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Bathing Cats: How Often You Should Do It

Most cats hate water, but regular bathing can be important for their well-being. Today, our Phenix City vets discuss bathing your cat, and how often they should be bathed.

Why You Should Bathe Your Cat

Luckily cats are great at keeping themselves clean most of the time so this isn't a situation any cat parent will have to tackle frequently. 

A cat's rough tongue is covered with tiny, curved barbs that spread saliva across the animal's fur. This act can be compared to a mini-spa treatment - with each lap, your kitty spreads healthy natural oils across their coat and skin. 

These little spines also work as natural detanglers, which is why you'll often see your feline companion licking and biting at clumps of fur - it's their method of smoothing their fur out.

Although your cat will have their own bathing rituals, they should be given a bath regularly and/or brought to a professional pet groomer.

How Often You Should Bathe your Cat

Your kitten or cat will need a bath if they've gotten into certain situations. For example, if they've ingested something they shouldn't have such as gasoline, antifreeze, paint, motor oil, or anything that can get on their fur and be harmful. These are types of substances that may be harmful to your cat and will need to be cleaned off right away.

For some cats, baths can soothe skin conditions that may include seborrhea, a disorder that results in flakey, itchy, red skin. Your veterinarian may also recommend medicated baths for treating other health conditions including severe flea allergies or ringworm

Obese or senior cats often aren't able to groom themselves effectively and might benefit from regularly scheduled baths. Long-haired cats should be bathed about every couple of months to reduce the risk of their fur becoming matted. If you have a hairless breed of cat such as a Sphynx, then you should bathe it weekly as they have no fur to trap oils and will begin to leave oil streaks on your furniture.

Preparing for Your Cat's Bath

If you plan on bathing a cat, it is a good thing to note that you should prepare everything ahead of the actual bath, and be sure to keep everything you may need within arm's reach. These items may include:

  • Special cat shampoo and conditioner
  • A bath or shower with a handheld showerhead
  • Numerous towels to clean them off and help keep them dry

Never use shampoo or conditioner intended for humans as it has a different pH level than the type that's suited for cats and could damage your pet's skin or hair. 

Preparing Your Cat

Before bathing your cat, you should brush out any tangles in the fur as the water should make these worse and nearly impossible to get out later, especially if you have a long-haired cat.

Set the water temperature to warm and have it run through the showerhead at a medium-level spray.

How to Bathe Your Cat

While talking to your cat and offering lots of reassurance and praise, gently place them into the shower tray or bath. Using a showerhead from above is significantly less stressful for your pet as she is far more likely to be used to being rained on than she is being lowered into 4 inches of tepid water!

Hold your cat in place by their scruff, or use a harness if you think she will be tricky to control. Begin washing your cat gently using soft confident strokes. Cats are very intuitive at picking up stress, so if you seem stressed she will be on edge too, and far more likely to lash out or try to make a run for it!

Apply small amounts of shampoo – they're probably not as dirty as you think! Make sure you rinse clean and then repeat with the conditioner. Take care to avoid their eyes and nose.

Drying your cat after you are done bathing them

Once they are clean, you should towel-dry your cat as much as possible. Some cats are petrified of hair dryers. If your feline friend isn’t, then you could consider trying to dry their using low heat and speed.

You may need to confine them to a carrier to do this. Alternatively, you could leave your cat in the warm bathroom until their coat is totally dry.

The important thing is to ensure that she is thoroughly dried before going into other parts of the house. Damp cats can easily become chilled which can make them unwell, or in the case of kittens, particularly low body temperatures can be life-threatening.

How to Safely Bathe Your Cat Without Injury

Many owners have puzzled over the question of how to bathe a cat that hates water, as most cats do. Some cats will tolerate baths, but others simply won't. When a bath is inevitable, staying calm will help you both. Here are a few tips to help ease some stress so your cat is less likely to try to scratch and claw their way to freedom:

  • Choose a time after she’s eaten or played, as she’ll be more mellow
  • If possible, trim their nails before the bath, filing the ends as well after they're clipped to dull them
  • Plan for a short grooming session to make handling their fur much easier
  • Recruit a friend to help so one of you can hold the cat while the other bathes them
  • Minimize running water, the sound causes many cats to panic, and the last thing you want is to grab a slippery, sharp cat
  • Fill a sink with a few inches of warm water and wash only the parts you need to, then rinse thoroughly
  • Use a washcloth around the face and ears

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat due for a professional grooming session? Contact our Phenix City vets to book an appointment.

New Patients Welcome

Summerville Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Phenix City companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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