Picture this: you see your neighbor on their front lawn with their dog in kiddie pool. Hose in hand, your neighbor joyfully gives the dog a refreshing bath. You begin to laugh as the dog shakes, acting as a pseudo-sprinkler. However, your thoughts wander towards your cat and you start to think, “Can I give my cat a bath?”
The Natural Groomers
First things first, dogs and cats aren’t the same. The upside of owning a cat means that their B.O. is little to nothing. The general consensus is that most cats don’t need a full-on-kiddie-pool bath. By themselves, cats do an amazing job at keeping themselves clean. Cats’ tongues are equipped to have a bristle-like texture that allows them to give moisture to their skin and spread their natural oils along their coat. As foul as it may sound, their saliva acts as a natural detergent for their coat. So with their own anatomy and behaviors, cats are able to give themselves a deep clean on a daily basis. Cats typically dedicate 50% of their waking hours to self-grooming (however, keep in mind that overgrooming could be a concern for your cat too!).
Another thing to be mindful about, is that most soaps and detergents are likely to irritate your cat if you were to give them a bath. A cat’s natural oil and saliva are essential to keeping them clean. Therefore, daily baths could strip that away and cause health concerns for your cat’s fur. Additionally, bathing your cat often could damage your overall relationship. This goes for most cats (yet I’ve seen some fascinating videos of cats who do love bathing) because forcing them to face the evil entity of the bathtub lessens their trust with you. Each cat has a degree of irritation they may show when you try to give them a bath. Some may growl while others can get very violent in trying to escape. Bottom line is that cats and bathing are not the best of friends. If you are concerned about shedding, then a daily brushing session will suffice.
When a Bath is Needed…
All this to say, that while cat bathing is certainly not needed, there are exceptions. Hairless cats, of course, don’t have fur to help circulate their natural oils. As a result, their oils will clog up and get messy overtime. Although a tedious job (hairless cats may need a bath up to once a week), it’s a sacrifice to keep your cat happy and healthy.
If you were to rescue a kitten from off the street, a bathe is also crucial. Many outsiders don’t consider that stray cats can carry fleas or other bugs, and are likely to have been rolling around in dirt or grass. But don’t worry, one soapy bath, and it’s smooth sailing from there.
Cats who have medical conditions may need more baths as well. Older cats especially who may have lost their flexibility may have trouble licking their bodily coat. Again, the circulation of oils is essential for a clean cat. Obese cats may also run into this trouble, being unable to even turn their necks over their shoulders. It’s these specific cases where bathing your cat is crucial to their overall wellbeing.
Other than the specific scenarios listed above, bathing your cat is primarily situational. Baby or pet wipes can only suffice for so long. For example, I know of cats who spend their day going in and out of the house. Or even cats who are harness-trained and take daily walks too. Some cats could have specific skin conditions that require baths. Cats with longer coats are prone to getting dirty and have more maintenance than short-haired cats. The list goes on and on. If you have several pets living in one household, you should be mindful of what they can pass on to one another.
Therefore, if you are in a dire situation where your cat needs a bath, here are some tips to make it as bearable and painless as possible. Depending on the fussy-ness and size of your cat, you can either do it in an enclosed bathroom or even at your kitchen sink. Prepping Your Cat Conceal the weapons. If you have an especially fussy cat, do yourself a favor and trim their nails beforehand! We want to walk out of the bath with as little battle scars as possible. For a smooth bath process, brush your cat beforehand, whether it’s a day or hour before. It can get rid of shedding hairs and other surface-area dirt before you embark on a deep cleaning journey.
How to Bathe Your Cat
Prepping Your Cat
Conceal the weapons. If you have an especially fussy cat, do yourself a favor and trim their nails beforehand! We want to walk out of the bath with as little battle scars as possible.
For a smooth bath process, brush your cat beforehand, whether it’s a day or hour before. It can get rid of shedding hairs and other surface-area dirt before you embark on a deep cleaning journey.
As said, the location on where you bathe your cat varies. Wherever you choose, make sure it’s on a non-skid surface or mat. Your cat is likely to be stressed enough, anticipating a bath. A squirmy cat becomes a stressed, fighting cat. For your sake as well, make sure the area is safe and slip-free.
Be sure to have many towels available (even if it’s just one cat). Most cat furs are difficult to dry and absorb water like a sponge. Unlike dogs, cats can’t shake off all the water. After the bath, you’ll want to get your cat in towels ASAP. Water will get everywhere by the end, so again, this is for safety measures as well.
Before your cat even enters the room, have water set aside and ready to go. Whether it means filling your tub or sink or having a bucket, have ’em ready. The sound or sudden presence of water from a faucet can startle your cat. The aggressive sound of a running bathtub is scary when you think about it.
Have treats handy but don’t rely on them too much. Similar to dogs, cats can understand a reward system! And if there’s an escalation in fighting, use treats to calm them down and remain steady. Lickable cat treats are excellent for forcing your cat to stay still!
Soaps and What Not
Of course, there are many shampoos on the market dedicated to cats. However, they often contain unnecessary and even damaging chemicals to cats. Cats are quite sensitive to smell, so fragrant shampoos can lead to stress and irritation.
If you want to know exactly what’s going on your cat’s fur, try this common DIY Cat shampoo recipe!
● 1 cup of natural dish soap
● ⅓ cup vegetable glycerin (I’ve seen recipes that leave this ingredient out, so it’s optional)
● 1 cup apple cider vinegar
Combine these ingredients, along with some water until you get a consistency you’re pleased with and you’re done! A natural and minimal cat shampoo. It’s also a more sustainable and cheaper option compared to store-bought shampoo. If you opt for this option, I suggest using it more sparingly considering the vinegar! Additionally, avoid essential oils or other potent scents (your cat’s nose will thank you later).
Start with the Face
Throughout the bathing process, you’ll want to be slow and patient. It’s recommended to start at the face with a warm, wet washcloth (don’t pour water directly!). The face is also the more difficult part, since cats especially hate water to the face.
homemade cat shampoo
After that, then you can move on to the rest of the body. Little by little start pouring water to the rest of their body. Remember, slow and steady wins the race! Continue on by lathering your desired soap, and rinse thoroughly as you would with your own hair. Your cat will likely lick themselves immediately afterwards, so it’s important you rinse out every last inch of soap.
Post Bath Time
Once you finish rinsing your cat, wrap them up in towels. Avoid reaching for the hair dryer! Just like aggressive faucet noises, aggressive hair dryer noises will startle and scare the hairballs out of your cat. It’s best to towel dry however much you can, and then allow your cat to air-dry (just make sure the room they’re in isn’t freezing cold either). Your cat may temporarily hate you, not gonna lie. But give them time, space, and treats and they’ll forgive you soon enough! After all that, I imagine you must be tired too. Be sure to give yourself a reward too! It was rough, but you survived in the end! Congrats!
After a long needed break or day, you may brush your cat’s fur once more. Cat fur doesn’t always dry perfectly. Especially for long-haired and fluffy cats, one more brushing session and they’re ready to take on the world.
After some more time, you can also clean your cat’s ear while you’re at it. Now, cat ear cleaning is an entire separate process with different products. If you’re up for it, you can take an ear-cleaning solution and cotton ball, and gently clean your cat’s ears.
Bathing your cat is not an impossible task, but it’s a fairly harder process than bathing a dog. With enough research, knowledge, and patience, you and your cat will soon grow more comfortable with the bathtub. While cats have PhDs in grooming, once in a while a bath is needed. I wish you good luck in your cat bathing journeys!