Is Cat Bathing Necessary?

How to make cat bathing enjoyable for you and your cat and the right way to give your cat a bath.

Domestic cats do not like to be dirty, they see it as their duty to keep themselves clean.

They spend quite a chunk of their waking hours grooming and cleaning themselves with their tongue and most do a very good job of it too!

Cat in a Bath

You can help your cat keep her coat in tip top condition by having a regular session with a grooming brush, something that you will both enjoy.

Giving your cat a bath regularly however is not normally necessary.

Although there will be cats that are unable to look after themselves properly, perhaps through sickness, injury or old age, most only need you to give them a bath occasionally.

In fact bathing a cat too frequently can cause dry, flaky skin.

Long hair cats may need something washed off of their fur more often than short hair cats, and cats that go outside may get their coats grubby more than cats that stay inside. But generally cat bathing is not essential except for one of the following reasons.

Reasons Why Your Cat May Need A Bath

  • Your cat has a nasty case of diarrhea and her fur has been messed up so badly that she is unable to clean herself up. Naturally you will investigate the cause of her upset stomach and if necessary, consult your veterinarian.
  • If you are allergic to cat dander then you will want to bathe your cat regularly, probably once a week. Bathing your cat can considerably reduce the levels of airborne dander.
  • Time marches on for all of us and also for our cats. An elderly cat who once was able to keep herself scrupulously clean, may now have difficulty in reaching all the right places. Your senior cat will almost certainly need you to groom her more frequently and may need you to bathe her on occasions too.
  • Likewise if your cat is sick. Depending on the nature and severity of the illness, a sick cat may not clean herself as thoroughly as she normally does. Patience will be needed when bathing a cat that is unwell; cats are liable to find being given bath stressful, sick cats especially.
  • Your cat rolls in something yucky and smelly! Fortunately very few cats have this habit, it is much more usual for dogs but when they do, cat bathing is not an option, it’s a necessity.
  • Your cat gets something spilled on her coat, or she brushes against wet paint. If it is oil based then bathing is unlikely to be much use and careful trimming or even shaving her fur, may be the only answer. Naturally you will be very careful about what you use to clean off spillages from your cat’s fur. If you are in any doubt at all, seek the advice of your veterinarian.

Calmness Helps

You know how cats seem to have a sixth sense about things. They might not know what is going to happen, but they pick up the vibes from you that they will not like it.

giving a cat a bath
The most critical part of cat bathing is ensuring that you completely rinse off the shampoo.

So before the bathing even begins there is resistance. You try to gently pick up your cat but she protests, she wriggles, she squirms, she may even try to scratch.

It would be wrong not to point out that most cats do not enjoy having a bath, especially for the first time. But it would be equally amiss to give the impression that cat bathing is going to be a traumatic experience for you and your cat.

Cats are all individuals; each has their own temperament.

It could be that your cat placidly accepts having a bath even if she doesn’t exactly enjoy it.

It’s not easy, but things are likely to go better if you tell yourself that it is all going to be fine, even though you are aware of the possibility that there will be resistance.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

To put it another way, if you are stressed about cat bathing, your cat is likely to be too.

Cat Bathing - Being Prepared Is The Key

Cat Bath

Do you have a large enough sink? Is a showerhead available? If you do not have a large sink, then your bath can serve just as well. A large tub, or a baby bath can be used if that suits you better.

Wherever you bathe your cat remember that it is quite likely that at least some water will be splashed about. Of course, you need to be mindful of electrical safety for any appliances, such as heaters you have around.

How’s the room temperature? Just like people, cats will not appreciate bathing in the cold. Needn’t be a hothouse, but comfortably warm.

It may be wise to ensure that kitty’s nails are trimmed before you start.

You will need to hand: Good thick absorbent bath towels and plenty of them. Cat shampoo, not human shampoo, not even baby shampoo, not dog shampoo but shampoo specially formulated for cats. A least one large cup or mug, preferably plastic. A rubber mat for the bottom of the sink or bath, so your cat will not slide about and feel insecure.

And a friend.

Well the friend is not essential, but if you have someone who is willing to risk getting a little wet and, in the worst-case scenario, a little scratched, then an extra pair of hands can be a blessing. It would be best if your helper is someone who your cat is at ease with.

cat in sink

Obviously you will not be wearing your party clothes but you might want to have a dry set of clothing ready to change into afterwards.

Apparently, some folks who wash their cat in the bathtub find it easier to get in the tub wearing either swimwear, or their birthday suit. Naked cat bathing, sounds practical.

Fill the sink or bath with three or four inches of warm water, not in any way hot and not cold either. Gently lower her into the water talking to her reassuringly all the time.

If you are using a shower, turn it on enough so that it is just a gentle spray and barely warm. Hold the showerhead close to your cat’s body and get her soaked all over taking care not to spray her face or in her ears.

If you are using a mug to pour warm water onto your cat, again avoid her face and avoid splashing water in her ears.

Now for the cat shampoo

Follow the directions on the container exactly, if it says to dilute the shampoo before applying to your cat then it is important not to use it undiluted.

Gently massage the shampoo into your cat’s fur including her belly, legs and tail, softly and calmly praising her all the while makes bathing so much easier. It is better to start at the top of her head (avoiding her eyes of course,) and work your way down.


The most critical part of cat bathing is ensuring that you completely rinse off the shampoo.

You have to ensure there is none remaining on your cat, otherwise it will irritate her skin when it dries.

Making sure that the water is just warm and if using a showerhead making sure it is a gentle spray, rinse her down from top to bottom and then repeat. If necessary rinse her a third time.

Drying kitty off

Wrap your cat in one of the towels and blot her completely dry rather than rub her dry. A short hair cat will dry a lot quicker than a long hair, if necessary use a second towel.

You can use a hair dryer if your cat will put up with the noise, most won’t. Use the dryer on its lowest setting, don’t hold it too near your cat and keep it moving.

Ok, is your cat clean and dry? Now all you have to do is tell your cat they are a good girl, or boy, and reward them with a healthy treat.

Congratulations, you and your cat have just enjoyed your first cat bathing experience. Well, bathing your cat may not always go exactly to plan each time, but the key to it all is keeping your cat calm and you do that by remaining as calm as possible yourself.

If after you best attempts cat bath time always becomes a battle between feline and human, or you really do not want to give it a try, (why not? You might find it fun,) you could engage a professional groomer to give your cat a bath. Make sure to use a groomer who is experienced in cat bathing, you can ask your veterinarian if she has any recommendations. The service will not be cheap but remember that most cats do not require bathing often.

Cat Vaccinations

Dealing With Cat Fleas

Caring For A Wounded Cat.

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