Cats do a good job of keeping themselves cleaned and groomed, but you will at some point need to bathe your feline. If your kitty still has his claws, this can seem quite intimidating – but It doesn’t have to be so challenging for either of you.
- The key to successful cat-bathing is preparation. You must make certain you have all necessary items at your fingertips.
- THIS IS A TWO PERSON JOB. You will need to keep at least one hand on your cat AT ALL TIMES, so it will be difficult to complete the process without a helper.
- Ideally, this process should be done in a double sink, or a single sink that has a spray attachment. If you do not have either a double sink or a single sink with a spray attachment, then consider using two large Tupperware containers, each one being about the size of your sink.
- Line the floor around you with old towels; this will be a messy process and you don’t want to make things more difficult by slipping on a wet floor.
- If your cat has claws, it is recommended that you wear long sleeves. Also, if your cat is prone to biting, consider wearing a pair of sturdy gloves.
- It is NOT recommended that you wash your cat in the tub. Generally, cats are afraid of water and to them, the tub looks like an ocean of certain death.
Washing the Cat
What You Will Need:
- Lots of old towels
- Double sink or single sink with spray attachment
- Plug for the sink
- Rubber mat for the sink
- Two cups
- Soft washcloth
- Cat shampoo
- Cotton balls
- 1 or more dirty cats
- Bandages and antiseptic (for you, afterwards)
Washing that Kitty:
- Prepare your work area; arrange towels on the floor and place all your gear within easy arms reach.
- Place the rubber mat in the sink and fill with about three inches of body-temperature water (just enough to come up to your cat’s belly. DO NOT overfill! Cats are very sensitive to water temperature, so it is important that you check the temperature, using the same method you would for a baby bottle: pour a bit on the underside of your wrist—it should feel neither hot nor cold.
- Put some shampoo in one of the cups and fill with the water from the sink (this will prevent the cat from being shocked by a sudden dose of cold shampoo).
- If you are using a double sink, fill the other side with body-temperature water, relatively the same temperature as the first side.
- Pick up your cat, stroking him and talking to him soothingly so that he doesn’t become too suspicious over what is about to happen.
- Making sure you have a firm hold on your cat (this may require gripping the scruff of his neck) lower him gently but quickly into the side of the sink with the 3-inches of water.
- In all likelihood, YOUR CAT WILL IMMEDIATELY TRY TO GET OUT. All kidding aside, if he has claws, this can be a very dangerous situation. A panicked cat can do some serious damage. Keep a firm hold on your cat at all times. This is why it is important for another person to assist you.
- If your cat is not too stressed, place a small cotton ball in each ear. Cats can get ear infections if their ears get wet. If you are unable to get the cotton balls in, or if your cat repeatedly shakes them out, make sure you’re extra careful not to get the ears wet.
- With the empty cup, gently pour the sink water onto your cat.
- Pour the diluted shampoo solution on him and massage into his fur. NEVER put shampoo by the face, eyes or ears.
- Wet the washcloth in the clean sink water and gently run it over his snout and face. Again, do not use shampoo on your cat’s face.
- If you are using the double sink, using cupfuls of clean water, rinse the shampoo thoroughly from your cat, draining the water if it becomes too deep. If you are using a spray attachment, check the water temperature, and make sure the pressure is not too great. Place the nozzle close to your cat’s fur so he doesn’t get the “spray” sensation. It is very important that you rinse ALL the shampoo from your cat—their skin can be very sensitive and shampoo residue will make them susceptible to skin infections and irritations.
- Once your cat has been completely rinsed, lift him out of the sink using a soft towel. Try to keep him wrapped in the towel, blotting excess water (DO NOT RUB with the towel as this can be very irritating to an already edgy cat). Repeat several times with dry towels.
- Once you have blotted away the excess water, keep your kitty in a quiet, warm, draft-free place until he is completely dry and relaxed once more.
- If you’ve gotten any scratches in the process, clean them thoroughly with soap and water, treat them with antiseptic and bandage them. Check any scratches or bites frequently for signs of infection.
Alternatives to Water
For cats that simply can’t be bathed in the traditional way, there are a couple alternatives.
- Brush your cat with a dry brush. A simple dry brushing is often enough to remove dirt and dust from your cat’s coat, as well as to remove any loose fur. Brushing your cat regularly helps to keep their coat clean and also can help with improve their circulation, acting as a type of massage.
- You can use a spray ‘waterless’ shampoo. These do not rinsing. You simply spray them on, rub them in, and that’s it. These are available online or in most pet stores.
- You can use a spray cleaner. If your cat will tolerate a light mist of water, you can mix one part white vinegar with three parts water in a spray bottle. Vinegar is a natural deodorizer, as well as able to kill 99% of bacteria and 90% of viruses. Mist your pet with this solution as needed. Let the mist sit for 5-10 minutes, then towel dry your cat, or simply let them fully air dry.
- A completely dry option is dry shampoo. These are the same concept as the dust baths that animals often take in the wild. The dust absorbs any dirt or oils on their coat, then can easily be brushed off or blown away in the wind. Commercial dry shampoos for cats are available online or in stores, or you can use either corn flour or wheat germ. Even though you will be able to brush the powder out of your cat’s fur afterward, some residue will remain that your cat likely will ingest as they bathe themselves, so DO NOT use any product that would be harmful for your cat to ingest, such as baking soda, talcum powder, or corn starch.
- Sunlight is a natural deodorizer and can quickly kill bacteria as well. Consider getting your cat a harness and taking them outside to sit in the sun for 30 minutes for a sun bath. Be sure to watch your cat closely though, and provide them with the option of shade if they need it, as well as with a bowl of water to drink. The fresh breeze can also help to air out their coat.
Additional Tips and Advice
- Cats keep themselves clean and do not need to be bathed frequently.
- NEVER attempt to bathe your cat by yourself. Even if your cat is used to the process, cats can be unpredictable and accidents do happen. Always have another person assist you.
- If you have a long-haired cat, you may want to use feline conditioner to restore the luster to his fur. Apply after the shampoo and rinse thoroughly.
- If you have significant reluctance or fear over the prospect of bathing your cat, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian for assistance and advice.
- For cats that have rolled in motor oil or engine grease, Dawn can be used to break through the oil in the fur. It will take time, so be prepared to keep the cat warm during and after the cleaning process.
- Towels can be warmed in the dryer prior to the bath so they are nice and toasty when you wrap your kitty in them.