Most of the time, cats are good at cleaning themselves. However, there are situations when cats do need a bath. Today, our Powder Springs vets tell you how you can bathe your cat and prevent yourself from getting scratched.
Do You Need to Bathe Your Cat
Because cats are skilled at cleaning themselves, we don't usually need to bathe them very often.
A cat’s tongue is rough and covered with tiny curved barbs that transfer saliva across their fur. This is like a mini spa treatment, as each lap spreads healthy natural oils across their skin and coat. Those little spines also work as natural detanglers, which is why you’ll often see your kitty licking and biting at fur clumps until they are able to smooth everything out.
On the other hand, regular bathing either at home or with our experienced groomers can help reduce the amount of hair that is lost and prevent hairballs.
How Often You Should Give Your Cat a Bath
Certain circumstances require you to give a cat or kitten a bath. If they've gotten into something they shouldn’t ingest, such as motor oil, antifreeze, gasoline, or paint. Basically, anything that can get on their fur that could be harmful to your cat's health, needs to be washed off immediately.
Some cats can develop skin conditions that are soothed with bathing, such as seborrhea, a disorder that causes flakey, red, and itchy skin. Your veterinarian might also recommend medicated baths for treating other health conditions, such as severe flea allergies or ringworm.
Cats that are old or obese often can't groom themselves effectively and benefit from regular baths. Cats with long hair should be bathed every couple of months or so to minimize fur matting. Hairless breeds, like the Sphynx, may need a bath once a week because they have an oily residue that can get on fabrics.
How To Bathe Your Cat
As with bathing a baby; everything you need to bathe your cat should be within arm’s reach. The tools you require include:
- Special cat shampoo and conditioner.
- Several towels to clean her off and help her dry.
- A shower or bath with a handheld showerhead.
You should never use human shampoo or conditioner because it has a different PH level than the type of shampoo that is suitable for cats and could damage your pet’s hair or skin.
Prepare Before the Bath
Before you start you should brush your cat to remove any knots or tangles, particularly if they are a long-furred breed.
Set the water temperature to warm and have it running through the showerhead at a medium-level spray.
Bathe Your Cat
While talking to your cat and offering them lots of reassurance and praise, gently place them into the shower tray or bath. Using a showerhead from above is significantly less stressful for your pet as they are more likely to be used to being rained on than they are being lowered into 4 inches of tepid water!
Hold your cat in place by their scruff, or use a harness if you think they are going to be hard to control. Start washing them gently, using soft confident strokes. Cats are very intuitive at picking up stress, so if you seem stressed they will be on edge too, and much more likely to lash out or try to run away!
Apply small amounts of shampoo – they're probably not as dirty as you think they are! Make sure you rinse clean and then repeat with the conditioner. Do your absolute best to avoid your cat's eyes and nose.
Dry Your Cat
Once your kitty is clean you should towel-dry them as best as you can. Some cats are petrified of hair dryers. If your feline friend isn’t, you may consider drying them with the dryer on low heat and speed. You may need to confine your cat to a carrier in order to do this. Alternatively, you could leave your cat in the warm bathroom until their coat is completely dry. The important thing is to ensure they are thoroughly dried before going into other parts of the house. Damp cats can easily get chilled which could make them unwell, or in the case of kittens, particularly low body temperatures can be life-threatening.
How to Bathe Your Cat Without Being Scratched
It's no secret that cats hate water. Some cats will tolerate baths, but others simply won't. When a bath is inevitable, staying calm will help you both, here are some tips that can help ease your cat's stress so they will be less likely to scratch and claw their way to freedom:
- Select a time after they have eaten or played, so they will be more mellow
- Plan for a short grooming session to make handling their fur much easier
- If possible, trim your cat's nails before the bath and file the ends after they're clipped to dull them
- Recruit a friend to help, so one of you can hold the cat while the other bathes them
- Fill a sink with a few inches of warm water and wash only the parts you need to, then rinse thoroughly
- Minimize running water, the sound makes many cats panic, and the last thing you want is to grab a slippery, sharp cat
- Use a washcloth around the face and ears
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.