Bathing a cat is no small task. While it’s true that there are rare cats out there that enjoy bath time to the point of jumping into the shower with their owners, the great majority of felines have no interest in being bathed by a person. Cat baths, if approached incorrectly, can be stressful and dangerous for both the cat and the human — anyone who’s ever come away from an attempted cat bath covered in scratches can attest to this fact.
Sometimes, though, your cat needs a bath. Cats are generally clean animals that bathe themselves, but mud puddles, rainstorms, and accidents do happen. If your cat is in desperate need of a bath and you’re brave enough to make the attempt yourself, here’s what you need to know to ensure the process is safe and enjoyable for all involved:
Gather Your Supplies
Your cat’s bath isn’t going to last long and you likely won’t have the luxury of being able to step away from the tub or sink to grab something you forgot. Ensure that you have a clean towel, some pet shampoo, and anything else you might need to successfully complete the bath before you bring your cat into the room. Bath time always runs smoother when all of your supplies are set and ready to go before you begin.
Catch Your Cat in a Calm Moment
Cats don’t generally react well to being bathed, but you can mitigate the struggling by choosing to bathe your cat when he’s in a calm mood. You should have a pretty good understanding of your cat’s daily schedule; aim to put bath time in one of your cat’s activity lulls or nap times. This won’t necessarily stop him from fighting you during the bath, but it may make the experience calmer and more manageable. If you’re not sure how your cat is feeling, wear him out with a fun play session before you begin.
Handle the Grooming
The goal of a cat bath is to ensure the cat is wet for as little time as possible. This means you need to handle any extra grooming tasks before the bath begins. Trimming your cat’s nails is a good idea for your safety and his health, and brushing mats and tangles out of his fur will make the actual bath easier. If your cat needs his fur trimmed, before the bath is definitely the time to do it. It may be best to stagger these activities by handling grooming and bath time on separate days to lessen the stress on your cat.
Place your cat in a tub or sink with two or three inches of lukewarm water. It helps to put a towel or mat down to give your cat more sure footing. Use a spray hose (a removable shower head is excellent for this) or cup to soak your cat’s fur with water. Be careful to avoid his nose, eyes, and ears, as spraying water in these areas will make him uncomfortable and no doubt inspire a struggle. Lather the cat gently with an all-natural, gentle pet shampoo, rubbing his fur in the direction that it naturally grows.
Rinse and Dry
Rinse the shampoo out of your cat’s fur with your hose or cup. Take the time to ensure that all shampoo is rinsed out; leftover shampoo in a cats’s fur can cause excessive licking which then may turn to irritations like dry skin and itchiness. Use a wet washcloth with plain water to rub any dirt off of your cat’s face, and then remove the cat from the tub. Dry him with a nice clean towel and keep him out of the cold. Drying off is usually a cat’s favorite part of bath time, so take your time and have a little fun rubbing the wetness out of his fur. When he’s dry and ready to go, reward him for his good behavior with his favorite treat or a whole lot of play and affection. You always want to end bath time on a high note so the cat learns to look forward to it.
Bath time can be a serious challenge for cat owners. However, if you approach the situation with a positive attitude and try to make it as enjoyable (and brief) as possible for your cat, he may learn to see bath time as an okay thing, indeed. Just remember to keep rewarding him for his good behavior!