It’s a well-known fact that cats are pretty low-maintenance when it comes to hygiene. The feline body is specially adapted to clean itself, from the papillated tongue that acts like a brush, to the fine, sharp teeth that can remove insects and dirt, to the inherent flexibility that allows them to groom parts to their body that are difficult to reach.
Cats aren’t just good at cleaning themselves, they like doing it too. An adult cat spends as much as half its waking hours in the act of self-grooming. It’s essential for a whole slew of reasons. Grooming not only keeps your feline friend clean, but it also promotes relaxation, helps with thermoregulation, and serves as quality bonding time for fellow cats. In fact, deviations from their normal grooming schedule (whether too seldom or too frequent) is one way you can tell if your cat needs to visit the vet.
So: If cats are good at cleaning themselves and enjoy doing it on a regular basis, why would you need to give them a bath in the first place?
Why Give A Cat A Bath
There are only a few cases wherein a cat warrants a bath. Bacterial and fungal infections often require a weekly full-body rinse with medicated shampoo as part of the treatment routine. Allergy, flea or tick infestations, and other causes of skin inflammation can also be soothed with regular bathing alongside prescribed medication.
There are times when your cat has the bright idea to roll around in something smelly or sticky that she may find troublesome to remove on her own. Other times, there may be chemicals on her fur that could result in toxicity if licked and ingested.
Your cat may need your help in proper grooming if she is arthritic or obese. These conditions make it difficult for her to reach certain parts of her body, resulting in dirt build-up and fur matting. When it comes to breeds, you may be surprised that it’s the furless cat breeds that require more frequent bathing. Their skin produces more oil as protection, and leaving the greasy layers to accumulate can attract dirt and pathogens.
Other than these instances, all the grooming help your cat needs from you might be the occasional brushing or wipe-down with wet wipes.
How To Minimize Stress During Cat Baths
Cats are notorious for their dislike of water. So if you value the skin on your arms and face, it would be in your best interest to make their bath experience as pleasant as possible.
1. Prepare The Materials
You will need:
- A basin, tub, or sink filled with 3-4 inches of warm water. Submerging your cat in water is almost a surefire way to traumatize your cat. Make sure the water level does not reach half of the length of her leg and it is neither too hot nor too cold.
- A slip-free bath mat. A slippery surface is likely to make your cat panic. If her balance is compromised, it’s likely she will dig her claws into anything that she can anchor herself to (including your arms).
- Dipper or spray nozzle on a low flow setting. A good rule of thumb: splashing = panic. To avoid that, make sure the water washes over your cat gently. Using a dipper gives you full control over the flow. Just make sure that you have a basin of warm water to dip from. If you use a spray nozzle, use the lowest setting so it doesn’t come out in jets.
- Vet-approved cat shampoo. Using any other type of shampoo can lead to skin conditions due to differences in pH and other factors that make it incompatible with feline fur. It may also leave residue and heavy new scents that will stick to your cat’s fur even after bathing, which may lead to social problems in multi-cat households.
- Treats and floating toys. Bribery and distraction can be extremely useful in this situation. Sticky treats can help keep your cat busy licking as you wash her down. Toys that she can fish out of the water, such as bobbing ping-pong balls, can make her playful instead of panicky.
- Towels for drying off
2. Prepare Your Cat
Brush your cat down before the bath to loosen up any accumulated dirt and to gentle untangle fur. This lessens the time your cat spends in the water and minimizes scrubbing.
It will help to play with your cat to tire her out before the bath. Letting out excess energy will lead to a more relaxed state.
3. Gently Place Your Cat In The Basin
Reassure her with soft cooing and strokes to get her used to the unfamiliar setting and presence of water. You can spend a couple of minutes giving her treats or getting her to play with bathe toys.
4. Rinse With Water
With your dipper or low-setting spray nozzle, gently rinse your cat while avoiding her head. Pour the water close to her skin to minimize splashing. Shield her face when rinsing her neck to make sure no water penetrates her eyes or ears.
5. Lather Up
Spread the vet-approved cat shampoo and create a lather. Make sure to gently but firmly remove any sticky substance or dirt. Don’t forget to scrub the paws, armpits and groin area.
For the face, use a small washcloth with water to gently wipe. If this part is dirty, you can dip the washcloth in shampoo diluted with water. Be careful not to get anything on her eyes or ears as it may create panic.
Medicated shampoos may need to be left on the skin for 10-15 minutes. Make sure to keep the temperature of the room high to keep your cat from feeling cold. Keep your cat preoccupied with toys and treats to help the time go by faster.
Make sure to rinse the lather off thoroughly to remove any residue that could irrirate yur cat’s skin.
7. Towel Dry
Dry your cat thoroughly with a towel or a hairdryer (if they can tolerate the sound) in a warm place. Let them stay there until they are completely dry so they don’t get cold.
You may use the same towel in a multi-cat household as long as none of them have any contagious infection. This will help spread the scent and minimize social conflicts.
8. Reward Profusely
Congratulations, your cat is clean! Reward her with treats after to help her associate bathing with positive results.