kitten bathing

Do Cats Need Baths?

by Sam Salvati - 07/14/20

Fortunately, dreaded cat baths are rarely necessary. However, there are a few unfortunate occasions where you should wash your cat.

Brushing vs Washing

Sometimes you may think your cat needs washing when she actually needs brushing. Cats don't mind receiving a brushing, and it can be more effective at removing dull hair, dandruff, and hairballs.

In order to allow your cat to adjust to a regular brushing, start by keeping the brushing brief and positive. Try brushing in between petting her or give her treats throughout, so she associates the brush with positive treatment. Avoid brushing her tail at the start.

When Baths Are Necessary

Some physically impaired cats are incapable of adequate self-cleaning. If you notice any particularly filthy areas on your cat, this may be the case. If your cat is very plump or arthritic, keep an eye out for these areas so you can clean them up with a bath.

Also, if your cat is unusually dirty from playing outside, you may want to bathe her just to clean her up. Sometimes, outdoor cats can get mud or feces stuck in their fur without being able to access it themselves.

Ungroomed areas of your cat can cause health issues. If you notice an odd change in your cat's grooming habits, it may be time to take your kitty to the vet.

Medical Baths

Cats need immediate baths when they have encountered a toxic substance, such as cleaning supplies, dog flea topicals, and some essential oils. These toxins can be ingested and cause serious health conditions during self-grooming. If your cat's skin is exposed to one of these substances, you may need veterinary support on top of a bath.

The hairless Sphynx cat is one breed that requires regular bathing to make up for the lack of hair.

If your veterinarian suggests giving your cat a bath for any other medical reason, you should heed that advice.

How to Give a Cat a Bath

Here are a few tips on how to bathe a cat if you must.

Begin by brushing your cat. Then fill a sink or tub with warm water and gather all your materials: cat shampoo, a towel, a rinsing container, and protective gloves if you have them.

Try to bathe as efficiently as possible while remaining gentle, and only wash from the neck down.

Dilute the shampoo with a little water to make the rinsing faster, and utilize a rinsing container instead of frightening your kitty with running water.

Once she has been cleaned entirely, wrap her in a towel and give her some love. A hair dryer could also work to dry her fur as long as it's not too hot.

It's important to note that there are some cats who enjoy playing with water. If this is your cat, a bath could be a fun bonding activity for you and your friend.

Pasadena native Sam Salvati is the adoring dog dad to Pablo, Ester and Farris. He enjoys keeping abreast of and writing about the latest developments in pet care.