How to Bathe a Cat

By on December 20, 2012
Cute Cat

Everybody knows that cats don’t like to get wet, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. When they get exceptionally dirty, or get bombarded by fleas and ticks, or get into substances that are toxic or otherwise harmful, it’s time to give them a bath. Here’s how to keep your feline fresh and lovely as painlessly as possible.

Steps

Does Your Cat Need a Bath? : Decide, whether your cat really needs a bath. There may be other ways to clean your cat, such as brushing, combing or even rubbing it down with a cloth.
Make Sure You Are Prepared

  1. Wear appropriate clothing. Not only is it important to wash your cat but it is important to be safe from any possible scratches, minor or major. A jumper or a long-sleeved shirt must be worn so that your cat has no bare skin to scratch. If you don’t have one, you could wear long-sleeved gloves. It is also a good idea to wear clothing that isn’t new. Be careful and gentle when you rub his head and belly.
  2. 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 bite you. Hold your cat firmly so it cannot wriggle out from your grip, but be sure you don’t hold it so tight that it can’t breathe.

Preparing the Bath

1. Fill the tub with 4-5 inches of 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.
2. Fill 2 buckets or ideally 2 plant waterers which allow you to direct the flow of water for rinsing the cat (optional). This is so you don’t need to run more water during the bath, which might frighten your cat.
3. Put a rubber mat in the tub or use a towel so the cat has a comfortable footing.

Preparing the Cat

1. Have shampoo for your cat (you may need to go to a vet to get some). Only use shampoo that states on the bottle that it’s for cats, as many other shampoos can be toxic to them (such as dog flea shampoo). Do not use normal shampoo, for it may be toxic to the cat and can dry out its skin. You may also want to have a small washcloth ready. And have two towels on hand for drying your cat.
2. Pre-treat any oily stains. Cats stained with something greasy may be very difficult to clean with mere shampoo and water alone. A cat smeared with engine or axle grease, motor oil, flypaper goo, or even shortening-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.
3. Comb the fur thoroughly before you put the cat in the water if it is long-haired or if it has burrs. Remove knots and tangles before wetting the fur, or the task will be next to impossible.
4. Trim all nails before even attempting to wash a cat – this will reduce scratching.

Bathing 

1. Talk to your cat in a calm, quiet voice while washing. And make sure to 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.
2 . Soak the cat from the neck down, using a wash cloth.Soak the cat from the neck down, using a wash cloth. Use a little bit of shampoo and with the water, wash your cat’s neck, body, legs, belly and tail. Be sure to not get shampoo in their eyes, nose, mouth, or ears.

3. Rinse thoroughly with the water in the tub, then drain the tub and rinse two more times with water from the bucket or warm water from the tap.Rinse thoroughly with the water in the tub, then drain the tub and rinse two more times with water from the bucket or warm water from the tap. It is essential that you remove all the soap from the coat.

Cat washing in a tub

Cat washing in a tub

The use of towel to dry a cat

The use of towel to dry a cat

Drying
1.  Let the water drip from the cat while gently pressing as much water as you can from the fur before you wrap your cat in the towel. Rub gently with one towel. When the first towel gets too wet to be effective, switch to another dry towel. Don’t stop until the cat is damp. Try warming the towels in the dryer first, as many cats find this comforting.

2. Finish drying: Short-haired cats can finish drying themselves in the bathroom as long as they’re away from drafts. Short-haired cats can finish drying themselves in the bathroom as long as they’re away from drafts. They will appreciate a heat source (space heater or warm air vent) and a dry towel to sit on.

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.
Don’t Forget the Treats

1. Reward your cat. Give your cat his/her favorite canned food, catnip or treats, and he/she will come to realize that there is a good side to being bathed.

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 a 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 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. 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 him/her into a bath and scaring your cat out of his/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.
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). This will inspire your cat to look forward to bathing, instead of fearing it. Another good cat bathing motivator is to give your cat a couple of yummy cat treats during the bath. Try adding some catnip to the bath water. This may backfire, however. The catnip will make your cat extremely playful, but it may compel them to attack you. See how your cat reacts to catnip before covering him/her in it.

Tips
-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.
-The earlier you start bathing your cat, the easier it will be. Over time, the cat will grow familiar with the routine.
Some cats respond better when you place them in an empty tub and pour water over them.
-When you have more time, run a very shallow warm bath (only a centimeter deep 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 inches of water. As a final step, have someone else reassure the cat while 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.
-Cats’ natural body temperatures are several degrees above a human’s, so what feels lukewarm to you will 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?)
-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.
-Try not to bathe your cat too much in the winter, it may catch a cold.
-If all else fails, take your cat to a reputable, professional pet groomer or a vet for washing. They have experience and proven techniques to keep the cat calm.
-If you have a litter box in the same room as you are bathing the cat, remove it! If a cat escapes from the bath it may make a beeline to the litter box and make a huge mess.
-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 method is to place your cat and the bath water in a small plastic dish washing tub (about 12×18 in.). This way, you can more easily control the cat. It is also 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.
-Clean your cat like it was your prized possession.
-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.
-Your cat has its own personality. While these are all good suggestions, be aware of your cat’s reactions, and be prepared to adjust tactics accordingly.

Warnings
1.As mentioned above, cold water will shock your cat.
2.If you have more than one cat, it might be a good idea to lock the other cats out of the bathroom/bathing area, especially if they are males. A yowling cat can occasionally draw an offensive reaction from others, resulting in injuries to you and the cat being washed, as well as making an uncomfortable situation even more traumatic.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. If you find your cat objects too much to a bath by hissing and trying to escape, then forget the bath. Use a wet washcloth instead. It removes the outer dirt, and cleans well. You can find treated cloths at pet stores that need no water to be used to groom the cat. They even have a pleasant scent.
6. Avoid using a blow dryer on a short-haired cat as it may burn them and/or cause more trauma. Short-haired cats can bathe themselves dry.
7. 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 and tear up your house.
8. Never use a sink that is freestanding. Your cat might jump and slip and hurt itself.
9. Never force your cat’s head under the water. To wash their head and face, use a wash cloth.
10. Make sure the outside air temperature is over 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 °C) and at low humidity. Bathed cats can, and will, contract pneumonia, as they are easily chilled. Keep a cat indoors in a warm family room for 12 hours after a bath if the weather won’t cooperate.
11. Be patient and never get angry if your cat scratches you.
12. Listen for sounds of unhappiness. These sounds include hissing, growling, breathing hard, sneezing, crying, and meowing.
13. Don’t put shampoo on their head. It could get in their eyes.
14. 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.
15. If you don’t know how to properly hold a cat by the scruff, don’t do it. Your cat may choke.
16. Only bathe your cat when necessary. This technique is just in case your pet is really dirty.
17. Cats absorb chemicals through their skin, so they must be very well rinsed. Rinse until you see only clear water running off the cat.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. Never get soap in your cat’s eyes. As a safeguard, put 1 to 2 drops of eye lubricant into each eye before bathing. You can use any 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.
21. 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 preoccupied with the cotton in its ears and remain distracted. If your cat’s ears are particularly filthy, gently wipe the insides with a warm, damp washcloth with no soap. Cat’s ears contain protective waxes and oils that should not be removed.

Things You’ll Need

Shampoo
Conditioner (optional)
2 towels
Brush/comb
Your cat
A bath
Warm water (Not lukewarm, but almost hot!)
A jumper, a long sleeved shirt or long sleeved gloves
2 or more people
Treats (optional)
A toy (optional)
A calm room with the door closed

 

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki building the world’s largest, highest quality how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to bathe a cat. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License

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