Cats usually aren't the biggest fan of water or baths, luckily they spend lots of time cleaning themselves so baths shouldn't be needed often. But what do you do if your cat does need one? Our vets in Cumming share some tips and tricks for bathing your cat and how often you should do it.
Do you really need to bathe your cat?
The good news is that your cat will spend lots of time cleaning itself so you shouldn't need to worry about bath time very often.
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 does a cat need a bath?
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 can you safely bathe a cat?
When you are thinking about giving your cat a bath the first step will be to collect everything that you may need and set it all close to the bathing area. You should use the same rule of thumb when bathing a cat. Here are some items you'll want to have close by:
- 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.
Get Everything Ready
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.
Giving Your Cat a 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.
Dry Your Cat Well
Once the bath is completed you should dry your cat as much as possible. 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 Avoid Being Scratch While Bathing Your Cat
Bathing a cat that hates water can come with a specific set of challenges. 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
The Benefits of Professional Grooming
If your cat really needs a bath but you aren't sure about how to do so or if you don't think you could manage bath time, our professional groomers at Crestview Animal Hospital 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.