Do cats need baths? In most cases, the answer is no, unless the cat is a show cat– in which case, you should either already know all about grooming for shows or have a mentor helping you learn! However, in certain cases, bathing a cat can be a necessary (if entirely unpleasant) measure. But when must one bathe a cat? And is it better to take it to a groomer, or bathe it at home?
When Do Cats Need Baths?
Cats generally groom themselves very well, but there are some situations in which they need to be bathed. Here are a few, all of which are taken from my experiences or the experiences of friends:
- A cat has contracted ectoparasites (like mites, lice, or fleas) and the veterinarian recommends a bath in combination with other treatment to get rid of the infestation.
- A curious kitten investigates a can of paint and falls in.
- Cat gets into something that doesn’t agree with his digestive system, and requires bathing to remove filth and matting at the rear end (this one is probably the most common).
- Something is spilled on the cat that would be hazardous to its health if licked off.
- Cat slaughters a bird and covers white fur in blood, then makes straight for the kitchen table. Owner nips this in the bud and puts cat in the bathtub instead for a wash.
As you can see, accidents or health issues are the most common reasons a cat might require a bath. Normal hygiene is performed by the cat, with a little help from a human and a cat brush and comb to keep mats from forming.
How to Bathe a Cat
It’s wisest to avoid bathing a cat at all. If your cat needs a bath, first see if any professional groomers near you specialize in cats. Please do not take your cat to a groomer that “usually doesn’t see cats but will make an exception.” These groomers probably do not have products such as shampoo that are made especially for cats. Cats are sensitive to some common ingredients in dog shampoos. For example, bathing in coal tar shampoo could kill a cat. A groomer who has special training in cat grooming and who sees many cats every week is ideal.
If you must bathe your cat yourself, use a shampoo specifically made for cats. In a pinch, a very gentle baby shampoo is okay, but cat shampoo is safer and formulated for feline hair and skin. The fewer ingredients, the better! Put cotton balls in the cat’s ears to protect them from water– he or she is likely to struggle and splash. Use lukewarm water, and don’t immerse the cat so deeply that it can’t touch the bottom of the tub or sink with its paws. If possible, have an assistant firmly hold the cat (wearing elbow-length gloves, preferably) while you scrub. Try to wash the cat as quickly as possible while still being effective. When the cat is bathed, wrap it up in a thick, cozy bath towel for as long as you can before it escapes.
Finally, prepare to be shunned for a week. Your cat may forgive you for a can of tuna, but don’t count on it!