If you’ve ever seen a soaking wet cat, it probably crossed your mind that something didn’t look quite right. We’re not used to seeing kitties drenched to the bone. Naturally, one reason for that is that many cats are repulsed by the idea of being bathed. If they could speak, they might haughtily remind us that they have a tongue for that purpose. However, sometimes a cat just needs a bath. It could be that he got himself into a mess that no amount of licking will fix. Certain cats may have health issues that disable them from being able to efficiently clean themselves. If a cat runs into severe flea issues, a bath with a flea-control shampoo might be part of the remedy. There are also breeds that are just more high-maintenance in the grooming department than others. Whatever your reason for bathing your cat is, there are a few things to keep in mind before tackling that adventure.
Prep Your Area
Before jumping into the bathtub (or placing your cat in the sink), prepare your bathing area. Like a doctor prepping for surgery, you’ll want all of your tools ready at your disposal. Some people prefer bathing a cat in a sink so that they don’t have to be on their knees or awkwardly bent over during the experience. Whether you opt for the tub or the sink, place a mat or towel down on the porcelain. The bath will go smoother for both of you if your cat isn’t slipping all over the place. Lay out your vet-approved shampoo and the towel you’ll use to dry off your cat (and possibly yourself) at the end. To avoid getting scratched up, make sure your cat’s nails are trimmed. Unless your cat is a star with nail trimming, don’t do it right before the bath. You don’t want to throw an overwhelming amount at him all at once. Brushing briefly before bathing can speed up the process, especially if you notice any knots. If you are not going to use a shower head, grab a cup to use for rinsing. Run the water briefly to make sure the temperature will be warm and comfortable when your cat is underneath it.
Prep Yourself and Your Cat
Take a moment to check in with yourself. If you are anxious, that’s going to concern your cat. The calmer you can be, the better. You can even trick your cat into starting in a positive mood by playing around beforehand. Break out your cat’s favorite toy and let him run off his excess energy. Offer him his favorite treat and generally fuss over him. This extra time you put in before the bath can make all the difference. Letting your cat run off some steam and unwind will mean both of you start off on the right foot. If you have one of those cats who is curious about water, let him watch a few drips from the faucet. Some cats like to swat at running water, which helps reinforce the idea that water does not have to be scary.
Once everything is ready, it’s time to get your cat wet. Keep talking soothingly to your pet as you do this. Depending on how upset he becomes, it may be impossible for you to do this job by yourself. It’s much easier if you have a second person to hold the cat while you do the cleaning. Some squirming is to be expected, but if you can tell your cat is truly terrified, just let him go. It’s better to avoid a traumatizing bathing experience than to get a certain bath done at a specific time. Pay close attention to your cat as you get his coat wet. Avoid getting his head and face wet. Starting from the base of the neck, run the water down the rest of his body until he’s fully soaked.
You can either apply the shampoo directly to your cat’s coat or dilute it with water first. Once it’s on the coat, massage in circular motions all over his body. You can turn the water off during this part to help everybody relax. Scrub thoroughly in any particularly dirty areas. Take care not to let soap hit your cat’s eyes, as this will likely sting. If you’re using a medicated shampoo to fight fleas or infection, let the shampoo sit on the skin for the designated time. For many medicated shampoos, ten minutes is the magic number. Never use a human shampoo on a cat, even if it’s a “baby” version. Cats need products that are made specially for them. A human or dog shampoo could have a strongly adverse reaction on the skin, or even be toxic.
Once you’re confident you’ve fully cleansed your cat, rinse him off. You can do this with the shower head or with a cup of water. It might be tempting to rush this part, especially since you are so close to the end. Don’t skimp on the rinsing. If you miss a spot, you’ll just have to return to the bathtub later. Remnants of shampoo that dry on a cat’s coat are irritating and inflammatory. Make sure all of those soapy suds are cleared away. If your cat is totally fine with being bathed, you could apply a conditioner at this point. Conditioning would more likely be a point for show cats and is not required for maintenance bathing.
The last step is to dry your cat off. Rub him with the towel thoroughly. If you let go of him for even a moment, you’ll likely feel the spray as he gives his body a shake. Once you’ve gotten him as dry as you can with just the towel, you can either release him or use a hair-dryer. Only use the dryer if you already know your cat is totally okay with it. Use the dryer on its lowest temperature setting and avoid the face. Since most cats are not fans of hair-dryers, the towel-drying is normally the last step. Offer your cat praise and possibly a treat before letting him scamper away.
Cat Baths Can Be Chaotic
There you have it – those are all the steps for completing a cat bath. It may seem achievable written down, but certain cats make it a true challenge. If your cat is vehemently opposed to being bathed, don’t stress yourself out trying to do it. There are professional groomers with tools and valuable experience that can take the anxiety out of bathing. It can be tough to convince your cat that a bath won’t kill him, especially if you aren’t able to start the introduction to water at an early age. If it’s not in the cards for you and your particular feline friend, don’t sweat it.