Thursday, July 25, 2024

The Pet Expert: How and When to Bathe Your Cat

Bathing Cats270We all know the stigma surrounding cats and water – they hate it! While this is true for the majority of cats out there, there are certain breeds, like Maine Coons, who are known for their love of water. Although most cats do not require regular baths, there are circumstances where bathing may be necessary.

Thankfully, cats are generally extremely efficient at bathing and grooming themselves. In fact, many cats go their entire lives without ever needing to be given a bath. However, due to things like illness, old age, poor hygiene, or obesity, some cats may need to be bathed – sometimes more than once.

At first, bathing a cat may seem like a fairly simple process, however many things can go wrong without proper preparation. Even the sweetest kitties may become unpredictable when introduced to a stressful situation like a bath. Not only can periods of high stress put a cat at risk for health problems, people are also at high risk of injuries, such as bites and scratches.

To make sure all participants remain safe during kitty bathing, follow these helpful tips to make the process run as smoothly as possible.

Why would my cat need a bath?

Typically, a cat only needs to be bathed in the event they are no longer able to properly satisfy their grooming needs. With over half of all domesticated cats in North America considered obese, this is the most common reason for cats needing a little assistance with cleaning – they simply cannot reach certain areas of their body. Elderly and disabled cats may lose flexibility, or have joint and mobility issues that make routine cleaning painful. Other circumstances where a cat may require a bath include skunk sprays, soiling themselves, coming into contact with paint, rolling in a dead animal or animal feces, and more. Basically, if your cat gets dirty for any reason, and cannot safely clean itself, it’s time to bust out the suds!

In the event you find yourself in a situation where your cat needs a bath, make sure to be prepared in advance. Otherwise, you could be adding unnecessary stress to both yourself and your beloved feline companion.

Firstly, stay calm and composed at all times. A cat will know if you are nervous or anxious, and may react to that. Secondly, trim your cat’s nails in advance. This will lessen the chance of getting cut or scratched. Cats are super bendy, and can move in ways that make safe handling risky. Bathing a cat on your own may prove rather difficult and frustrating; having a helper is a smart idea. This way, one person can be the holder, and the other can be the bather. For nervous kitties, it may be worthwhile using a safe pet calmer in advance, like CBD oil, to take the edge off.

All of your bathing supplies should be laid out in advance, and easily within arm’s reach. Consider using a non-skid surface in the bathtub so kitty isn’t frantically pawing for traction against a slippery surface. Keep the water running at a comfortable, warm temperature.

With the help of your assistant, begin wetting your cat, starting from the neck down to the tail. It is best to avoid getting water on their head, as this will almost certainly be a negative trigger. Be sure to use a good quality shampoo that is friendly to cats and the environment. Most pet shampoos are concentrated, so a little goes a long way. Make sure to pay attention to washing areas your kitty may have trouble cleaning, particularly the hindquarters, belly, and armpits. After kitty is nicely lathered, rinse thoroughly. Even the best quality pet shampoos can irritate skin if soapy residue is left to dry in the coat. Finish up by drying your cat with a towel or two, and keep her warm until she is completely dry. Once dry, follow up with a nice brushing for best results.

Remember, for everyone’s safety, do not force a cat to do anything they don’t want to do. Forcing a bath will not only result in an anxiety-ridden kitty, it may also worsen any future baths. A cat doesn’t have to love their bath, but they should tolerate it well enough to complete the job with minimal fuss. If your cat freaks out at any time during the bath, it is best to let them go and try again when they are calm.

The keys to a successful bath require two simple things: preparation and patience. Here’s hoping you never have to give your cat a bath, but if you do, good luck!

Brandon Forder – also known as The Pet Expert – is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, a family-owned and -operated business located in Meaford. He has over twenty years’ experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour, and lifestyle. Canadian Pet Connection is an industry leader committed to providing their clients with the highest levels of personal, attentive service. Learn more at

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