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How to Bathe a Cat & How Often You Should Do It

How to Bathe a Cat & How Often You Should Do It

We all know that most cats hate water and are continually cleaning themselves. However, sometimes they will need an actual bath. Our Murfreesboro vets explain the basics of bathing your cat in this post. 

Do cats need to be bathed?

Cats are excellent at cleaning themselves, so fortunately for us, our kitties won't need to be bathed very often. 

Tiny, curved barbs cover a cat's rough tongue. These barbs spread saliva across a cat's fur. Think of this act as a mini spa treatment - each lap spreads healthy natural oils across her skin and coat. These little spines also function as natural detanglers, which is why you'll often see your feline friend biting and licking at clumps of fur - it's his way of smoothing everything out. 

That said, routine bathing can help reduce the amount of hair loss and prevent hairballs. 

How often should you bathe a cat?

Under certain circumstances, your kitten or cat will need a bath. If they've ingested something they shouldn't have, such as antifreeze, paint, gasoline, motor oil or anything that can get on his fur and prove harmful, it will need to be washed off immediately. 

Baths can soothe skin conditions that may develop in some cats. These conditions include seborrhea, a disorder that causes red, itchy, flakey skin. Your veterinarian may also recommend medicated baths for treating other health conditions including ringworm or severe flea allergies. 

Senior or obese cats often won't be able to groom themselves effectively and may benefit from regular baths. Long-haired cats should be bathed approximately every couple of months to reduce the risk of fur matting. Hairless breeds including the Sphynx likely need weekly bathing since their oily residue can get on fabrics. 

How do you 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.

Pre-Bath Prep

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

The Bath

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.

Drying Off

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

Many an owner has puzzled over the question of how to bathe a cat that hates water, as most cats do. 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

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

Bathing your cat is sometimes necessary. For tips on how to keep them calm and advice on conditions that may need examination, contact our experienced Murfreesboro vets today.

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