New Pet Owner

Giving Your Cat a Bath


Most domestic cats hate water. So it's a good thing that they do most of their grooming themselves. And for the most part, they do an amazing job licking themselves clean with their coarse tongues. But inevitably, cat owners face a time when their cat needs a bath. This can be quite a challenge, and if you're not careful, you might just end up bearing the scars.

Your best bet is to prepare properly for bath time:

  • Get your supplies ready and lay them out within arm's reach: cat shampoo, a brush, a towel, cotton balls (for your cat's ears) and wipes/washcloths.
  • Recruit someone to help you. A friend, family member, or fellow cat lover are your best options.
  • Fill the bathtub/sink with 3 to 4 inches of lukewarm (not hot!) water before you bring the cat into the bathroom.
  • If you don't have a handheld sprayer in your tub, fill a large (clean) plant watering can or other container with lukewarm water for rinsing.

Now, take a few moments to plan what you're going to do—so you and your helper are on the same page or so you don't get confused in the process. Trust us, a wriggling, meowing ball of uncomfortable kitty can make you forget everything.

Wear a long-sleeved shirt when you bathe your cat. It will protect your arms from kitty's claws.

It's best to move quickly and calmly through the cat-bathing process. Put cotton balls in your cat's ears to prevent water from getting down in the canal. Gently place your cat into the tub, and yes, you may need your friend to help hold her in there. Rub a small amount of shampoo in your hands and work it into your cat's fur. Take care to keep soap and water out of her face.

Don't linger. Use a damp washcloth or wipe to clean kitty's face AFTER you've removed her from the tub.

Once you're satisfied with the cleanliness of kitty's coat, it's time to rinse. And you have to do this part really well. If you leave soap in her fur, it can cause mild to severe skin irritations. One of the best tools for rinsing is a sink or shower hose. If you don't have one, use the watering can or other water container you've prepared in advance.

After kitty's rinsed, quickly and gently remove her from the tub. Shroud her in a soft fluffy towel and carefully pat her dry. She will more than likely begin licking herself dry, too. Try to work around her, and don't rub with the towel, especially if your cat has long hair. You'll end up with knots, which no one wants.

Help kitty get completely dry. Some people use a blow dryer on the lowest setting, but we don't know how many cats will sit through that. It's really important that she gets dry and warm, so just keep an eye on her and watch for shivering. You may have to put in some extra cuddling time to warm her up.

Phew, that was rough, but it's over. Now give kitty a treat, and tell her what a good sport she was.