If your cat has had an unfortunate encounter with a skunk, there are some tricks you can try first before going to battle with a cat that hates water. Get prepared with the pre-cleaning tips, then follow the steps below to help your cat.
- We recommend that, if possible, you do this OUTSIDE. This is because the skunk oil will transfer to many other surfaces, including your tub, if you try you try to do it indoors.
- This job will be messy and smelly, so make sure you wear old clothes and gloves that can be disposed of afterwards. Remember, once you handle the cat, you will probably smell like skunk too. Long sleeves may offer some protection, and if bathing the cat, a sweatshirt may save you a few scratches.
- Take off your shoes and put on some thick socks if needed to avoid getting the smell on your shoes.
- Dabbing some mint toothpaste or mouthwash under your nose may help you to deal with the smell better. Chewing mint gum also could help.
- The key to success is preparation. You must make certain you have all necessary items at your fingertips.
- Bathing a cat is A TWO PERSON JOB. You will need to keep at least one hand on your cat at all times, so you need a helper.
Removing the Smell Without Water
You Will Need:
- Cat eyewash or vegetable oil
- A cat-safe powder (choose one):
- Baking soda
- A stainless steel spoon
- Dawn dish liquid
- A bowl
- An old towel or rags
- White vinegar
- Hydrogen peroxide
Steps to Clean the Cat:
- Next, examine your cat’s eyes. If they are red and watery, you can use a cat eyewash to wash them out. If you do not have cat eye wash, you can put a drop of vegetable oil in each of their eyes to help get rid of the sting they’re feeling and protect them until you can get some eye wash. You can make an eye wash for your cat from distilled water and salt; follow the steps in the guide How to Clean Your Cat’s Eyes.
- Pat your cat down with some paper towels. Press the paper towels onto your cat once, then remove it and look to see if it is wet anywhere; throw it away if so. Do not rub the paper towel over your cat or you will spread the skunk spray. By examining the paper towel after each pat, you will be able to determine where the skunk spray is located on their fur so you know where to focus your attention.
- Next, rub a cat-safe powder into the fur where the spray was located. Baking soda is the best choice if possible, or if not, oats, flour, cornstarch or cornmeal can be used instead. Be very generous with the powder. Hold your cat still for at least 5 minutes (10 would be better), then brush the powder off of them. Brush their fur thoroughly to remove the powder. Hopefully the powder will have absorbed the skunk oil.
- If your cat still smells, you can repeat using the powder or move on to another step below. If the powder has worked, wash the area as described in step 8 below to remove any remaining powder residue.
- Rub something stainless steel on them, such as a spoon. (Best not to use a fork or knife just in case your cat abruptly moves.) Be sure to go back and forth with the item, rubbing it deep into the fur in all directions. The steel will neutralize the remaining sulfur from the skunk spray, but it must touch every place the spray has touched.
- If possible (or if necessary because the smell remains), give your cat a cat-style bath, rubbing them with a damp/wet cloth rather than actually washing them if needed. Mix some Dawn dish liquid in a bowl of water to make suds, then dip the cloth in the mix, wring it out and wipe your cat. Swap out for a clean rag every few wipes as the skunk spray will transfer to the rag. If you have an old bath towel or hand towel you can cut up to make a bunch of rags, that’d be best. Use another cloth damp with plain water to rinse your cat afterward.
- If the smell remains, wipe them with a mix of one part white vinegar in two parts water.
- If the smell remains, wipe them with regular 3% hydrogen peroxide, then wipe them with a damp cloth to rinse.
- Another idea is to try rubbing some ketchup or tomato juice into their fur, waiting about 10 minutes, then washing the area to remove the ketchup. Do not let your cat lick the ketchup!
- If none of the above methods have removed the smell, you can repeat any again or you may need to give your cat a bath.
How to Bathe the Cat
What You Will Need:
- Lots of old towels
- 2 tubs (one must be large enough to fit your cat)
- Eye wash for cats or vegetable oil
- Grease cutting dish soap, such as Dawn
- A cup (for rinsing)
- Tomato Juice (room temperature)
- Cat shampoo
- Cotton balls
The Bathing Process:
- Check your cat’s eyes. If his eyes are red and watery from skunk spray, you should immediately use the eye wash (following the directions on the product). Most pet stores sell eye wash for cats, but in a pinch, try using a drop of vegetable oil in each eye. This will at least take the sting out of your cat’s eyes, and protect them during the deskunking process.
- Fill the tub with about three inches of body-temperature water (just enough to come up to your cat’s belly. DO NOT overfill!) It is very important to check the water 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.
- Fill the second tub (or bucket) with the same temperature water.
- Place all your gear within easy reach.
- Hold your breath, pick up your cat and holding him firmly but gently, place him into the first tub of water.
- In all likelihood, YOUR CAT WILL IMMEDIATELY TRY TO GET OUT. 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, preferably by the scruff of the neck. This is why it is important for another person assist you. Attaching a binder clip or chip clip on the scruff of your cats neck may help as well.
- 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, make sure you’re extra careful not to get the ears wet.
- Using the empty cup, gently pour the water on your cat.
- Put about a tablespoon of dish soap into your hand, and massage it liberally into his fur. Skunk spray is oil-based, and the grease-fighting properties of the dish soap will serve to break up the oils and reduce the staying power of the smell. BE CAREFUL TO AVOID YOUR CAT’S EYES AND FACE as the dish soap can be extremely irritating.
- Using the cup, rinse off with clean water from the second tub.
- Pour the tomato juice onto your cat, massaging it into his fur. If you don’t have tomato juice or canned tomatoes, ketchup can be used instead. Allow the tomato juice to stay on your cat for 10 to 15 minutes, depending upon his tolerance. Do not let your cat lick the tomato juice! Do not use a tomato sauce that contains other ingredients like onion or pepper as they are especially toxic to cats.
- Wet the washcloth with a little tomato juice and gently run it over your cat’s snout and face, avoiding the eyes.
- Rinse away the tomato juice.
- Massage a small amount of cat shampoo into your cat’s fur, making sure to get all areas. Again, avoid using shampoo near your cat’s face.
- Rinse the shampoo thoroughly.
- Once your cat has been completely rinsed, lift him out of the tub using a soft towel. Wrap him in a towel, blotting excess water (DO NOT RUB as this can be very irritating to an already edgy cat).
- Once you have blotted away the excess water, keep your cat in a quiet, warm, draft-free place until he is completely dry and relaxed once more.
- Most, if not all, of the skunk smell should be gone after this procedure, but be warned that, depending upon the concentration of the skunk spray, it may be necessary to repeat this procedure. For your sanity, and your cat’s, we recommend waiting until the next day before attempting a second bath.
Additional Tips and Advice
- 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 your cat has had a close encounter with a skunk, it is highly recommended that you take him to the vet to be checked for bites or other injury. Some vets may even “deskunk” your cat for you, especially if your cat is exceptionally skittish.
- If possible, keep your cat out of the house and away from people until he has been deskunked. The odor from the skunk will permeate anything he is near and may linger even after your cat has been deskunked.
- There are some commercial deskunking shampoos available which may be effective in removing skunk odor in lieu of the procedure noted above, but they can be pricey and bathing will still be necessary.
- If you’ve gotten scratched or bitten during the bathing process, make sure you wash the wound thoroughly and seek medical care immediately if there are any signs of infection.
- Do not wipe your cat with anything that it would be hazardous for them to lick later, such as a dryer sheet or essential oils.