Bathing Cats and Kittens

Cats and kittens don't often require baths, as they clean themselves frequently. However, once in a while, your cat or kitten might need a bath, if he's gotten especially dirty, or needs treatment for fleas or a skin condition. As most cat owners know, bathing your cat isn't easy. Here are some tips to make the process easier.

Prepare For the Worst

Get your bathing supplies ready ahead of time. You'll need cat shampoo, of course; if you're treating fleas or a skin condition, buy a medicated shampoo from your vet rather than over the counter. You'll also want some or all of the following:

  • A large, absorbent towel
  • A shower head or plastic tumbler, for rinsing
  • A comb, for grooming your cat before and after the bath
  • Nail clippers, because the best time to trim your cat's claws is after the bath
  • Get your bath area ready before you try to bring the cat or kitten near it. Use a large sink, or the bathtub. Make sure the water isn't too hot or too cold. If it feels right to you, it should be fine. Dress appropriately in clothes that you don't mind soiled or torn, and that will protect you from scratches.

You may want to enlist a partner to help you restrain the cat while you wash it. It's possible to bathe a cat on your own, but it's harder. Practice your cat-restraint techniques on dry land before you try to wash him. Hold your cat by the scruff of the neck with one hand while you practice reaching various parts of his body with the other.

Remember, once you put your cat in the water, he'll do whatever he can to get away. Be prepared to hold a struggling, squirming animal.

Bathing Your Cat

Wet your cat from head to tail. It's better to pour water over him rather than trying to submerge him. Soap him up the same way; lather and rinse thoroughly. If you're using a medicated shampoo, remember to read and follow the instructions on the bottle. Some medicated shampoos require you to wait for five to fifteen minutes before rinsing.

It's very important that you rinse thoroughly. Soap residue can irritate your cat's skin. It can even cause her harm if she swallows it while grooming herself. Rinsing also removes fleas and ticks, which might be immobilized (but not killed) by the water.

Drying Your Cat

Once you've washed and rinsed your cat, squeeze the water out of her fur gently. Then, wrap her in a large, fluffy, absorbent towel. Dry her by rubbing gently. If she's not too upset, you can comb the tangles out of her fur at this point; otherwise, you should wait until she's calmed down.

Be cautious about blow-drying your cat. Don't introduce your cat to the blow dryer immediately following a bath. Most cats will be terrified by the sight and sound of a blow dryer. Try it ahead of time and see how she reacts to the noise and heat; if she isn't scared, you may feel free to blow dry your cat.