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How to Bathe a Cat: Everything You Need to Know

How to Bathe a Cat: Everything You Need to Know

Cats are self-groomers by nature, with tongues that act like tiny combs to clean and smooth their coats. However, there are rare occasions where giving your cat a traditional bath is necessary. Keep reading to learn how to determine when your cat needs to be bathed and the proper technique so you can lather, rinse and repeat without suiting up in a coat of armor or leaving your cat with lingering nightmares.

Do cats need baths?

In general, cats don’t need regular bathing the way dogs do. Their natural self-grooming habits do the trick on everyday dirt, but trickier situations—such as a cat who has been outside in the mud or sprayed by a skunk—require more drastic measures. Long-haired cats also may need baths more frequently because debris can become stuck in their coats, and overweight or disabled felines often need help cleaning the areas they can’t reach. As a rule, if it seems that the mess exceeds your cat’s grooming abilities, they will require a bath.

How to wash a cat: Tips and preparation

Getting ready to bathe a cat

Once you have decided to bathe your cat at home, stock up on all the essentials. You’ll need pet shampoo and conditioner (or a two-in-one product), a good brush or comb, a non-slip mat, a towel and lots of treats. Never use human shampoo on your cat, as the formulation is unsuitable for cat skin and hair, and may even contain ingredients toxic to felines.

Pre-bath preparation

It is well-known that cats aren’t exactly water-lovers, and bath time can bring out defensive behavior in your pet. Trim your cat’s nails before you get started to protect yourself from unhappy claws. Give your cat a thorough pre-bath brushout to detangle their fur and remove any mats. A matted cat should not be bathed; instead, contact a professional groomer or veterinarian who will have the right tools to help your cat’s matted fur.

Lay out your shampoo, mat and towel before you get started, then adjust your sink or tub’s water to be the same temperature you would use to wash a baby. Be sure the bath isn’t too hot, as cats can overheat easily.

Bathing your cat

Use the showerhead or nozzle to gently spray your cat, working from the rear and moving forward, avoiding their face. Next, lather your cat’s entire body (again, avoiding the head), following instructions on your shampoo bottle. Rinse all the soap off your cat completely, and provide lots of praise during the process.

Dry off your cat using a clean towel, absorbing as much moisture as possible. Use the damp towel, or cat eye and ear wipes, to wipe the area around their face. Reward your cat with treats to create a positive association with bath time.

How often should you bathe a cat?

So long as they are in good health and you are diligent about brushing their coat, your cat shouldn’t need baths on a regular basis—nor do they want them! Got an especially messy situation on your hands, or just not ready to take on washing your cat alone? Many local Petco Grooming Salons can take care of a tough job! Just be sure that your cat is up-to-date on their vaccinations and ensure you check to see if your local Petco can take on a new cat grooming appointments.