by Iris Goldsztajn
When you first got your cat, you probably didn’t expect to ever have to give it a bath. After all, cats do most of their grooming on their own. That said, some situations do call for a little extra help from you. If your cat has got itself into a sticky situation or could use a little refresh, let us walk you through how to give a cat a bath without making a huge mess — or getting scratched up.
How Often Should You Bathe Your Cat?
Most cat breeds actually don’t need baths at all, or only very rarely. Instead you just need to make sure you’re brushing and combing them regularly (somewhere between once a day and once a week depending on how much hair your cat has) so that you can spot any changes in their skin’s appearance. To help you with that process, try using a detangling spray like Skout's Honor Probiotic Detangler.
Essentially, furry cats should only be bathed when absolutely needed — and no more than every 4-6 weeks so as not to dry their skin. Hairless cats need more regular bathing — ask your vet if you’re unsure how often you should give your hairless feline a scrub.
When Should You Give Your Cat a Bath?
In most cases, you’ll only need to bathe your cat if it has gotten into something especially sticky or smelly that it can’t easily wash off itself. Older or overweight cats who can’t properly groom themselves may need more regular bathing, as will hairless breeds. It’s especially important to bathe your cat immediately if it has a substance it shouldn’t ingest on its fur — think any toxic household products like chemical detergents or fertilizers.
Tips for a Smooth Cat Bath Experience
As you can imagine, there is a decent amount of prep involved in giving a cat a bath. Make sure to follow a few simple steps to prevent your cat from making a mess in your bathroom or clawing you to escape bathtime.
Firstly, choose a time when your cat is more chilled out, typically after eating or playing. Remove any breakable items from the bathroom if possible and run lukewarm water into your tub or sink beforehand, up to about 5 inches. Then, clip and gently file your cat’s claws, wearing rubber gloves if you’re worried it won’t like this. After that, gather all your equipment:
- A comb or brush.
- Towels and a washcloth.
- A small basin if you have one to avoid submerging your cat in a big bathtub, or use your sink if it’s large enough.
- A cup or ladle.
- A rubber mat so your cat doesn’t slip.
- A specially formulated shampoo like this probiotic one from Skout’s Honor (and if you’re curious, here’s why probiotics matter).
- A treat to reward a well-behaved animal afterwards.
How to Do It
Lift your cat into your tub of choice, which you’ve prefilled with water and lined with a rubber mat. Use your cup or ladle to pour water onto your cat gently. Go slowly and try not to spook it. Don’t pour water onto your cat’s head; use a wet washcloth instead.
Gently but generously, lather your cat with the shampoo you’ve prepared; avoid the face, ears and eyes, and don’t forget to scrub the belly and beneath the tail. Now rinse off the shampoo using the cup or ladle for the body, and the washcloth for the head. You can clean your cat’s ears while you’re at it too — here’s how. Towel dry your cat as much as possible, as wet fur causes it to lose body heat.
While giving your cat a bath may seem intimidating at first, these simple guidelines will help the process go as smooth as possible. Most importantly, remember that your cat will likely hate the experience, so don’t forget to reward them with a little treat afterwards!
Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based writer and editor with six years of experience creating content for various outlets. Her work has appeared in the likes of InStyle, Stylist and Cosmopolitan, and she won first place in Writing Magazine’s Grand Prize for a short story in 2020.