Should I give my cat a bath?

Cats aren’t the biggest fans of water.

While they may tolerate drinking it, bathing in it is a completely different story. 

If you’ve ever tried giving your cat a bath you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.

Thankfully, their amazing natural ability to groom means there’s few animals better at keeping themselves clean. 

Couple this with regular brushing sessions and it’s rare your feline will look anything other than immaculate. 

So, ’Do cats need baths?’ The answer is, not really.

However, there are circumstances where a trip to the tub may be unavoidable; like when they’ve ended up rolling around in something regular grooming just won’t shift. 

Remember though, baths can be extremely stressful for felines so it’s vital we make the whole experience as relaxing as possible.

How often should you be washing your cat?

Cats are excellent groomers, but this doesn’t mean they’re always going to get every single speck of dirt. 

For this reason, some pet parents do opt to regularly give their feline a wash. 

How long you choose to leave between each bath time can depend on a number of factors; the main one being your cat’s tolerance level.

The amount of time they spend outside will also play a role in your decision. 

Indoor cats are far less likely to end up covered up in dirt than their more adventurous, outdoor counterparts. Longer coats will also require more attention. 

As a guideline, we recommend bathing them once every four to six weeks. 

Bathing a cat too often will dry their skin out, stripping it of its essential oils, and can leave their coat looking dull and tired. 

If you do choose to bathe your cat periodically, be sure to check their skin for any adverse reactions.

How to wash or bathe your cat properly - What you need to know

  1. Wait until they’re feeling tired. If possible, bathe them after they’ve been involved in a particularly long play session. Scheduling a bath time when your cat’s in a mild and mellow mood, or after eating, means there’s less chance of them kicking up a fuss the moment those first droplets make contact. It can be a good idea to ask another member of the household to help out, just in case two hands aren’t enough to keep everything under control.
  2. Take it slow. The occasional bath may be necessary from time to time, but there’s no point in dragging out the ordeal for a water-hating feline. Before you put them anywhere near a sink or bath, brush them thoroughly, removing as much dirt as possible. The cleaner your cat is going into the tub, the shorter the time they will need to spend in it.
  3. Find the best method. It’s important we make the whole bathing experience as comfortable as possible for our felines. If you’ve tried submerging them under water, and been met with a hiss and a flash of their claws, try using a plastic cup to gently pour the water over them. If you don’t need to clean their whole body, try applying a small amount of water to the dirty area only. Water should be kept at a lukewarm temperature.
  4. Trim their nails. Scratching is one of your cat’s main defense mechanisms. Running a bath for them means you’re running the risk of seeing this territorial safeguard technique up close and personal. You may not be able to stop them lashing out when they’re faced with a dip in the bath, but trimming their nails will prevent any nasty scratches.
  5. Use a cat shampoo. Sometimes water alone just won’t cut it. Shampoos that are designed specifically for cats can have them smelling fresh and clean in no time at all. Check the instructions to make sure it's right for your cat, diluting with water if called for. Gently massage the shampoo in, avoiding their face, eyes, and ears. Under no circumstance should you ever use human shampoo.
  6. Keep them calm. Speak to your cat in soothing tones as you slowly bath them. You want to make the whole experience as tranquil as possible. Try using lavender scents in the bathing area, and don’t show your frustration if things aren’t going to plan. The more stressed you get during bath time, the more stressed your cat will get. Anti-skid mats to stop their feet slipping – and leading to further panic – are also a good idea.
  7. Make the experience worth their while. As soon as bath time is over, be sure to reward your courageous cat for their exemplary behavior. Shower them with praise, pass them a treat, or let them play with their favorite toy – anything that helps them come to terms with the idea of another bath. You can even put a toy in the bath beforehand, letting them play with it while slowly adding in the water.

Can I give my cat a shower?

If a nice, relaxing bath can cause a cat serious emotional stress, imagine what a high-pressure shower will do to their anxiety levels.

We want bath time to be relaxing and comfortable, not feel like a terrifying water fight. 

Placing them under a shower head, or a faucet, may lead to water pouring down too hard, and can be extremely overwhelming, especially if their face and head end up wet.  

Your feline may well be the type who loves a wash, in which case, carefully using an extendable shower head to cleanse their body can be ok. 

Always check to make sure the water is at the right temperature before you expose your cat to it.

What should I do if my cat refuses to be bathed?

If you are someone who is going to be regularly washing their feline, we recommend introducing them to water at an early age, so they have a chance to acclimatize. This will hopefully make the whole bathing process a lot more tolerable for them as they grow older. You should never force your cat into a bathtub. The second they show any sign of distress, stop what you’re doing. If the issues persist, try seeking advice from somebody more experienced, like a vet or a groomer, who may be able to offer a solution.

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