How to Give Your Cat a Bath: Step-by-Step Guide

by VetDepot on February 13, 2014

blogAlthough many cats don’t require regular bathing, there are several situations that might call for a bath. Cats that spend a great deal of time outdoors or cats that have gotten into something they weren’t supposed to might warrant a trip or two to the bathtub. Also, older cats that aren’t able to groom themselves properly can sometimes benefit from the occasional bath. This can be challenging because cats aren’t known for their love of water.

Your cat should associate bath time with a calm, comfortable atmosphere. Follow these tips to help ease the stress for both you and your cat:

  1. Before turning the faucet on, trim your cat’s nails to best protect your arms and hands just in case your cat does not react as happily to water as you’d like.  However, trimming your cat’s nails can cause stress too, so try to plan your bath a couple of days after nail trimming.
  2. Preparation on the day of the bath is crucial for success.  Play with your cat before the bath, so excess energy is burned off.  Protective clothing is important while bathing a cat, so try to wear a long-sleeved shirt or gloves in order to shield bare skin from being scratched.  Leave plenty of towels next to the bathtub and place a rubber, no-slip mat on the bottom of your bathtub.  Fill the bathtub with 4-5 inches of warm water and have a  plastic cup ready to rinse your cat.
  3. After the nails have been trimmed and all other preparations have been completed, thoroughly brush your cat to remove excess debris and tangles.  Just as people hair is harder to brush when wet, your cat’s fur will be too.  Painful brushing after a bath will cause your cat to associate unpleasant activities with baths, and will only cause more stress the next time around.
  4. Calmly place your cat into the water.  Try to remain as composed and pleasant as possible; if you are apprehensive about the bath, your cat will be as well.  Bring high-reward toys and treats (reserved for very few occasions) into the bathtub and continuously distract your cat with these items.  If your cat is still struggling, firmly hold their shoulders to keep them in place.  Larger cats may require two people for bathing, one person to hold their legs and another to rinse and angle their nose up and away (to prevent biting).  Massage and lather cat shampoo into their fur and rinse slowly, making sure not to get shampoo or water in your cat’s nose or eyes.
  5. Grab a towel and lift your cat out of the water.  Continue to maintain a firm grip on their shoulders once placed on the floor outside of the bathtub.  Thoroughly dry the cat and reward continuously with high-motivation treats.  Use a pleasant voice to soothe your cat throughout the bath.

Following these guidelines will help create a more pleasant atmosphere for you and your cat during bath time.  Don’t forget to reward your cat with their absolute favorite treat after their bath, so their last memory of the event is a great one!

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