We all know that cats generally hate water, and they are habitually cleaning themselves, but there are times that they do actually require a bath. Our San Jose vets are here to explain.
Do Cats Need to Be Bathed?
Cats are very good at cleaning themselves, so thankfully for us, our feline friends won't need to be bathed very often.
A cat’s rough tongue is covered with tiny curved barbs that transfer saliva across their fur. This is like a mini spa treatment, as each lap spreads healthy natural oils across her coat and skin. Those little spines work as natural detanglers, too, which is why you’ll often see your kitty licking and biting at fur clumps until she smooths everything out.
That being said, routine bathing either at home, or with experienced groomers can help reduce the amount of hair that is lost and prevent hairballs.
How Often Should A Cat Be Bathed?
Certain circumstances require you to give a cat or kitten a bath. If they've gotten into something they shouldn’t ingest, such as motor oil, antifreeze, gasoline, or paint. Basically, anything that gets on her fur that could be harmful needs to be washed off immediately.
Some cats can develop skin conditions that are soothed with bathing, such as seborrhea, a disorder that causes flakey, red, and itchy skin. Your veterinarian might also recommend medicated baths for treating other health conditions, such as severe flea allergies or ringworm.
Cats who are old or obese often can't groom themselves effectively could benefit from regular baths. Cats with long hair should be bathed every couple of months or so to minimize fur matting. Hairless breeds, like the Sphynx, probably need about once a week bathing as they have an oily residue that gets on fabrics.
How To Bathe A Cat
Just like bathing a baby; bathing a cat requires everything that you need to be within arm’s reach. You should have:
- A shower or bath with a handheld showerhead.
- Several towels to clean her off and help her dry.
- Special cat shampoo and conditioner.
You should never use human shampoo or conditioner as is has a different PH level to the sort suitable for cats and could damage your pet’s hair or skin.
Before you start you should brush your cat to remove any knots or tangles, particularly if she is a long-furred breed.
Set the water temperature to warm and have it running through the showerhead at a medium level spray
While talking to your cat and offering lots of reassurance and praise, gently place her into the shower tray or bath. Using a showerhead from above is significantly less stressful for your pet as she is far more likely to be used to being rained on than she is being lowered into 4 inches of tepid water!
Hold your cat in place by her scruff, or use a harness if you think she is going to be tricky to control. Begin washing her gently using soft confident strokes. Cats are very intuitive at picking up stress, so if you seem stressed she will be on edge too, and far more likely to lash out or try to make a run for it!
Apply small amounts of shampoo – she’s probably not as dirty as you think she is! Make sure you rinse clean and then repeat with the conditioner. Take care to avoid her eyes and nose.
Once she is clean you should towel-dry your cat as much as possible. Some cats are petrified of hair dryers. If your feline friend isn’t then you could consider trying to dry her using a low heat and speed. You may need to confine her to a carrier in order to do this. Alternatively, you could leave your cat in the warm bathroom until her coat is totally dry. The important thing is to ensure that she is thoroughly dried before going into other parts of the house. Damp cats can easily become chilled which can make them unwell, or in the case of kittens, particularly low body temperatures can be life-threatening.
How to Bathe a Cat Without Getting Scratched
It's no secret that cats hate water. Some cats will tolerate baths, but others simply won't. When a bath is inevitable, staying calm will help you both, here are a few tips that can help ease stress so your cat is less likely to try to scratch and claw their way to freedom:
- Choose a time after she’s eaten or played, as she’ll be more mellow
- If possible, trim her nails before the bath, filing the ends as well after they're clipped to dull them
- Plan for a short grooming session to make handling her fur much easier
- Recruit a friend to help so one of you can hold the cat while the other bathes them
- Minimize running water, the sound causes many cats to panic, and the last thing you want is to grab a slippery, sharp cat
- Fill a sink with a few inches of warm water and wash only the parts you need to, then rinse thoroughly
- Use a washcloth around the face and ears
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.