Bathing Your Cat

Why bathe your cat?  Cats spend hours a day washing themselves.  In fact, most do manage to keep themselves clean without any additional help from us.  However, there are times when your cat may need a bath:

  • When covered with a substance you don’t want them to lick off and ingest, such as oil, pesticides, or cleaning powders and fluids.
  • When you need to bathe your cat with medicated shampoo to treat the skin for fleas or as prescribed by a vet.
  • When you are showing your cats – a thorough bath a few days before the show is usually desirable.

For these reasons, it might be better to get your cat acquainted with the bathing concept when still young.  Small kittens rarely take exception to slightly warm water if you approach the job with confidence and soothing talk.  Then when you have that emergency and need to bathe your cat, the procedure will be familiar, although some will not tolerate it at all.

However, if you must bathe your cat, it should be groomed first.  By grooming first, you will remove any unwanted hair and knots which will prevent the shampoo from getting through the coat.  If your cat is wearing a collar, don’t forget to remove it.  Bathing should not be done too often as this removes the natural oils from the skin.  If you use shampoos not suitable for cats, then you may damage the skin and coat.  The oils that are in the coat help in waterproofing and insulation.

If you are thinking to bathe your cat, perhaps you can use the kitchen sink or bathroom basin.  It’s a good idea to put a non-slip mat on the bottom to stop your cat from slipping and sliding, as well as protecting your sink or basin from being scratched.  The water for bathing your cat in should be about the same as the cat’s body temperature.  Make sure you wet the coat thoroughly before adding the shampoo.  When wetting the coat you can help to steady the cat by gently putting your hand under the chin.  Even then, they may not stand too well.  If that is the case, then gently hold onto the two front legs with one hand, while bathing with the other.  Remember to use only a special cat shampoo as they lather less and make it easier to rinse from the coat, especially if your cat doesn’t like standing in the water for too long.  Talk to the cat to reassure it, it helps to keep everyone calm.  Start shampooing at the top and work down.  Firstly along the back and neck area, then the tail and bottom, next the legs and feet.  Lastly wash the head area, most cat shampoos don’t cause much irritation if they get into the eyes, but do try to avoid doing this if possible.  Sometimes it is easier to leave the head until the cat is out of the water.  Use a facecloth and gently wash the face using clean, warm water and no shampoo.

Once you are sure that you have shampooed the cat all over, then rinse it top to bottom.  Repeat the rinsing process until you are sure that all the shampoo has been washed off, using your hands to gently squeeze the coat to get rid of the excess water.  The next step is to dry the cat.  Some cats will tolerate a hairdryer, but only if they have been accustomed to it from a very early age.  Others will need to be towel dried.  If using a hairdryer, remember to set it at a low temperature and move it around.  Don’t concentrate on one place for too long at a time.  After drying, one last groom will finish off the whole process of grooming and bathing your cat.  If you are towel drying it, then please keep your cat in a warm place until it is completely dry.  Once completely dry, comb through the coat again.  This will remove any hairs that were missed before bathing.

Bathing can be quite traumatic for all concerned and may need more than one pair of hands as well as a lot of patience.  If you groom your cat regularly, and it has a healthy balanced diet, there should be no need for bathing as the coat will be glossy and healthy.

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