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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 bath.

If you find yourself wondering: “Should I bathe my cat?” there’s a good chance they probably need one. The next logical question to pop up in your head will naturally be: “How do I give my cat a bath?”

Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered below.

Because many felines aren’t big fans of water, giving them a bath requires a little bit of strategy and preparation to make sure it goes smoothly for both of you. But before we get into that, here are some perfectly reasonable scenarios that necessitate your cat getting a scrub.


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. When they get fleas

Notice your cat has fleas? They’re going to need a bath. Most flea treatments require one, and it’ll help to drown those little black pests before they can move into your carpets. If the infestation persists, some of these other natural remedies may help you get rid of your cat’s fleas.


Kittens, special-needs, and senior cats are prone to causing litter box mishaps, crate accidents, and general mischief that requires a bath to undo the damage. Your nose will know when it’s time for the tub.

3. When they age or when they’re ill

As cats age, they tend to have more difficulty keeping themselves clean because of their mobility or energy levels. If you notice your cat is unable to properly groom themselves, you’ll need to start giving them regular baths.

4. When rescues need your help

Many cat rescue shelters rely on experienced cat parents to help care for the cats they take in. Your local shelter could likely use help caring for their cats and keeping them clean. Give them a call to see how you can contribute.


Giving a cat a bath is all about preparation. While most adult domestic cats don’t like getting wet, which can make bath time a challenge, with a little preparation and care, it can be done! Here’s how:

1. Prepare the supplies

Have a towel, a pitcher or handheld sprayer, and cat shampoo on hand before you start. (Human shampoo might cause skin irritation.) The last thing you want is to get your cat into the tub, only to realize you need to go find the shampoo.

2. Get the bath ready

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. Bring the water to your cat

Use the sprayer or pitcher to gently wet your cat, taking care to avoid their face and ears. Using a pitcher or sprayer will be less traumatic for your cat than trying to force them under the faucet.

4. Wash, wash, wash

Dilute cat shampoo according to the instructions on the bottle, and gently work it into your cat’s fur. Again, avoiding the face and ears. Try lathering the shampoo in your hands and rubbing it onto their fur, instead of applying it directly.

5. Rinse thoroughly

Use the sprayer or pitcher to rinse out the shampoo. Hold the water source close to your cat and work on one small area at a time to help your cat feel more comfortable. Make sure to rinse it all out, remaining soap residue may lead to skin irritation.

6. Gently wipe their face

Wet a washcloth with just water and use it to gently clean your cat’s face, avoiding their eyes and ears.

7. Dry them off

Remove your cat from the tub and wrap them in a towel to absorb excess water. If your fur baby has long hair, give them a gentle brushing to detangle their fur. Some cats don’t mind a blow dryer on its lowest setting to get them feeling warm and dry again.

8. Reward them with treats

Once your cat is clean and dry, it’s time for a treat and/or some snuggles. You’ve both earned it! Providing treats as a reward will help your cat to remember the bath as a positive experience.

Your cat may never learn to love the tub, but the right prep and process can make giving your cat a bath as stress-free as possible. Want to make sure your cat is feeling its best? Head over to our blog for more cat care tips.