Catster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How to Give a Cat a Bath Without Water: Vet-Approved Step-by-Step Guide

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 12, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

toyger kitten wrapped in a towel

How to Give a Cat a Bath Without Water: Vet-Approved Step-by-Step Guide


Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo


Dr. Lorna Whittemore

BVMS, MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Most cats don’t like to get baths. The good news is that cats are excellent groomers and usually keep themselves clean enough, so baths aren’t necessary. However, sometimes your cat needs help keeping clean, and a bath is required.

If your cat hates water, it could be a chore you dread. If you’d rather do anything else than try to wrangle your cat in the bathtub, a waterless bath could be the solution.

In this article, we look at two ways to bathe a cat without using water. We also give you tips for grooming your cat regularly to keep them clean.

divider 2 cats

Why Do Cats Need Baths?

Cat sitting in bathtub after playing with water, front view
Image Credit by: sophiecat, Shutterstock

Cats typically groom themselves, but sometimes, you’ll need to step in and help them get clean by bathing them.

The Cat Got Too Dirty

If your cat likes to roam outdoors and gets incredibly filthy, they’ll need a bath to get clean. Cats shouldn’t lick and ingest too much dirt and grime since it can upset their digestion.

If your cat is covered in a substance, like oil or grease, they’ll need a bath with a product made to dissolve the substance to get them clean again.

The Cat Is Overweight

Cats carrying a few extra pounds may have trouble reaching some areas of their bodies. If your cat isn’t keeping themselves as clean as usual, it could be because they physically can’t. Bathing them will keep them clean and help them feel better. If your cat is overweight, you can consult your vet to develop a diet plan.

The Cat Is Elderly/Sick

Elderly cats or those with health issues may not feel like grooming themselves. Elderly cats may also have joint issues that make grooming painful. If a cat is sick with diarrhea or vomiting, they may get messy. A bath will be necessary to keep them from smelling bad and feeling worse.

Persian golden chinchilla cat in a grassy garden outdoors
Image Credit by: Jacintne Udvarlaki, Shutterstock

divider 3 paws

How to Give a Cat a Bath Without Water

You can use two products to clean your cat without using water: waterless shampoo and cat grooming wipes. Waterless shampoos come in sprays, foams, and powders. Sprays can scare cats, especially if you use a spray bottle of water as a training method. If you decide to use a spray, it’s best to spray it into your hands first instead of directly on the cat.

Foams are easy to massage into your cat’s coat and cover a large area. They provide precise applications but can be messy. Powders are dry shampoos. They clean your cat, but you must use a brush to remove the residue from the coat. They can also cause cat hair to turn white from the coating temporarily.

Grooming wipes are used to remove dirt and oil build-up from coats and are easy to use. Just take one in your hand and wipe down your cat as if you were petting them.

1. Using Waterless Shampoo

Hepper Waterless No Rinse Dry Shampoo for Dogs,...
  • Simply Brush - Waterless cat shampoo / dog shampoo means no rinsing required. Forget the bath!...
  • No Soap - This fresh-smelling dry shampoo for dogs and cats is free from soaps, glutens, dyes, DEA,...
  • Good for Nervous Pets - You don't want your pet to be afriad of getting clean, so this pet waterless...

Dry shampoo is convenient, effective, and easy to use, but only if you pick the right product! Hepper's No-Rinse Pet Shampoo is made with soothing natural ingredients like cucumber and aloe vera. It smells great, cleans well, and won't cause irritation. You'll love the fresh, clean scent and your pet will enjoy the moisturizing, pH-balanced formula. 

At Catster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

  • Once you’ve chosen the waterless shampoo that you’d like to use, select a comfortable place for the bath. The best part is that it doesn’t have to be in a bathroom. You’re not limited to a place with a sink because you’re not using water. For example, if your cat is comfortable in the living room, the bath can be given there.
  • Lay a towel down, and pick up your cat or coax them with treats. Stay relaxed and calm so your cat relaxes, too. Try to get them to rest on the towel.
  • Once your cat is calm, apply the shampoo. You may have to put the shampoo in your hand first, no matter which kind you choose, and apply it to your cat’s coat to keep them calm.
  • If your cat doesn’t like their paws touched or they have sensitive areas of their bodies, you can apply the shampoo using a soft cloth instead.
  • Work up a lather with the spray or foam shampoo, and use a towel to wipe off any excess. If you’re using powder, massage it into your cat’s coat as thoroughly as possible and then brush out the excess.
  • After a gentle brushing to remove any tangles, let the cat’s coat air dry naturally.

2. Using Grooming Wipes

Hepper Pet Wash Wipes - Soft Pet Cleaning Wipes...
  • Gentle Care For All Pets - Infused with moisturizing hypoallergenic ingredients & enriched with...
  • Deep Cleans From Head to Tail - Tackle the toughest dirt & messes with our extra strong pet wipes...
  • Freshness On The Go - Each dog grooming wipes pack contains 30 counts of premium dog wipes that...

Although cats are famously clean animals, even the best self-groomers need an occasional wipe-down. We recommend Hepper's Wash Wipes because they're gentle on skin but effective on dirt and grime. These USA-manufactured premium wipes have a hypoallergenic formula made with moisturizing natural ingredients to keep your cat's skin and fur happy and healthy.

At Catster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

  • Have the grooming wipes close by, with a few already out of the container for easy access. Start by petting your cat and making them comfortable. When your cat is relaxed, use the wipes instead of your hand to pet them.
  • Gently massage your cat using the wipes to loosen the dirt and oil and remove it. Your cat should enjoy this and think that you’re petting them.
  • One advantage of wipes is that you can easily clean the cat’s face and ears.
  • Reward your cat with a treat afterward.

divider 1 paws

Groom Your Cat Regularly Between Baths

A brush or grooming glove can help keep your cat clean. Even if they do an excellent job of grooming themselves, regular brushing removes dirt, collects loose hair, and helps distribute oils throughout your cat’s coat.

If you brush your cat regularly, you will eliminate the need for frequent baths. Just be sure not to overbrush your cat. You’re brushing too much if you notice the hair thinning in spots.

If your cat is prone to mats and tangles, use a de-matting tool or clippers if necessary. Removing the mats will keep dirt out of the coat. Don’t use scissors since you could accidentally injure your cat.

While brushing, use this opportunity to clean your cat’s ears and check for signs of ear or eye infections. If their nails need to be clipped, this is the time to do it. If your cat will let you look in their mouth, check the teeth for any abscesses, redness, swelling, or decay.

Grooming your fur baby is a process that they very likely either love or hate. If your cat tends to lean towards the hate side of grooming sessions, you can make it a bit more enjoyable with our favorite brush, The Hepper Cat Brush. This brush has soft pins and a one-click button for easy clean-up, making this brush something that both you and your cat will enjoy. Click here to try it out!

Hepper Deshedding Cat Brush
  • ONE PUSH RELEASE - This kitten brush / cat brush pops out fur with just a simple press, leaving you...
  • DURABLE - Cat shedding can be a tough ordeal. Made of resilient ABS plastic and metal bristles with...
  • COMFORTABLE - A cat fur brush with 60 degree angled, fine bristles and rubber stoppers will bring...

At Catster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

divider 2 cats

Final Thoughts

Cats don’t need frequent baths because they do a good job keeping themselves clean through grooming. A bath is necessary sometimes, such as if your cat gets very dirty, is covered in a greasy substance, or is otherwise unable to groom themselves.

Bathing your cat without water can be a stress-free experience for you and your cat once you have the right products. We hope this guide has given you a few ideas on how to make your cat’s next grooming experience a positive one.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: stockelements, Shutterstock

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Catster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.