Care & Health

The Guide to Cat Bathing

Bathing can be the time of the month that both pet caretakers and pets themselves dread. And although some cats out there defy stereotypes and live like fishes, for most cats, the sight of water is something that’ll have them hiding out under the bed with no chance of coming outside in the near future.

Why do cats fear water?

One question that often plagues the minds of cat owners is, why are cats so scared of water in the first place? There are many different factors that will contribute to this effect.

Cat Fur

Cat fur is built in a way that it can withstand some water. You’ll see evidence of this when your cat is cleaning itself. The top layer of the coat has a coat of oils that prevents water from being taken up. However, the coat underneath isn’t water-resistant, and so if water is exposed to it, it becomes logged and the cat becomes very uncomfortable.

Other reasons

In addition to the problem with the fur, some cats may not like the scents associated with the water that you use at home. Finally, it may not be anything more than the fact that your cat is just unfamiliar with water and doesn’t know how to act around it. Some cats, such as ones that are successfully domesticated, might not be scared of the water at all.

Do cats need baths?

This is an interesting debate that many vets take different stances on. The issue stems from the fact that cats are extensive groomers – aka they can spend hours and hours cleaning their fur and making sure their ears, paws, and the rest of the body are clean. The vets who are against giving cats regular baths argue that since the cat is cleaning itself anyway, it is being exposed to unnecessary agitation and fear.
However, some cats require regular baths, such as long-haired breeds and show cats, and may even be amenable to them. In this case, or when, for example, your cat gets into a mess they can’t or shouldn’t clean during grooming, giving them a bath becomes necessary. However, there are steps that you can take to make the experience run smoother than usual.

Giving your cat a bath

So, you just found your kitten playing with something dirty and you don’t think he or she can clean it all off during grooming. These are the next few things you should consider.

Is your cat ready for a bath?

Aside from temperament, there are certain things you need to do before you bathe your cat. First, make sure the cat’s claws are trimmed so they don’t scratch and harm you during the bathing process. Another important thing to consider, especially for long-haired cats is that their fur tends to form knots. If you haven’t already brushed your cat’s hair, do it now.

Bathing equipment

Now, to get started, you will need a couple of things. Keep all of these in the place you want to bathe your cat, such as the bathroom before you bring your cat in. This is to help you when your cat starts behaving in a frenzy and you are unaware of what exactly to do. These can include the following for the first time, however, as you give your cat baths, you can begin to understand exactly what your cat needs and adapt accordingly.

  • Towels
  • Cat shampoo
  • Gloves
  • A nozzle or a bucket
Cat shampoos

Cat shampoos are specifically designed products that can be used during cat baths. They are made to be safe for the cat, as other shampoos may leave behind residues that can harm your cat when he or she tries to groom themselves after their bath. Plus, human shampoos can harm the cat’s sensitive skin and cause dryness.

Getting things ready

Okay, so now you have the equipment you need, the cat has been brushed, and you want to take the bath. Make sure your cat isn’t alert, playful, or scared, and bring him or her into the area where you want to conduct the bath. If this is in the bathroom, for example, close the door of the room so they cannot leave. If you plan on giving your cat a bath using a tub, fill it up to about 2 inches using lukewarm water.

The bath itself

The bath itself

  1. Place the cat in the tub or the washing area. Cats may frighten easily in tubs already filled with water, so you can use a nozzle set at low speed (the high speed could harm the cat) and make sure to avoid the face as you pour water.
  2. Now, once the cat’s fur is wet, use the shampoo and lather it onto the cat’s body.
  3. Wash off the shampoo using the same method as described in step 1.
  4. Clean your cat’s face using a small towel or cloth.

It is possible that your cat may put up a fight as you start to give him or her a bath. Remember to stay calm, wear protective clothing, and be very gentle throughout the period.

After the bath

Once you’ve given your cat a bath, you have to make sure they are dried as soon as possible. Wrap them up in a towel and then dry them. If your cat is short-haired, he or she will be content to sit in front of a heat source and dry themselves. For cats with longer hair, you might have to use a blower, but only if that has been recommended by a vet. You will also need to groom and brush the hair to avoid knots.
Finally, the last step, which is essential if you want to repeat this process, is to give your cat some kind of treats or reward. When you give them the treat they’ll know they are safe and they’ll have an incentive that’ll reinforce better behavior the next time the need for a bath comes along.

Alternatives and tips

Not able to give your cat a bath? If your cat puts up too much of a fight but needs the baths, you can also try out using either wet towels, taking him or her to the vet and allowing the professionals to take over, or using dry shampoo. You can also use the following tips to make the bathing experience easier for you and your kitty.

  • Don’t try to submerge the cat in water, it will instinctively run away.
  • Your cat should not be bathed more than once a month – this may result in dryness.
  • Clean the cat in a ‘massaging’ pattern, as if you are just petting him or her.
  • Dry shampoos can be a good alternative in the winters when you don’t want to take the risk of leaving your cat in the cold.
  • Only use blowers if your cat isn’t afraid of the loud sounds and if it is at low heat.
  • Overweight cats may need regular baths as they cannot groom themselves effectively.

Giving your cat a bath can seem like an exhausting ordeal, but in some cases, it may become necessary. If you’re unsure about how often you need to bathe your cat, if all, talk to your vet about bathing options and schedules.

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