Washing a cat

Bathing a cat is a task that many cat owners won’t be used to. Cats are generally brilliant at keeping themselves clean, and most of the time they are more than capable of getting rid of dirt on their own. While long-haired cats may need help with grooming (such as having mats cut out of their fur, or their hair brushed), few cats need baths. Additionally, bathing your cat too regularly can remove important oils from their skin and coat. These oils help keep their skin and coat healthy.

Washing a cat

Sometimes, however, your cat may need a bath for a specific reason – for example, if they’ve rolled in something sticky that they can’t clean off themselves. In these cases, a little help from you can be a good idea.

If you’ve adopted a kitten we recommend getting your cat used to water from a young age. Doing this will make life easier if you need to bathe them as an adult, as they’ll know what to expect.

What you will need when washing a cat

Have everything ready at your fingertips when washing your cat. Not having everything you need in the same place will make the process longer. Having to leave the room to get shampoo or towels also gives your cat time to get out of the bath and leave the room.

When you’re bathing your cat you will need the following:

  • Small jug – This is useful for gently tipping water over your cat’s body in the bath.
  • Shampoo – Make sure you do not use human shampoo; this type of shampoo can damage your cat’s skin, fur or eyes. Head down to your local pet shop and pick up a cat-friendly shampoo.
  • Small flannel – For your cat’s face.
  • A towel – Try to use towels that aren’t too big. Being covered in a huge towel might alarm your cat.

Filling up the bath

It’s important to remember to use lukewarm water when washing a cat. Fill the bath with about five inches of water that is warm but not hot.

Gently place your cat in the bath. Make sure you are using both hands to do this; picking them up and placing them in the bath gently will keep them calm and help prevent stress.

Washing a cat

Once your cat is in the bath it’s time to begin washing. To start, slowly trickle a small amount of water over your cat. Doing this for a minute or two will help get your cat used to the sensation of being wet. Once your cat is comfortable with this, start using the jug. Simply fill a jug halfway and gently pour it over your cat, avoiding the face.

Now you can use your cat-friendly shampoo. When using the shampoo, remember to only use it on your cat’s body and legs, but do not put any shampoo near your cat’s face. Once the shampoo is on you should slowly massage it into your cat’s fur. When you’ve finished, rinse it out with more water from the jug. Remember to follow the instructions on the shampoo packet.

When washing a cat you should constantly check for signs of stress. If you think your cat is stressed, stop what you are doing and comfort them.

Washing a cat’s face

Washing a cat’s face is perhaps the trickiest part of bating your cat.

Soak a small flannel in warm water. Once you have done this you should slowly wipe it on your cat’s face, washing the fur. Make sure you wipe downward and do not go against the grain of your cat’s fur. Doing this will make your cat feel uncomfortable and possibly stressed.

Be careful not to touch their mouth, ears or eyes, as this can cause discomfort and distress. It’s also important not to use any soap or product when washing your cat’s face, as the product may sting your cat’s eyes or leave them with an unpleasant taste in their mouth.

Drying a cat

Once your cat is completely clean you can begin to dry them. Carefully lift your cat from the bath, place them on the towel, and begin to pat them dry. It is important when doing this to not completely wrap your cat in the towel, as they may feel trapped. It is also important not to rub your cat dry.

Once you have patted dry your cat their fur will still be slightly damp. It will usually take 6-12 hours for your cat to become completely dry; during this period they should not go outside unless the weather is warm and sunny.

Make sure you reward your cat after they’ve had a bath, to help them remember it as a positive experience.

Remember to check out our cat mag page for even more advice and articles from Purina One.