergenic and antibacterial varieties. If you don't have any cat shampoo, a mild baby shampoo may be used. You don't want to use any other kinds of human cleaning products, as it may sting your cat's eyes or irritate her skin.
If you absolutely can't bear the thought of washing your own cat and want to make sure they hold someone else to blame for the experience, you can choose to bring kitty to a groomer or a pet care clinic or store where they provide grooming services. Costs will range from $20-$50 and will include services such as shampoo and blow dry, trimming, ear cleaning, and nail clipping. There are even mobile pet grooming vans in large urban areas now that have a complete grooming facility right inside the van. These services cost a bit more, but they come right to your door.
Related Advice from Other Cat Owners
Never Put a Cat in Standing Water
I am a professional pet groomer and the key to bathing any cat new to it is to put them on a non-skid mat in a DRY tub or sink. Have buckets of warm water and a cup to pour it over the pet. Go slow, hang onto the scruff and have the room QUIET. Once the animal has been done this way several times you can introduce a sprayer on LOW volume. Never get the head soaked, use a washrag. The key is to go slow, talk softly, hang onto the cat firmly and have a quiet area to work in.
~Barbara D., owner of 76 mixed breeds that were unwanted but much loved
Give Kitty Something to Grab On To
I have found that putting a small towel or washcloth at the bottom of the tub or sink helps, as it gives my babies something to sink their claws into while they are putting up with all the wetness.
~Snake D., owner of several kitties
This Worked for Me!
Close the door to the bathroom first. Then run the bath water (not hot). Get into the bathtub yourself (have two towels handy). Coax kitty to come see what you're doing, but also ignore the kitty. Kitty will want to get in. Gently pick kitty up and put her/him on your lap. Slowly put kitty from your lap into the water and begin bathing kitty slowly while talking and being sweet to him/her. It works! Now I can't keep the cat from coming into the tub with me.
~Barb M., owner of a cat
Be Patient with Your Cat
Talking to kitty in a soft, reassuring voice will also help while giving him a bath. Be patient but be firm. Kitty will stay calmer if you do too.
~Kendra W., owner of a Domestic Shorthair
Sneak Up with a Wet Wipe
Penny likes "rough" petting. So if she's stinky, I'll wait until she is asleep. Then I wrap her up in a groomer wipe and give her a rough petting. I basically pet her and stroke her fur backwards.
She loves it, but once she figures out it's wet, she wants to escape. By then she's usually nice and wet from the wipe, and I just let her go.
~Maggie E., owner of a Domestic Shorthair