How to Wash a Kitten


Dzenita asked: How do I clean an 8 week old kitten? I was told I can’t give him a bath. However, I can take a cloth and wet it with warm water and wipe him down. But…that doesn’t work all that well and he does a bad job cleaning himself. His butt stinks really bad and sometimes he gets poop stuck to his tail. PLEASE HELP!!

Kittens are much like human babies in that they depend on their mothers to clean and take care of them. They need to grow and learn before they can independently groom themselves properly. Normally, the mother cat cleans her kittens and teaches them the proper way to use a litter box, etc. Keeping your kitten extremely clean is important for its health and well-being.

Pre-Cleaning Advice

  • When kittens are startled, they will fear whatever startled them for a long time. For example, a kitten may not be afraid of the water, but if the sound of running water startled the kitten, it will associate being scared with water. Talk to your kitten constantly throughout the cleaning process to help it stay calm and feel safe.
  • Move slowly when introducing your kitten to new things, such as water and bathing, so it has a chance to earn your trust.
  • Soap or shampoo is not necessary at this age unless you are treating for fleas. If  this is the case, consult with your veterinarian to find a soap that is safe for your kitten.

Cleaning Your Kitten

What You Will Need:

  • Soft cloth
  • Warm water
  • Soft towels
  • Kitten treats
  • Lots of love and patience

The Washing Process:

  1. Moisten a soft cloth with warm water. Only use soap that is specially designed for kittens if your veterinarian recommends it – typically, plain water is enough for general cleaning.
  2. Hold your kitten close to you and gently wipe it down with the moist cloth. The amount of wetness will vary depending on how dirty the kitten is. Most of the time, you want the cloth to be good and wet, but not dripping.
  3. Start in a non-invasive area, such as the back and gently wipe as you stroke the fur. Follow the direction of the fur as you clean.
  4. Move onto the legs and lastly the stomach and face.
  5. Pay special attention to clean your kitten’s rear-end. This area is often cleaned by the mother cat as kittens are not able to clean it effectively themselves.
  6. As you are cleaning, talk to your kitten constantly to help keep it calm. If it gets anxious or scared, simply hold it close to you (it helps to cover yourself with a towel, or you’ll both be wet in the end) to offer comfort and reassurance. Cleaning is a great time to bond with your new kitten as you are taking the role of “mother” and helping it to stay clean.
  7. Once your kitten has been completely cleaned, wrap it gently in a soft towel.  Try to keep it wrapped in the towel, and blot away the excess water from its fur (DO NOT RUB with the towel as this can be very irritating to kittens).  Repeat several times with dry towels.
  8. Once you have blotted away the excess water, offer your kitten a treat and keep it in a draft-free place until it is completely dry and relaxed. Kittens are so small that they do not retain body heat very well. This is a great time to hold your kitten close and talk to it to calm it down and help him learn to trust you as you keep him warm until he is dry.
  9. If you’ve gotten any scratches in the process, clean them thoroughly with soap and water, treat them with an antiseptic and bandage them.  Check any scratches or bites frequently for signs of infection.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Kittens only require full baths if they are especially dirty or have fleas.
  • Spot-cleaning works well for kittens. Daily cleaning of their behinds will help keep your kitten happier, healthier and keep odors away.
  • It may be helpful to have a friend help you as you clean your kitten. This will allow one of you to focus on cleaning while the other helps to keep the kitten calm.
  • Grooming is another key factor in keeping your kitten clean. To introduce your kitten to the grooming brush/process, use two brushes. When you brush and it begins biting at the brush, simply place it in front of him so he can smell it and use the second brush to keep brushing. When he bites at that brush, lay it down so he can explore it and pick up the first brush to continue brushing. This gives the kitten a chance to see the brush while continually being groomed. It will eventually learn that brushing feels good and allow you to groom it freely.


  1. You can wash a kitten that young, but you have to make sure that the water that you use is as close to the kitten’s body temperature as possible. A good rule of thumb for me is if it feels almost too hot to put my hands in, it’s OK for the kitten. Then you’ll need to keep them in the water as much as possible… that means be really quick yet thorough with the soap. The longer the kitten stays out of the water, the more chilled it will get.

    Once the kitten is clean, gently squeeze the excess moisture out of its fur and bundle it up in a large towel that was wrapped around a hot water bottle. Dry gently, but thoroughly.

    By the end of this you should have one sleepy, fluffy, clean kitten, one sopping wet large towel, and one sweaty semi-scratched human.

  2. This is a good guide, but what about hair-drying? Don’t you want your kitten to be dry?

  3. Using a hair dryer is a bad idea because:

    a) It’s way too loud, and will terrify them.

    b) The force of the air itself will scare them.

    c) There’s no way to regulate the temperature. It will get too hot. Wet hair is a conductor of heat, which is why you can burn your scalp if you use an iron on your hair when it’s wet.

    Towel drying works fine, and it simulates mother grooming the kitten. It comforts them and makes them sleepy. They will fall asleep purring on you.

  4. Amanda and Brandon says:

    My fiance and I just adopted two female kittens whose mother was lost to coyotes shortly after they were born. This advice was extremely helpful because using the soft cloth to “groom” them created a bond and also showed them how to groom themselves! Leaving the problem area damp after the wash and dry, the kittens plunked themselves down asap and began to clean that area themselves. Thank you for your advice and tips!

  5. Great advice. It helps me a lot. I have not owned kittens in over 35 years; this is a great refresher course. Thank you.

  6. Thanks! I am going to wash my cat!

  7. I just found a stray kitten that someone dropped off. I am not really a cat person, but, of course, I want to help this baby. I don’t know how old it is. I put it in a deep box and it jumped up to get out of it, so it might not be as young as I thought. It is very dirty and skinny, with fleas and matted eyes. What can I do to get rid of the fleas? I cleaned it’s eyes, but it looks like it has sores under them. How can I help this baby?

  8. Yea! Now I know how to wash my little kitten. :)
    Thank you!!

  9. Melanie says:

    For the sores under your cat’s eyes, you can try using a teabag as a poultice or eyewash. Use only true teas (not herbal teas, such as chamomile) and ensure any added flavors are safe for your cat (e.g. oranges are toxic to cats, so you should not use an orange-flavored tea or Earl Grey, which is infused with orange oil.) Just boil water, pour the water into a cup with the teabag, allow the tea to cool and then soak a soft cloth with the tea and use the cloth to clean your cat’s eye or hold the cloth gently against your cat’s eye. You can also use the tea bag as a poultice; gently hold it on your cats eye for a minute or two, but be sure to crush any sharp corners of the tea bag or any tiny twigs inside the tea bag with your fingers first just in case there is something that could poke your cat in the eye – also watch out for the staple (hold the tea bag with staple tips side facing up).
    You could also make your own saline eyewash by adding a teaspoon of salt to a cup of boiling water, turning off the heat once the salt has dissolved and allowing the saltwater to cool before washing your cat’s eye. The salt will help to kill bacteria.
    For the fleas, kittens are so small that you can easily pick the fleas off with tweezers or a flea comb. Keep a small bowl of soapy water or vinegar nearby and place the fleas in the bowl. If you can determine that the kitten is older than eight weeks and you want to give it a full bath, use white vinegar or liquid Dawn dish soap as the shampoo. Lather your kitten for several minutes with the shampoo, rinse with water, then rinse with vinegar, then rinse with water again.
    You can easily turn a cardboard box into a pet carrier (or even a scratching pad, condo or chaise), but a cat of any age would likely try to jump out of an open box.
    Next step: kitten-proof your home. Clip the blind cords out of your kitten’s reach, close the toilet, pick up choking hazards, cover electrical cords, close the fireplace flue, etc. Research each of your houseplants to ensure that they are not toxic to cats and consider wrapping the top of planters with plastic wrap to keep the dirt in the planter.

    Source: wikiHow – How to Kill Fleas With Dawn Dishsoap
    Source: Maine Coon Cat Nation – Vinegar Kills Fleas
    Source: – How to Kitten Proof Your Home: Tips for Living with New Cats
    Source: – How to Clean Your Cat’s Eyes
    Source: – How to Clean Matted Kitten Eyes
    Source: ASPCA – Chamomile

  10. Very good to know!!! Thanks a lot!! We have three-week-old kittens!! 😉 Can you wash them that young? Also, a few of our kittens have yucky stuff around and maybe in their eyes…is it allergies? It seems to come and go though…

  11. Precious says:

    I rescued a kitten. He is so tiny–skin and bones–and he isn’t eating canned or dry food very well. Just mostly milk. I’m thinking he may have worms. Do you know of any home remedies for deworming a 6-week-old baby kitten? He is so sweet and lovable.
    Please advise.

    I did wash him with dish detergent for the fleas; it it worked great. He took it like a champ and I wrapped him with a towel to pat him dry.

  12. Hannah, I just bathed my three-week-old kitten. I found a litter of three; two died, :( and one is hanging in there. I would clean him with a flea comb but I kept noticing dry blood would keep coming off, so I decided to bathe him with Johnson&Johnson baby body wash and it worked wonderfully. He was scared, but he is doing well and his fuzz is so soft. I still see a few fleas that move too fast for my fingers holding tweezers so I’ll try a bath again tomorrow.

  13. We found a feral kitten a few weeks ago. Took him to the vet the next day, had him checked out and we have decided to adopt this little furball. I really want to bathe him, but I am somewhat hesitant, as the kitten is starting to bond with my husband and I. He never had human contact (he was 7-8 weeks old when we got him). What is the best way so that he will not be frightened of a bath?

  14. Thank you. This information really helps. I am getting a tabby kitten in January, but I have a question: would it be a good idea to give the kitten a bath when we bring him/her home to make sure he/she is clean and there are no fleas or dirt on the fur? Or would it be better to let him/her get to know our home and become comfortable first?

  15. Very bad advice from Ping above…. Do NOT BATHE A KITTEN IN WATER THAT IS ALMOST TOO HOT TO PUT YOUR HANDS IN. What an idiot you are Ping.

  16. Very helpful.
    As a foster carer, I want to do right by our kittens. It’s nice to make sure your doing it the same way as others.
    Though I’ll admit on the rare occasion where we have to clean our nine-month semi-long-haired female, she seems to prefer clinging onto my leg, which is a vast improvement from screaming crying kittens (one would squeak and they would all follow, but needs must as they were rescue kitties).
    Our nine-month-old managed to get poo matted in her fur (no idea how) so we had to bathe her. She didn’t howl or anything, just clung to my leg and let me get on with it? Hugged both my partner and I for a good ten minutes after, although is refusing heat other than human heat.

  17. I have a fluffy female kitten, only one that lived in her litter, and she’s super clean; no baths for her; a little sleep in her eyes that I wash with a warm soft facecloth and she’s good to go. Mommy’s little fruit cup she is. :)

  18. Hi Melanie.
    I have a kitten that I rescued from my garage, stuck behind my washing machine. I would say that according to the internet, she looks like she is about three weeks of age or so. I’ve been feeding it warm milk and fried egg; it’s been eating well; it’s only having milk now. She seems to be wanting to sleep a lot ever since last night. She has maybe two fleas on her, but she doesn’t like the water; what can I do about the fleas? Also, this morning, she threw up a white substance, could it be the milk that didn’t digest? I’m keeping her inside the house all the time. There’s also this noise she tends to make at times when she is sleeping, eating or even when you touch her, it’s a weird “machine” like kind of noise, is that anything to worry about? She doesn’t always make this noise, occasionally she does. Would you please advise me on what to do, as I am not much of a cat person and do not know much about kittens?

  19. Visharad,
    You don’t have to wash a kitten to remove the fleas. Thankfully, a kitten is small enough and its fur is thin enough still that you can remove the fleas one by one. Pour some dish liquid in a bowl and fill the bowl with enough water to make suds. Run one hand against the grain of your kitten’s fur while you look for fleas, remove each flea as you find it, and put it in the bowl of soapy water. You can either use your fingers to remove the flea or use tweezers. If you use tweezers, just be careful that you don’t pull out any hairs or your kitten will have a bad experience. Also remove any black specks that you see, which could be flea eggs. For the eggs, it’s easiest to use a lint roller. (Basically just lint roll the kitten; it will think that you’re petting it.) Don’t use tape instead of a lint roller; the adhesive on tape is too strong and will stick to the kitten’s fur.
    Yes, the white liquid is probably milk, but it could be caused by a variety of reasons. See the source articles listed below for more information.
    The machine noise is probably purring. (That means it’s happy.) :)
    Good luck to you both!
    Source: Vetinfo – Why Is Your Kitten Vomiting?
    Source: AllExperts – Cats/6 weeks old kitten throwing up white creamy stuff

  20. Ping’s comment is wrong. Please don’t take that person’s advice; they are obviously a psycho for saying to wash a cat in water that is hot for your hands. Ping’s comment should be removed immediately!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. For a cats bath, you should have the water temp from 100F-102F. A good sign the water is too warm is if they start panting and, of course, if it’s to cold, they will be shivering.

  22. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for the advice and all the comments. My babies adopted two adorable kittens; one had it’s eyes sealed and I was afraid it was blind. Got a vet who gave it a jab and in two days, the eyes were fine. I have been terrified to wash then as they are so tiny; now I know I can. Thanks all.

  23. A why hasn’t that phycho Ping comment been removed?
    We should put her (I am assuming, even though you shouldn’t assume, it’s a HER) in a bath of water too hot for a human and see how she likes it; the phsyco!!!
    Get that comment removed NOW.

  24. Melanie says:

    Although it sounds scary, the temperature described in Ping’s comment is scientifically accurate. Adult cats and kittens that are four-weeks-old or older have a higher body temperature than humans; their normal temperature is 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit. That is what Ping is referring to when saying that the water should be “as close to the kitten’s body temperature as possible. A good rule of thumb for me is if it feels almost too hot to put my hands in.” Our body temperature is usually about 98.6 degrees F, so water that is the same body temperature as a kitten would feel hot to us.
    One reason this is so important is because kittens are not able to regulate their body temperature until they are four weeks old and can quickly die if they are not kept warm. Kittens younger than four weeks do have a lower temperature (according to Pet Education, a newborn kitten is usually 97 degrees Fahrenheit) though, so if washing a kitten younger than four weeks, you may want to adjust the water temperature down slightly. Then again, here’s another way to look at it: What is the ideal temperature for bottle feeding a kitten? Under normal circumstances, the mother’s milk would be the same temperature as her body temperature (100-102 F). Similarly, when their mother cleans them (with her tongue), her spit is also the same temperature as her body. So, it makes sense that the bathing water humans use should be the same.
    However, Ping’s comment described actually placing the kitten in the water rather than sponge bathing it as described in the article. That part is less than ideal. Kittens that are washed as described in the article would be receiving nearly the same treatment as kittens who are bathed by their mother, which will keep them safer than actually submerging them in the water. If the kitten is less than four weeks old, it really shouldn’t be put in water at all, even when being as cautious as Ping described (keeping them in the water as much as possible, since the water temperature would be warmer than the air).
    Regardless of how the kitten is bathed, the water that is on the kitten will quickly cool, so it is important that the kitten does not remain soggy for long. Here’s another way to think of it: air temperature that is 85 degrees feels warm, but water temperature that is 85 degrees feels cold. (Read Dale Swanson’s blog post if you want to know more about the science behind that.) For example, explains that the bath water for a human toddler should be 37 degrees Celcius (98.6 F) because any lower than that will lower your child’s body temperature. The same is true for kittens for their ideal body temperature. We don’t keep the air at 98 degrees F, but water is different.
    Obviously, if the water is so hot that it scalds you, then that’s too hot for a kitten as well. Keep in mind too though that if you are using a bowl of water or even a small sink to hold the water, the water would cool very quickly, so if you fill a bowl with warm water, then leave it to go get the kitten and the towels, etc., by the time you return, it wouldn’t be as warm; and by the time you finish bathing the kitten several minutes later, it would be even less warm. When in doubt, just use a thermometer to know for sure.
    Source: PetEducation – How to Raise Orphan Kittens
    Source: The Nest – Do Kittens Like Warm Formula
    Source: Dale Swanson – Why Water Feels Colder Than Air
    Source: – Safe bath temperature

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