Cats shouldn't need baths often, which is a good thing since many dislike the experience. But what can you do if it's necessary? Our vets in Arlington offer some cat bathing advice and include a few tips to make cleaning up go smoothly.
Do cats need baths?
Cats are generally great at cleaning themselves, but this doesn't mean that they won't occasionally get themselves into a mess that requires some help.
A cat's rough tongue is covered with tiny, curved barbs that spread saliva across the animal's fur. This act can be compared to a mini-spa treatment - with each lap, your kitty spreads healthy natural oils across her coat and skin.
These little spines also work as natural detanglers, which is why you'll often see your feline companion licking and biting at clumps of fur - it's their method of smoothing their fur out.
Routine baths can be beneficial in some ways though such as helping to reduce the occurrence of hairballs.
How often should you bathe a cat?
If your cat has gotten into something messy that they shouldn't have you will need to either give them a bath or bring them to a professional cleaner as soon as possible. For example, if they've ingested something they shouldn't have such as gasoline, antifreeze, paint, motor oil or anything that can get on their fur and be harmful. These substances will need to be washed off immediately.
For some cats, baths can soothe skin conditions that may include seborrhea, a disorder that results in flakey, itchy, red skin. Your veterinarian may also recommend medicated baths for treating other health conditions including severe flea allergies or ringworm.
Obese or senior cats often aren't able to groom themselves effectively and might benefit from regularly scheduled baths. Long-haired cats should be bathed about every couple of months to reduce the risk of their fur becoming matted. If you have a hairless cat then you will need to remember to bathe them weekly to clean the oily build-up from their skin.
How do you safely bathe a cat?
When you are wondering how to bathe a cat, the first step will be to gather everything you'll need. Having the items you may need close to you will make this experience much easier and safer. Some of the things you may need include:
- Special cat shampoo and conditioner
- A bath or shower with a handheld showerhead
- Numerous towels to clean her off and help keep her dry
Never use shampoo or conditioner intended for humans as it has a different pH level than the type that's suited for cats and could damage your pet's skin or hair.
Gather Your Essentials
Brushing your cat's fur prior to bathing them can help to clear away any knots and make bath time easier.
Set the water temperature to warm and have it run through the showerhead at a medium-level spray.
Bathe Your Cat
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.
Make Sure Your Cat is Nice and Dry
After your cat has been bathed, you should make sure that they are dried off very well. This can be done with a towel as many cats are scared of the hair dryer. If your feline friend isn’t then you could consider trying to dry her using a low heat and speed.
Using a carrier may help to contain your cat during this process. 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 That Hates Water
If your cat dislikes water, it can lead to a mountain of stress for you when they are in need of a bath. 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 to help ease some 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
How Professional Grooming Can Help
IF your cat's made a mess of themselves and you don't know if you can manage to get them cleaned up, our professional groomers at Crossroads Animal Clinic would be happy to help.
Our staff is experienced in the process and knows how to safely give your cat a bath while keeping them as comfortable as possible. Reach out to our team today to ask about our grooming services.
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.