Cats are the original advocates of self-care – napping, pampering, and relaxing! So when it comes to bathing, cats rarely need a bath.
That being said, there are specific circumstances when bathing your cat is necessary, such as if they have fleas or are unable to bathe themselves. Being calm and prepared is the key to a successful bath time for your cat.
Keep it paw-sitive!
Many cats would prefer to keep themselves dry, so having an assistant on hand may be helpful (depending on your cat’s tolerance). Having a non-slip surface in your bathtub or sink will help your cat to feel secure while they are in the water.
You’ll also want to have plenty of treats on hand to keep your feline friend distracted during the bathing process. This is an ideal time to use very high value treats. You’ll want to keep these high value treats small so that you can offer a lot of them and as often as possible, to keep your cat distracted. The treats will act as a positive reinforcement throughout the experience. Make sure that nails are trimmed beforehand, to help avoid any potential injuries!
Step-by-step guide to bathing your cat
- While filling the tub or sink, adjust the water to a lukewarm temperature.
- Using a handheld showerhead or water jug, start at their feet/back and slowly move upwards. Use a wet washcloth for the face, eyes, and ear areas.
- Starting at the neck, use a pet shampoo recommended by your veterinarian and gently massage into the coat, working towards the tail. Check the instructions on the label for proper use and always ask your veterinarian if it’s the right product for your cat.
- Rinse the shampoo from the neck and back towards the tail.*
- Long-haired breeds may also benefit from conditioner.* Apply the same as step 3.
- Rinse conditioner from the neck down and towards the tail.
- Use a towel for drying (or blow dryer on low heat if they will tolerate it).
- Be sure to offer praise and positive reinforcement throughout the experience.
*Reminder: Because cats self-groom, it will be critical to ensure that all the shampoo (or conditioner) is completely rinsed off their coat to prevent them from ingesting any residual product(s).
An occasional bath is fine for cats. However, if you notice your cat not keeping up with typical feline hygiene (grooming/licking their coat), be sure to discuss this with your veterinarian. Medical conditions such as obesity or arthritis could be the cause.