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How (and When) to Give a Cat a Bath

One of the best things about cats? They’re good at keeping themselves clean. Every once in a while, though, your cat may get into a messy situation that requires a little extra help. Follow our guide to learn how (and when) to give a cat a bath.

When to Give a Cat a Bath

Most cats don’t require regular bathing—with the exception of hairless breeds like the Sphynx, who don’t have enough fur to absorb their skin’s natural oils. But even cats with standard fur coats may need a bath now and then. Here are a few examples of when to give a cat a bath:

1. Fleas.

Many treatments for an active flea infestation require a bath.

2. Odors and messes.

Litter box mishaps, crate accidents or messy mischief might mean you have to give your cat a bath.

3. Aging or illness.

Sick or elderly cats may lose the ability to keep themselves clean.

4. Volunteer your time.

Many cat rescue shelters rely on experienced cat parents who generously donate their time. Make a call to your local shelter and ask what you can do to help.

How to Give a Cat a Bath

The rumors are true—most adult domestic cats don’t like getting wet, making bath time a challenge. But with a little preparation and care, it can be done! Here’s how:

1. Get your supplies ready.

Have a towel, a pitcher or handheld sprayer, and cat shampoo on hand before you start. (Human shampoo might cause skin irritation.)

2. Prepare the bath.

Fill a sink or tub with a few inches of lukewarm (not hot!) water. You may find that it’s easier to handle your cat in a sink, so you don’t have to bend over the edge of the tub.

3. Get your cat wet.

Use the sprayer or pitcher to gently wet your cat, taking care to avoid the face and ears.

4. Lather up!

Dilute the cat shampoo according to the instructions on the bottle, and gently work it into your cat’s fur. Again, avoid the face and ears.

5. Rinse off.

Use the sprayer or pitcher to rinse your cat. In general, holding the water source close to the cat and working on one small area at a time will help your cat feel more comfortable. Be thorough—any soap residue may lead to skin irritation.

6. Face facts.

Use a washcloth with plain water to gently clean your cat’s face.

7. Dry time.

Wrap your cat in a towel to absorb excess water. If your cat has long hair, use a comb to detangle. Some cats don’t mind a blow dryer on its lowest setting.

8. Show some love.

Once your cat is clean and dry, it’s time for a treat and/or some snuggles. You’ve both earned it!

Your cat may never learn to love getting a bath, but these steps will help make giving a cat a bath as stress-free as possible. Have more tips for how to give a cat a bath? We’d love to hear them. Share your comments on this post!