Give Your Cat A Bath

Give Your Cat A Bath
Even though cats can be very vain creatures, they can always use a little primping help from their favorite human. (That would be you.) Cats with extremely short coats like Siamese, Burmese, Cornish and Devon Rex can get along with few or no baths. Even with these breeds, occasionally wiping the face with a damp cloth is a nice treat. Think of it as giving your cat a facial. Longhaired cats and other shorthairs with dense coats need to be bathed every 1-3 months to keep things clean. Persians should to be bathed at least once a month. Bathing, brushing/combing, and clipping nails are the three most important ways you can help your cat stay well groomed. The earlier you start this process, the more agreeable your cat will be to it her whole life.

Giving kitty a bath doesn't have to be a traumatic experience. Fear of water or bathing is learned, and if the kitten is introduced to bathing correctly, then bathing your cat will be easy. Indeed, some cats like water so much that their owners actually have difficulty keeping the cat out of the tub! Bathing should be introduced to your kitten as a game. The kitten should be allowed to first play with the water, then play in the water with you.

Good footing in the shower is very important for a successful bath since any cat will be frightened if unsure of their footing. Keeping this in mind, do not slide the cat from side to side across the floor of the shower, but rather pick the cat up and set him down. It's awareness to subtle little things like this that will make bathing fun for your cat.

Sometimes greasy coats, allergies and plain old dirt require a cat to have a good bath. This can be tricky because cats usually don't like water. It is best to introduce a cat to bathing as a kitten so that baths become less stressful with time.

The process requires a medicated baby shampoo and a good animal shampoo manufactured by a company such as Lambert-Kay, Ring 5, Tomlyn or Vita-coat. Experiment with various brands to see what works best for your kitty. It is also a good idea to buy mild eye drops or ointments from your veterinarian to guard against soap getting into your cat's eyes. You may also need a wetting agent, a de-greaser and a conditioner to release the tangles in your cat's coat. Use a sprayer attachment for rinsing and keep towels nearby. To bathe and dry your cat, follow these steps:

  • Apply mild eye drops or ointment to the eyes to protect them from soap.

  • Fill the sink with tepid water and, if possible, add around three capfuls of a wetting agent like Shaklee's Basic H (which is non-toxic). Place your cat in the water. Using a plastic cup, pour this water mixture over the cat's body until the hair starts to part and the hair shaft becomes wet all the way to the skin. Do not get water in your cat's ears and never pour water over the head

  • Drain the water from the sink. To cleanse kitty's head, use a mild tearless baby shampoo only. Put a small amount on a wet washcloth and gently wash around the eyes, mouth, cheeks and forehead. Then rinse the cloth and go over the face to remove the soap.

  • If your cat has an extremely greasy coat, this is the time to apply a de-greaser. Fast Orange is a non-toxic de-greaser that can be found in supermarkets. Spread it liberally throughout the coat and then rinse it out.

  • Choose the shampoo that works the best for your cat's coat and apply and rinse off at least two or three times.
  • Rinsing is extremely important. Fill the wash basin with two or three inches of water until the bottom part of the cat's fur starts to float in the water. Keep rinsing until there is no residue. Use a cup to scoop the basin water over the cat's body and keep doing it until the coat is free of shampoo. Empty the soapy water from the sink and refill with clear water as needed.

  • If the cat's coat needs a conditioner, this is the time to apply it. Then rinse with water again.

  • A final rinse of a half cup vinegar to two quarts water will remove any traces of soap residue.

  • Rinse with tepid water a final time.

  • Clean the ears with a soft Q-tip dipped in otic solution, which you can purchase from vet catalogs.

  • Blot the fur with a dry towel. A single-coated or dense shorthaired cat can be towel dried and placed in a warm bathroom until he is completely dried.

  • The longer the coat, the more important it is to use combs and brushes at this point.

  • Dryers are a matter of preference, but it is nice to have one for a longhaired cat. Oster makes a table dryer that many breeders use. A Superduck Dryer is a little less costly and works well.

  • Dry the upper body by blow-drying backward against the lay of the hair. Work along the sides, forward to the front legs and up the neck. Each section should be totally dry before moving on or the hair will curl. The tail, belly and back legs should be done last because cats tend to have a lower tolerance in these areas. This way, if there is going to be a disagreement, it will come at the end of the grooming session.

                                                         Tools needed for cat bathing:

Two small washcloths (one for washing head and face area, the other for soaping the body) two large towels for drying.

One cup container for pouring water over the cat until the coat is wet all the way to the skin.

Shampoo: Pet shampoos are developed to react better to the cat's fur. Two shampoos are needed for normal coated cats. Three or more shampoos are needed for oily or long-coated cats. A tearless baby shampoo is needed for the face and head area (use one washcloth for this area only). The second washcloth is used to make suds throughout the body and feet.

A two-quart container for final rinse.


Toenail clippers for clipping claws.

Q-tips for cleaning ears. BE GENTLE! Just clean wax from the outer area of the ear.

A camera to snap a hilarious photo of your soaking wet cat. :)

Once you have assembled your tools, make sure the bathing room is warm and the bathing water is tepid. You want to make this as pleasant as possible for your cat. Sometimes it helps to put an extra towel at the bottom of the sink so the cat will be able to stand easier. A hand sprayer makes the job of rinsing the body coat much easier too.

Basic Routine:

1. Begin by clipping nails and expurgating the anal glands. This is done by holding the cat's tail up by one hand. With the other hand place your thumb externally over one anal sac and your finger over the other. Press in and the contents will be expressed through the anal sac openings. (This can also be handled by the vet, if you feel this is out of your league).
2. Pour tepid water over the coat until you can see that the coat is wet down to the skin.

3. Drain the sink and shampoo. Apply the tearless shampoo on a washcloth and gently rub it over the face, being careful to avoid the eye area. The eyes should only be washed with a damp washcloth and no shampoo.

4. Rinse thoroughly.

5. Apologize for torturing your little furball.

6. Shampoo again.

7. Rinse thoroughly.

8. With a longhaired breed you might want to shampoo a third time. Then rinse, and use a coat conditioner.

9. Rinse with a mixture of one cup vinegar to two quarts of water.

10. Rinse one last time with clear water.

Use large towels to remove as much water as possible and then set the cat up in a warm room until the coat is fully dry. IF your cat is a longhair, you'll want to brush as soon as you've hand-dried the cat to prevent the coat from matting. If your longhaired cat will tolerate a blow dryer (good luck), the coat will look even nicer, but try using the dryer on the lowest setting in the beginning. A bath and a blow dry may seem like some sort of spa to you, but to your cat it can feel quite the opposite.