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How to Bathe a Cat & How Often You Should Do It

We all know that most cats aren't the biggest fans of water, which can lead you to wonder if they need regular bathing and how it's done. Here, our vets in Oceanside offer some tips and advice on how to bathe a cat, especially one that hates water and how often you should do so.

Does my cat require regular bathing?

A great thing about cats is that they are well-equipped to clean themselves thoroughly; most cats do a great job, meaning baths shouldn't be needed very often.

Your cat's tongue is covered with tiny curved barbs that transfer saliva across their fur. This is like a miniature spa treatment since each lap spreads natural oils across their coat and skin, preserving the health of each. Those little spines work as natural detanglers, too, so you’ll often see your kitty licking and biting at fur clumps until she smooths everything out.  

That being said, routine bathing at home or with experienced groomers in Oceanside can help reduce hair loss and prevent hairballs. 

How often should you bathe a cat?

While they aren't required often, you may need to give your cat the occasional bath. Some instances can be if they've gotten into something they shouldn’t ingest, such as motor oil, antifreeze, gasoline, or paint. Anything that gets on their fur that could be harmful needs to be washed off immediately. 

Some cats develop conditions that affect their skin, which can be soothed through bathing. One such condition is seborrhea, which causes flakey, red, and itchy skin. Your vet may also recommend medicated baths to treat other health conditions, such as severe fleas, allergies, or ringworms. 

If your cat is senior or overweight, it may have difficulty cleaning itself, and regular bathing may be beneficial. Cats with long hair should be bathed every couple of months to minimize their fur matting. Hairless breeds like the Sphynx probably need bathing about once a week, as the oils they naturally produce can end up on furniture and fabrics.

How do you bathe a cat?

If you plan on bathing your cat, you will want to have the items you'll need close by. Once you begin, you will not have the opportunity to walk away.

Some of the things you should have on hand for a smooth bathing experience include:

  • Several towels to dry them off.
  • A shower or bath with a handheld showerhead.
  • Cat-specific shampoo and conditioner.

You should never use human shampoo or conditioner, as it has a different pH level than that suitable for cats and could damage your pet’s hair or skin.

Prepare for Bath Time

Before you begin the bath, brush out your cat's fur. This is especially important if your cat has longer fur. Set the water temperature to warm and have it run through the showerhead at a medium-level spray.

Carefully Give Your Cat a Bath

Gently place them into the shower tray or bath while talking to your cat and offering reassurance and praise. Using a showerhead from above is significantly less stressful for your pet as they are far more likely to be used to being rained on than if they are being lowered into 4 inches of tepid water.

Hold your cat in place by the scruff of the neck, or use a harness if you think you need extra stability. Begin gently washing them using soft, confident strokes. Cats are intuitive at picking up stress, so if you seem stressed, they will be on edge, too, and far more likely to lash out or try to make a run for it.

Use a small amount of shampoo. Gently run it all over into a lather. Rinse clean, and then repeat with the conditioner. Take care to avoid the eyes and nose.

Thoroughly Dry Your Cat

Once your cat is clean, towel-dry it as much as possible. Many cats are quite scared of hair dryers. If your cat isn't, consider using a hair dryer to dry it on low heat and speed.

Alternatively, you can lead your cat in your warm bathroom until their coat dries. The most important thing is to ensure your feline companion is dry before venturing into other parts of your home. Damp cats can quickly become chilled, which can make them unwell. In the case of kittens, particularly low body temperatures can be life-threatening.

How to Safely Bathe a Cat Who Hates Water

It's no secret that cats hate water. Some cats will tolerate baths, but others simply won't. When a bath is inevitable, staying calm will help you both.

Here are a few tips to help your cat relax and lower the risk of you being scratched in the process:

  • Use a washcloth around the face and ears.
  • Choose a time after she’s eaten or played, as she’ll be more mellow.
  • Plan for a short grooming session to make handling their fur much easier.
  • Recruit a friend to help so one of you can hold the cat while the other bathes them.
  • Fill a sink with a few inches of warm water and wash only the parts you need to, then rinse thoroughly.
  • If possible, trim your cat's nails before the bath, filing the ends after they're clipped to dull them.
  • Minimize running water; the sound causes many cats to panic, and the last thing you want is to grab a slippery cat with sharp claws.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Along with keeping your cat bathed, you need to consider ongoing healthcare. If you would like to book a routine exam, don't hesitate to contact our vets at Surfside Animal Hospital today.

Specialty Vets at Surfside Animal Hospital

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Surfside Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Oceanside companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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