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

toyger kitten wrapped in a towel
Image Credit: stockelements, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Christian Adams

Vet approved

	Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore


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

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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, this could be a chore that 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 different ways to bathe a cat without using water. We also give you tips for grooming your cat regularly to help keep them clean.

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Why Do Cats Need Baths?

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

The Cat Got Too Dirty

If your cat likes to roam outdoors and gets especially filthy, they’ll need a bath to get clean. Cats shouldn’t lick and ingest too much dirt and grime as it may 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 certain areas of their bodies. This makes grooming difficult, so they miss spots. If you notice that your cat isn’t keeping themselves as clean as usual, it could be because they physically can’t. Bathing them will not only keep them clean but also help them feel better. If this is the case you should seek advice on how to reduce your cat’s weight.

cat in the bathtub
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

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.

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How to Give a Cat a Bath Without Water

There are two products that you can use to clean your cat without using any 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 spray, it’s best to spray it into your hands first instead of directly on the cat. It can feel like a squirt of water to them, which may make them anxious.

Foams are easy to massage into your cat’s coat and cover a good area. They provide precise applications but can be messy.

Powders are completely dry shampoos. They work to clean your cat, but you will need to use a brush to get the residue out of the coat. They can also cause cat hair to temporarily turn white from the coating.

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

spraying on cat
Image credit: Vaillery, Shutterstock

1. Using Waterless Shampoo

  1. 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. If your cat is comfortable in the living room, for example, the bath can be given there.
  2. Lay a towel down, and either pick up your cat or coax them over to you with treats. Stay relaxed and calm so your cat relaxes too. Try to get them to rest on the towel.
  3. Once your cat is calm, start applying the shampoo. You may have to put the shampoo in your hand first, no matter which kind you choose to use, and apply it to your cat’s coat to keep them calm. If they don’t mind the shampoo being applied directly to their coat, you can do that too.
  4. Start at the back, and slowly move forward to not get any overspray on your cat’s face. 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.
  5. Work up a lather with 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.
  6. After a gentle brushing to remove any tangles, let the cat’s coat air dry naturally.

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. 

hepper dry shampoo

At Excited Cats, 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!

2. Using Grooming Wipes

  1. 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, start using the wipes instead of your hand to pet them.
  2. Gently massage your cat using the wipes to loosen any dirt and oil and remove it. Your cat should enjoy this and think that you’re petting them.
  3. One advantage of using wipes is that you can easily clean the cat’s face and ears. Rub the wipe all over, getting their undersides and legs.
  4. Reward your cat with a treat afterward.

Hepper wipes

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 Excited Cats, 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!

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Groom Your Cat Regularly Between Baths

A brush or grooming glove that you use regularly will help keep your cat clean. Even if they do a good job of grooming themselves, regular brushing will remove dirt, collect loose hair, and help 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. If you notice the hair thinning in spots, you’re brushing too much.

If your cat is prone to mats and tangles, use a dematting tool or clippers, if necessary. Removing the mats will keep dirt out of the coat. Don’t use scissors, as you could wind up accidentally injuring 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.

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Final Thoughts

Cats don’t need frequent baths because they do a good job keeping themselves clean through grooming. A bath is necessary sometimes, though, 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 that 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

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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