A cat cleaning itself

Cats are known for their self-grooming habits, and usually, they do a great job of keeping themselves neat and tidy. But what happens if your cat gets into something or gets too old to keep up with regular self-grooming? There may be times when you'll have to step in, so we've compiled some guidelines on when and how to give your cat a bath for the most positive experience for both of you.

Do Cats Need Baths?

In most cases, your cat won't need a bath on a regular basis. Her usual self-grooming habits are plenty to keep her clean and hygienic. However, there are some situations where you may need to add some extra bathing above and beyond what your cat can take care of on her own.

For example, if your cat gets into something toxic, you won't want her to ingest what's on her fur as she cleans herself. If your cat gets very dirty or muddy, you may also want to do a cleanup faster than she can do it alone.

Another reason you may want to bathe your cat on a regular basis is if you have allergies. Doing regular baths can help minimize allergens and make it more comfortable for you to live with your cat. Some people also have to bathe their senior cats frequently because as cats get older, they are often not up to the daily cleaning routines. If this is the case, you will notice that your cat starts to get more matted fur or may have a stronger smell or look visibly dirty.

You may also want to give your cat a bath as part of a flea, tick or lice treatment.

Supplies for Giving Your Cat a Bath

No matter the reason, if you're going to give your cat a bath, it's important to have the right supplies. The first thing you will need is a place to give the bath. A bathtub can be used, but some people prefer a smaller container such as the kitchen sink or a large plastic bucket on a counter, which can make it easier to keep your cat contained and within easy reach.

A shampoo that's specifically designed for cats is a must, as human shampoos have harsh chemicals and other additives that can be damaging to your cat's fur and even harmful to her health. If your cat's fur is very matted, you may also want to consider a feline conditioner, although this isn't required.

Other handy supplies include a few towels to help contain any splashes or spills and help dry your cat at the end and a brush if your cat has long hair to help straighten tangles and remove mats.

How to Bathe a Cat in 5 Easy Steps

Most cats aren't big fans of water, and that can make bath time stressful for you both. However, there are some tips and tricks that can help you make getting a bath more comfortable for your cat and more pleasant for you. Here are five steps to giving a cat a bath from start to finish.

1. Prepare Your Supplies

Gather all your supplies into the room you're going to do the bath in. Again, make sure to have products that are designed for cats. You'll want to have everything within arm's reach so you don't have to leave your cat in the water — and risk her trying to make an escape — while you get supplies.

Fill the tub or container you're using with just enough water for the bath. Cats aren't humans, and they don't like to soak. Too much water in the tub can make your cat more anxious and less likely to cooperate with the process. The water should be warm to the touch but not hot.

Remember that bathing is not a natural experience for your cat, and it's normal for her to be frightened. Be mindful of your cat trying to scratch or bite out of fear. If your cat is very scared during baths, is trying to bite and scratch, and won't calm down, it might be better to leave the bathing to an experienced groomer or even your vet if they offer this service.

2. Start Shampooing

Once your cat is situated into the tub, it's time to start shampooing. If your cat got into something and just has muddy feet, for instance, you might just need to spot wash instead of doing a full bath. Dampen your cat's fur and apply a small amount of shampoo to the affected parts. It's best to avoid your cat's neck and head area. If your cat's face is dirty, use a damp cloth with no shampoo to gently wipe away debris, and never put anything in your cat's ears. If your cat is not cooperating or you need to let a medicated shampoo sit for a few minutes, it can help to take your cat out of the bath and into a towel while you apply the shampoo.

3. Rinse Thoroughly

Once the shampoo has done its job, you can start rinsing. It's best to use a handheld nozzle or small cup to rinse your cat slowly. This helps better direct the water flow so you don't accidentally get water in your cat's eyes or ears. You may need to use a cloth to lightly cover the eyes or ears to ensure they stay dry. Make sure the shampoo (and conditioner if you used it) is thoroughly rinsed off. Your cat will likely try to lick herself after the bath, and you don't want her to ingest any of the suds.

4. Let Your Cat Dry

After the bath, you can use a soft towel to gently rub your cat dry. She will also probably shake after the bath, which will help get rid of extra moisture as well. Keep her in a warm room and inside until she is completely dry.

Pro tip: If you're bathing more than one cat in the same household, keep all the cats separated until the baths are over and you've had a chance to rub them all down with the same towel. Cats can start fighting over the change in scent that happens after the bath, and this step can help keep things calm.

5. Offer Plenty of Praise

It's important to offer your cat plenty of praise and reassurance before, during and after the bath. Some special treats reserved only for bath time can also help distract your cat and make getting a bath a more positive experience.

For more information on feline grooming and how to keep your cat healthy, visit our cat resources centre.

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