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How to give a cat a bath successfully

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If you are like the rest of the cat lovers or even just a cat owner, you’ve likely experienced, or at least heard of, bath time for your cat being nothing short of a nightmare! To avoid being clawed to death, being showered with dirty bath water and cat fur, or seriously offending your beloved kitty, follow these 5 tips and survive the next time you need to bath your cat. 

Quickly before we reveal those tips, keep in mind that the fur of most breeds of domestic cats has 3 layers and absorbs water readily, so it can be challenging for them to dry themselves. It is likely many breeds have cleverly evolved to dislike water for their own protection, although you will find the occasional cat that likes to swim! Another amazing thing about our cats, is that they groom themselves with their purpose-built rough tongues. So, to complement this, (thankfully) your baths don’t need to be very frequent. 

TIP 1 – Prepare

Preparation is the key! Prepare your cat, yourself and your space. This way the actual bath time is kept to a minimum for your cat. 

Your Cat 

This one is particularly important if your cat suffers from anxiety, has fear resulting from a traumatic experience or just scares easily. Thankfully, there are solutions for cat anxiety. Promoting relaxation in the tub, bath or sink where you are going to bathe for short periods, even taking a few weeks to progress through the steps below, before even considering adding water, can help your cat become accustomed. 

You can begin this as young as 4 weeks or introduce this play anytime at any age. 

Step 1 – Line the bottom of your tub/bath – using a towel or thick material so claws can sink into it to help with security

Step 2 – Play in there with a favorite toy or hide treats for fun, undertake other grooming such as clipping nails or brush your cat. 

  • Removing dust and any matted fur is an important grooming activity as any matted hair will trap moisture close to the skin which can in turn irritate the skin, so you might like to do this in the dry bath area whilst helping your cat to feel comfortable in this space. 

Step 3 – Let the tap drip. Some cats love to paw at dripping water so this is a great place to start when you are ready to add some water. 

Step 4 – Shallow water. After that introduce some shallow water just to wet kitty’s feet, before you take the plunge and proceed to an actual bath. 


Prepare yourself by wearing old clothes you are happy to get wet and allocate plenty of time for this activity.  This way bath time can be unrushed, remain calm and be equipped to receive a little splash or shower in the process.  

Your space – set up your space with shampoo, a cup, a handheld shower head if possible, cotton balls for cleaning around ears, a small damp cloth for your cat’s face and towels for drying. You may choose to have long rubber gloves if your cat is prone to scratching. Use a room where the door can be closed or closed off to reduce drafts and noise and increase safety. 

TIP 2 – Follow bath time steps

Once you are ready to start your bath time, add approximately 15cm of warm water to your tub.

If your cat is soiled, for example, has feces around their bottom, or pollen on their fur, blot this off with kitchen paper towel first.  

1 – Gently lowering your cat into the water

2 – Speak soothingly and move in an unrushed manner to help support your cat and use the minimum restraint you can keeping your cat safe

3 – Wet your cat thoroughly starting behind the head avoiding the face. The face area will be carefully cleaned with the cloth later. Use a cup or a hand held shower head if you have one.  Continue along your cat’s body to the tip of the tail.

4 – Add shampoo* and gently massage through the coat being very careful to avoid delicate eyes and ear areas. Eyes, ears and mouth must be kept free of shampoo as it can damage delicate tissue and should not be inhaled or ingested.

    • Approximately 7 – 10mls will shampoo and average length coal adult cat
    • Shampoos that are soap-free and hypoallergenic area ideal if your cat has any sensitivities 
    • Choose kitten specific products for your young cat such as kitten shampoo and spray
    • Not all canine shampoos are ok for our feline friends so please check if your pet shampoo is suitable for dogs AND cats
    • A product that suspends dirt in the coat for easy rinsing is a great choice for bathing cats to expedite the process  
    • Work on stained or dirty areas with some extra rubbing or whitening shampoo if your light-colored cat has areas of discoloration

5 – Gently but thoroughly rinse your cat starting behind the head and working your way downs its body and legs to the tail. Use a cup or a handheld shower head if you have one. Ensure your cat is rinsed very thoroughly.

7 – Remove your cat from the bath and wrap in a towel.

6 – Use a washcloth to wipe over the face. Clean the ears with a cotton ball by gently wiping the ears. Do not insert. 

Now kitty is ready to be dried.

*Should you be using a shampoo that requires time to deliver a medicated treatment such as anti-bacterial or anti-fungal shampoo, wrap your cat in a towel and nurse them during this time to reassure them and keep them warm.

TIP 3 – Dry and be done

Drying is an important step even if your cat is ready to escape. Trapped moisture can mean the cats skin remains wet and can cause skin irritations or fungal conditions. Drying can be done gently with a towel and if desired a low heat dryer. Ensure your cat will tolerate the noise and sensation of a dryer, if not, turn off straight away. 

After your cat is dry, try playing, offering a treat or just cuddle them as a nice post bath activity for you both to enjoy.

TIP 4 – Frequency revealed. 

Every 4-6 weeks is usually frequent enough for cat baths, depending on your cat’s environment and individual needs.

After going to the effort of bathing your cat, you probably wish that fresh clean cat smell would keep on lingering as you cuddle your cat day after day? If so, this is the shampoo for you! You can also prolong that fresh clean perfume by using a spritzer

Should you be concerned with your cat’s odor he may need a vet check as health problems are sometimes highlighted by a change in odour.

TIP 5 – When a bath’s not possible, try another solution.

Sometimes it’s just too upsetting to bath our cats, sometimes we are concerned our cat may become cold during a bath, or there’s just no ideal tub or bath.  An alternative is Pet Wipes

  • Removes dust and loose fur 
  • Eliminates odour 
  • Conditioning the coat 
  • SOOOO easy, and
  • Cost effective  

Wipes are also wonderful to cleanse your cat when they are post-operative or post trauma, pregnant or unable to lick as normal. A quick no fuss solution to keep your cat clean and you purring.

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