how to bathe a cat in 8 easy steps

how to bathe a cat in 8 easy steps
Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Dec 22 2015

Today, I’m going to give you some advice on how to bathe a cat. My very best advice on the subject is: don’t! Are you crazy? Do you like being mauled? Just kidding. Kind of. The truth is, there are times when your cat might need a bath. I’d like to try to make the whole process easier for you both.

When should you bathe your cat?

Cats are fastidious groomers — if they aren’t eating or sleeping, it’s likely you’ll find them bathing away, one hind leg pointed straight to the sky as they groom their bellies, or adorably wiping their faces and ears with their damp paws.

But sometimes, cats groom less than they should. Sometimes they stop grooming altogether. Maybe they’ve become overweight, and much of their body is out of reach. Maybe chronic illness or osteoarthritis have made it too difficult or painful to groom. Whatever the reason is, cats who have stopped grooming could use a little help, and that’s where you step in.

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Before I give you advice about bathing your cat at home, let me first tell you that if your cat needs a bath and you don’t feel up to it, there is no shame in taking her to a groomer. Groomers have lots of experience bathing cats and know all the cat taming tricks. This is a win/win for both you and your cat.

cat being bathed in sink

Now, if I still haven’t deterred you from bathing your cat at home, here’s my step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Trim your cat’s toenails. This is more about your safety than anything else. To avoid looking like a bloody scratching post, make sure your cat’s nails are nice and short.

Step 2: Make your bathing site non-slip. You can do this with non-slip padding, but a wet towel at the bottom of the tub or sink does the trick, too. I prefer to use the kitchen sink over my bathtub, just because it saves my back. If the tub works better for you, bathe your cat there.

Step 3: Get the necessary tools.

If you don’t have a sprayer for rinsing your cat, make sure you have a pitcher or large cup nearby for rinsing.

Go ahead and run the tap so the water has time to get warm before you put kitty in the tub or sink.

Have pet shampoo ready. Save money by diluting one part of your pet’s shampoo with four or five parts water. This money saving tip also makes it easier for the shampoo to reach through your cat’s fur down to the skin.

Step 4: Enlist a helper to be your cat’s holder while you bathe him. Believe it or not, your cat will probably not just sit there and accept a bathing. Because we are not blessed with more than two hands, it makes the whole job easier if you have a little help.

Step 5: Slowly, carefully put your cat in the tub/sink and then slowly, carefully wet him down. Avoid getting his head wet, as this is a sure fire way to send him bolting from the bath.

Step 6: Give your cat a good rub down with diluted pet shampoo. Don’t forget his belly and legs. Remember to skip his face and head. You can wipe that down with a wet cloth after you’ve rinsed him.

Step 7: Slowly, carefully rinse the shampoo. Be thorough — remaining shampoo can be irritating to the skin and can encourage mats to form. When he’s fully rinsed, use a wet wash cloth to wipe his face and chin.

Step 8: “Wring” out excess water from your cat’s body by gently squeezing or wiping his body, tail and legs. Then grab a towel and dry him off.

You’ve made it through bathing your cat!

Here’s my final piece of advice: If at any point, your cat completely freaks out, just let him go. This is a tip contradictory to your instincts, I know. You don’t want a wet cat running through your house, but if it comes down to you versus an angry cat, I know who will come out on the winning side. Just let him go. And call a groomer.

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