How to Give a Cat a Bath

Some things go great together, like peanut butter and jelly. Other things, not so much. Cats and water might not always play nice, but sometimes there’s no way to avoid giving your furry feline a bath – whether they got into something especially dirty or just need some help keeping clean due to old age or a medical condition. We’re here to help with a few guidelines that will make bathing an easier, more stress-free experience for both you and your cat.

What You’ll Need
Cat shampoo
Cat brush
Water pitcher or a couple of large cups
Cotton balls
Cat treats
Nail clippers

Getting Ready
Before beginning the bath, make sure your cat’s nails are trimmed to reduce the risk of getting scratched. Brush your cat as well to remove any knots before getting wet. Fill the tub or sink with a few inches of warm, but not hot, water. It’s best to do this while the cat is not in the room – running water can scare your cat. Also fill a large pitcher (or a couple of large cups) with warm water. You’ll use this water to rinse your cat after being shampooed. Don’t rinse with the shower head or faucet – the pressure and noise can frighten your cat. It’s also a good idea to wear protective clothing: a long-sleeve shirt and rubber gloves.

Giving the Bath
Two sets of hands are better than one. If you can get help, have one person hold and calm your cat while the other person washes and rinses. Bring your cat into the room and place him or her into the tub. Remain calm throughout the process – if you’re nervous your cat will be nervous too – and never fight or try to overpower your cat. If your cat really resists the bath, just get the legs and feet wet for now, and try another day. Once you and the cat are ready, start washing the cat’s neck and work your way to the back, belly, legs, and tail. Keep shampoo away from your cat’s eyes and ears by using a damp washcloth to clean the face gently. Use cat shampoo only – people shampoo and even dog shampoo can be harmful to cats. To clean the ears, use a cotton ball, never a Q-tip or anything else that needs to be inserted into the ear. When you’re done shampooing, use your pitcher of warm water to rinse your cat thoroughly (remember, don’t use the shower head or faucet to rinse). It’s important you remove all shampoo from the coat. Once rinsed, wrap your newly clean cat in a towel and gently blot away the water. If the towel becomes wet, use a second one. If you have a long-haired cat, brush the coat to remove tangles and use a hair dryer set to warm, not hot, to speed things up. Finally, give your cat a treat. It’s not just a reward for enduring this bath – it’s also a way to make your cat look forward to the next one it must take. Who knows? Maybe your cat will finally end the feud between felines and water.

By Jed M.