Bathe a Cat
From Tips and Steps
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- Decide whether your cat really needs a bath. There may be other ways to clean your cat, such as brushing the cat, combing or even rubbing down with a cloth.
- Get at least two people involved in washing your cat, especially if your cat is rather strong and can kick and wriggle its way out of your hands. One person should hold all four legs and hold the cat's jaw so it can't open its mouth to bite you, but make sure you don't hold it really tight so it can't breath. Hold your cat firmly so it cannot wriggle out from your grip.
- Trim all nails before even attempting to wash a cat - this will reduce scratching.
- Fill the tub no more than 4-5 inches deep with warm water (depends on size of the animal). Try to fill the tub before bringing your cat into the bathroom, since some cats can be unnerved by running water.
- Fill a bucket or two with extra water for rinsing the cat: Optional. This is so you don't need to run more water during the bath, which might scare your cat.
- Put a rubber mat in the tub or use a towel so the cat has a comfortable footing.
- Have shampoo for cats (you may need to go to a vet to get some) but if you don't have a lot of money you could use baby shampoo, flee shampoo or mild shampoo and conditioner, do not use normal shampoo it may be toxic to the cat and a small wash cloth ready. Have two towels at hand for drying your cat.
- Pre-treat any oily stains. Cats stained with something greasy may be very difficult to clean with shampoo and water alone. A cat smeared with engine or axle grease, motor oil, flypaper goo, or even crisco-based cake frosting can be helped by massaging a runny edible oil into the stained area before shampooing. Once the stain has been "melted" in this way, it will lift easily with shampoo.
- Wear gloves, and use a low-melting point edible oil such as softened butter, bacon grease, or vegetable oil. Spoon or dribble it directly onto the affected area. Do not use any water. Massage the fur gently between your fingers until the stain appears to have blended with the oil. Blot away excess with a dry washcloth.
- For severely stained cats, you may want to repeat the process, to dilute the foreign substance as much as possible.
- Finish by massaging some shampoo directly into the oily patch on your cat.
- Comb the fur thoroughly before you put the cat in the water, if the cat is long-haired or if it has burrs. Remove knots and tangles before wetting the fur, or the task will be next to impossible.
- Use a calm, quiet voice while washing your cat and keep a good grip on the neck or shoulders. Sometimes cats, obviously, will try to get out of the tub. If they prefer to have only two of their feet in the water, face them toward the back of the tub and let them stand on two feet.
- Finish drying:
- With long-haired cats, you will have to use a comb and more towels. Long hairs mat more easily when wet, so you may wish to comb the coat until it is completely dry.
Alternate Bucket Technique
- Use a couple buckets for separate bathing stations, even with cats that have never been bathed before. Have the buckets filled with warm water. Dip the cat in and using a wash cloth make sure the cat is entirely wet, then soap the cat down. Next, put the cat in another bucket to rinse until soap is gone. Make sure to use warm enough water and to dry thoroughly as described above. This technique can be done outside if the weather is warm and sunny, and if care is taken to prevent the cat from escaping in mid-bath.
Alternate Shower Technique
- Recognize that it may be helpful to wash your cat in a shower stall (if you have one with a door, not curtain). The cat is essentially trapped in the shower without you having to hold on. Make sure the cat has good traction (a small towel in the bathtub will help if you have no rubber mat) or you will have a panic-stricken cat that is likely to seek safety in height by trying to climb you like a tree.
- Buy a hose adapter for your bathroom sink (try a water-bed store) and a hose long enough to reach over the shower door and back down to the shower floor. Or, get a hand held spray shower and a Y-adapter to connect it to your regular shower head.
- Hose your cat down, lather up, hose down to rinse, then proceed with drying. Use a gentle stream, to saturate the fur thoroughly without terrifying the cat. Please keep the water pressure fairly low, so the cat is comfortable. Some cats actually seem to enjoy the massage settings on hand held showers, especially on the back of the neck and down the ridge of the back.
Alternate Dry Shampoo Option
- Dust the cat with cornstarch. Gently pet the cat to thoroughly rub the cornstarch into its fur. Let the cat clean itself with its normal grooming routine. This technique is far less traumatic than using water, and works especially well if the cat is greasy, however, use it for non-toxic dirt only. Do not use this technique if the cat has gotten into something poisonous.
How to Gently Wash a Cat
- Instead of traumatizing your cat by throwing her into a bath and scaring your cat out of her wits, there are other gentler techniques of bathing your cat.
- One technique to bath your cat is to take a shallow tub, a few inches high and fill it with water.
How to make your cat want to bathe.
- Next, play with your cat inside his or her bath with a string, or with some other toy that your cat likes. If you play with your cat in the bath, then your cat will enjoy bathing and want to get in there again to play with you!
- Make it the place where you play with your cat with a certain item (like a mouse on a string or some kind of " cat bathing" toy.) you only play with her in bath. This causes your cat to look forward to the event of cat bathing, instead of fearing it!
- Another good cat bathing motivator is to give your cat a couple of yummy cat treats when it baths.
- Try adding some catnip to its bath water, though this may make your cat extremely playful and it may then want to attack you. See how your cat reacts to catnip before covering him/her in it.
- Cats' natural body temperatures are several degrees above a human's, so what feels luke-warm to you can feel uncomfortably cold to a cat. It can be less uncomfortable for a cat if you bathe it in fairly hot water and steam up the bathroom so warm air is circulating. (Imagine if someone suddenly tossed you into a tepid swimming pool. Or how it feels when you finish with your shower and open the door, letting the regular air in. Feels freezing against your wet skin, right?)
- Try giving your cat a treat after the bath; it might improve the tension for future baths!
- The younger you start bathing your cat, the easier it will be as the cat will become familiar with it as part of its routine.
- Brave souls may find it easier to put on old clothing and sit in the tub holding the cat (however the cat typically likes to be held) and letting someone else actually bathe the cat.
- When you have more time, run a very shallow warm bath (only a cm deep or so to begin with). Pet the cat, and give it a treat if it is food oriented. Continue at this depth until the cat does not panic and try to escape. Repeat daily, until the cat treats it as part of a routine, gradually increasing the depth until it is accepting standing in 4-5 ins of water. As a final step, have someone else reassure the cat whilst you use your hand to gently make waves in the water. This can take a week, or months depending on the cat, but it is worth the perseverance to know that you can safely bathe your pet when necessary.
- If all else fails, take your cat to a reputable, professional pet groomer (i.e. PetSmart, PetCo) or a vet for their washing. They will be able to use techniques to keep the cat calm. It you have the petclub membership you could get a coupon for coming often.
- Some cats will do better in an empty tub (or sink) with water being poured on rather then being put into a tub with water already in it.
- If you are giving your cat a flea bath, wet the area around its neck first. Fleas will try to escape to the dry areas of the cat, which can mean a mass exodus of fleas to the head and face while you are bathing. A wet neck will keep them off the head, and in contact with the water and flea shampoo.
- You may find it helpful, if you have a cat that is very attached to you and is not scratching but is just scared, to simply take a shower with your animal. Wear a heavy sweatshirt and allow the cat to sit on your chest. The cat will most likely bury its face in your neck and feel calmed. Wash and rinse your cat as normal.
- Another idea is to place your cat and water in a small plastic dishwashing tub (about 12x18 in.) and stand over it. This way, you can more easily control the cat, and it is harder for it to escape. I've found that never letting my cat escape on its own, and only letting it go when I am done has helped it be calm and cooperative during baths. It also helps to make bath time quick and gentle.
- An oven rack can be used to give the cat something to hold onto. This reduces the chance of you being scratched and makes the cat feel better.
- If you have a litter box in the same room as you are bathing the cat, remove it! Sometimes after the cat is put in the bath and it happens to escape it may go to the litter box and soon your floor will be covered in litter!
- The YouTube video "How to Wash a Cat", though originally intended for comedy, has a lot of good tips in it. (Note: It says to drop the cat when putting it in the tub. Don't do this as your cat will only become angry.)
- Make sure the outside air temperature is over 70 Fahrenheit degrees (20 °C) and at low humidity. Bathed cats can, and will, contract pneumonia, as they are easily chilled. Keep bathed cat indoors in warm family room for 12 hours if weather won't cooperate.
- Watch out for cat claws if you decide to bathe your cat. Wearing a thick, long-sleeved sweater is one way to avoid getting scratched badly while bathing your cat. Be patient and gentle; it is natural for cats to fight the water because it simply doesn't feel right.
- If you don't know how to properly hold a cat by the scruff, don't do it. Your cat may choke.
- Don't put shampoo on their head. It could get in their eyes.
- Be aware that you shouldn't bathe your cat frequently, this technique is just in case your pet is really dirty.
- Although some cats may accept the bath without great complaints, they may get nervous or angry or too scared when you try to dry them. Be careful during this last phase-- shut the door of the bathroom or the cat will run away all wet, keep it calm or it will urinate, creating a big mess.
- If you find your cat objects too much to a bath by hissing at you and trying to escape, then forget the bath. Use a wet washcloth instead. It removes the outer dirt, and cleans well. At your local pet store, you can find treated cloths that need no water to be used to groom the cat. They even have a pleasant scent.
- Cats absorb chemicals through their skin, so they must be very well rinsed. Rinse until you see only clear water running off the cat.
- Make sure to use specially formulated shampoo for cats. Your hair is different from that of your cat, and your shampoo will only irritate your cat's skin.
- Do not use flea shampoos for dogs on your cat. They may contain ingredients that are harmful to your cat. Be sure to read the label on all products, and be aware that some flea products formulated for cats may still cause a reaction.
- While you may be tempted to use a solvent to dissolve industrial stains like engine grease or flypaper, don't do it. Harsh solvents are bad for your cat, are difficult to apply effectively to a struggling cat, and evaporate too quickly to do a thorough job on the stain. The vegetable oil technique above works very well for sticky and grease-based stains, and it has the advantage of being totally safe.
- Do not bathe your pet any more than once every two weeks. Excessive bathing may remove protective oils from its fur, making it appear dull, and reducing the fur's natural efficiency against the elements.
- Never use sinks that are freestanding because your cat might jump and slip from being wet and hurt itself.
- Never get soap in your cat's eyes. As a safeguard, put 1 to 2 drops of eye lubricant into each eye just before bathing. You can use any human labeled eye drops that are indicated as a non-medicated ocular lubricant, often used for dry eye syndrome. They are available as over the counter (OTC) products at most drug stores. Examples include Tears Natural II drops or as a gel (Genteal).
- Similarly, do not get soapy water into your cat's ears. To minimize the risk of creating an ear infection (otitis external), put a pledget of cotton in each ear. Don't forget to take them out at the end of the bath. The cotton may also reduce the noise and make your job easier. At the very least your cat may be pre-occupied with the cotton in its ears and remain distracted. If your cats ears are particularly filthy, gently wipe the insides with a warm, damp wash cloth with no soap. Cat's ears contain protective waxes and oils that should not be removed.
- Listen for sounds of unhappiness. These sounds include hissing, growling, breathing hard, sneezing, crying, and meowing.
- Avoid using a blow dryer on a short-haired cat or kitten as it may burn them and/or cause more trauma. Short-haired cats can bathe themselves dry.
- Never force your cat's head under the water! To wash their head and face, use a wash cloth.
- Cold water will shock your cat. Just as said before, "Not luke-warm, almost hot."
- Please do not use shampoo/conditioner for humans on cats. It can cause all sorts of allergic reactions & skin irritation.If you don't have cat shampoo just use warm water.
Things You'll Need
- Conditioner (optional)
- 2 towels
- Your cat
- A bath
- Warm water (Not luke warm, but almost hot!)
- A jumper, a long sleeved shirt or long sleeved gloves
- 2 or more people
- Treats (optional)
Related Tips and Steps
- How to Communicate With Your Cat
- How to Pet a High Strung Cat
- How to Trim Your Cat's Nails
- How to Clean Your Cat When He Can't Do It Himself
- How to Bathe a Kitten
- How to Get Rid of Fleas
- How to Check out Cuts, Scratches and Abrasions
- How to Catch a Stray Cat