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How to Wash a Cat

A Step by Step Guide to a Cleaner Kitty

By Mary Kearl. January 10, 2013 | See Comments

How to Wash a Cat

Sometimes our cats need a bath or two, even though most of the time cats do a good job of keeping themselves clean. Whether you're trying to reduce dander for your allergies or your cat got extra dirty, follow these steps to a clean kitty.

Do our cats, with their penchant for self-cleaning, need us to give them baths? Experts agree: most cats are just as good as taking care of their grooming as you’ve always heard, so additional bathing administered by you may not be required.

Sometimes, though, like in the case of your own allergies or a pet getting into something particularly dirty, smelly, or sticky, human intervention and grooming can be beneficial.

Step 1: Supplies You’ll Need to Bathe Your Cat

  • Use a mild shampoo, formulated for cats.
  • A rubber bath mat is advised as it will help prevent your loved one from slipping and falling on the slick surface of your tub or sink.
  • If you don’t plan to use your tub or sink, you’ll want a small tub to bathe your pet in.
  • You’ll need a spray hose, pitcher or cup for washing and rinsing.
  • Get nail clippers designed for cats to trim your pet’s nails before bath time.
  • Combs and brushes are needed for pre- and post-bathing grooming.
  • Have cotton balls on hand to place in your pet’s ears to keep prevent water from entering.
  • Don’t forget a washcloth for cleaning your pet’s face, a towel for drying off and a treat--a nice way to reward your pet for cooperating!

Then follow the steps below, over the course of a few days. Taking some steps on different days leading up to the bath will break up each possibly stressful step of grooming.

Step 2: Trim Your Cat’s Nails (Several Days Before Bath Time)

Bathing is not likely to be your cat’s favorite activity. There may be resistance. For your benefit, make sure to trim your kitty’s nails. Before doing so, get your pet acclimated to being touched on the feet by giving foot massages.

Using your nail scissors, clip the tips off the whites of your feline’s nails. Don’t clip into the “quick” of the nail—that will be painful and harmful to your pet.

trim-cat-nails

Step 3: Brush Your Cat’s Fur (A Day Before Bath Time)

At least a day or so after the nail trimming, once your loved one is relaxed, remove any tangles and matting by brushing.

Routine brushing helps eliminate dirt, prevent snarls and helps spread the oils in your pet’s hair--which will leave your cat’s skin and coat healthier.

For short-haired cats, brush weekly with a metal comb from head to tail, then use a bristle or rubber brush for getting rid of excess hair; be careful near the chest and stomach areas.

For long-haired cats, brushing daily is recommended. Comb the belly and legs first, detangling any snarls, and then brush the fur upwards with a bristle or rubber brush.

brush-cat-before-bath

Step 4: Get Your Cat to Cozy Up with the Tub (Before Bath Time)

Place your pet inside the tub without any water and allow your pal to get comfortable.

Step 5: Playtime with Your Cat (Right Before Bath Time)

Playtime is a great precursor to bath time--it will use up any excess energy and ensure you and your cat are in a happy, positive place before the main event.

Step 6: Get the Tub Ready

Place the rubber mat in and fill ‘er up with three to four inches of lukewarm water (not too hot!).

Step 7: It’s Time to Get Clean

Get your cat completely wet, lather them in shampoo from head to rear and then rinse, being careful to avoid your little guy’s ears and eyes. You can use cotton to keep water out of your cat's ears, but use a lump that's big enough to completely and easily remove--don't let anything get down into your cat's ear canal!

Use a damp washcloth--no shampoo necessary--for your pet’s face.

Step 8: Dry Off

Wrap your baby up in a towel to dry off, avoiding any chilly areas of your home. Blow dryers are allowed--as long as they don’t scare your cat. Just be sure to use the lowest setting.

dry-off-cat

Step 9: Detangle (For Long-Haired Cats)

After the bath, your pet’s long hair may need one last comb through to make sure it stays tangle-free.

You’ve both done it:

Your cat is clean! Now feel free to give that treat as a reward.

If your cat has behavior challenges, frightens easily, or has hair that is particularly matted, you may want to seek the help of a professional groomer.

More on Cat Care

Choosing a Litter Box and Litter for Your Cat
The Best Cat and Dog Grooming Supplies
When to Take a Cat to the Vet

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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