Most of the time, cats are fastidious groomers and can take care of their own hygiene. Sometimes, though, your cat may need some help bathing himself, such as when your cat is sick. If you find yourself needing to bathe your cat, proper preparation is key to making bath time as stress-free as possible for your cat. Before you give a sick cat a bath, consult with your veterinarian. There are some cases where giving a sick cat a bath could do more harm than good.
Should I wash my cat?
In most cases, you don't need to bathe your cat because cats are excellent self-groomers. There are some circumstances where your cat may need your help keeping herself clean, though. If your cat gets into something dangerous, such as household chemicals or antifreeze; if your cat has a litter box accident or gets sick on herself; or if your cat is very sick, she may need your help with grooming.
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If your cat is very sick, she may not have the energy or ability to keep up with her own grooming. You should always check with your veterinarian before you bathe a sick cat, though, as there are circumstances in which bathing your cat may do more harm than good.
Preparing to give your cat a bath
Being prepared for your cat's bath will make the experience more pleasant and less stressful on both of you. Gather all the supplies you'll need before you bring your cat to the tub or sink for a bath.
To give your cat a bath, you'll need shampoo specifically formulated for cats. You should not use shampoo made for humans or dogs on your cat because some of the ingredients may irritate your cat's skin or be toxic to him. You'll also need a sink or tub, a towel, and a soft washcloth. A pitcher for rinsing your cat may also be helpful if you don't have a tub or sink with a sprayer. Place a nonskid mat in the sink or tub to help prevent your cat from slipping around during the bath.
You may want to wear a long-sleeve shirt and rubber gloves when giving your cat a bath to help protect yourself against cat scratches. You may want to trim your cat's claws before bath time as well. Your cat's favorite treats should be on hand to make bath time as pleasant as possible.
How to wash a cat
- Get ready. Once you have collected all of your bath supplies and have them laid out near your tub or sink, place the nonskid mat into the sink or tub. Fill your sink or tub with a few inches of lukewarm water; you don't want the water to be too hot or too cold, or your cat won't be comfortable.
- Be gentle. Gently put your cat into the sink or tub. Talk in a soft, soothing voice and praise her for being a good kitty, even if she is squirming or trying to escape. Wet down your cat with water.
- Choose a personalized method. Your cat may be calmer if you use a washcloth to wet her body and tail rather than a pitcher or sprayer. Avoid getting your cat's face wet; most cats don't like getting their face wet.
- Lather. Lather your cat with cat shampoo per the bottle's instructions. Avoid getting any soap in your cat's ears, eyes, and nose. Remember to follow any instructions your vet gave you for bathing your sick cat.
- Rinse. Use a pitcher or sprayer to rinse the soap off your cat. Make sure you get all of the soapy residue off her.
- Dry. Gently wrap your cat in a towel before lifting her out of the sink or tub and placing her on the floor. Use a towel to dry your cat a little before you let her go. Most cats are scared of the hair dryer, so it may not be the best way to dry your cat. If you do use a hair dryer, though, use it on the lowest setting and don't hold the dryer too close to your cat to avoid burning her.
- Reward. Offer your cat treats after bath time to reward her for her good behavior.