Is there anything more crazy than someone proposes brushing a cat’s teeth or bathing a cat? Okay, maybe it’s not that crazy. But honestly. Do you really, really need to bathe a cat? And if you do, how often? Do we need to do it once a week, every day, or how often? Let’s find out.
Do you bathe your cat? It’s not that bad an idea, and it’s good to start at an early age.
The short and quick answer is, yes, you do need give your cat baths. It’s not like it is an absolute necessity, like giving food to your cat, but there are certain benefits from doing so. As a kitten, it’s mother grooms them and teaches them how to keep themselves clean.
First things first. If your cat has gotten into something dirty, like rubbing against that freshly painted wall or motor oil from the garage, then you must wash your cat immediately. Otherwise, bathing a cat is not an everyday task. Thankfully, it’s not even an every week task.
Benefits of giving your a cat a bath
- Bathing a cat will make them cleaner. The fact that cats already wash themselves is true, but this fact is somewhat misunderstood. It’s actually not like they “wash”-wash themselves, at least not in the sense in which we humans understand it. Licking its own fur helps a cat to get rid of dead hair, dirt, parasites and food leftovers, which helps a lot with survival in the wild. But this does not make the cat human-standard clean. It can also encourage more hairballs. When it comes to having the cat sleeping on your white pillow, then occasionally bathing your cat will give you an obvious advantage.
- Bathing a cat will reduce shedding. Having to live, sleep, eat and pray with a cat’s fur everywhere is a common complaint from cat owners, especially if their cats have long or soft coats. Showering your cat will rinse the dead hair away, so there will be less to shed on your mattress. Shedding can also be greatly reduced by brushing your cat. Find out about more tips to limit your cat’s shedding here. Note: As a cat is being bathed, she is likely to undergo a serious amount of stress, which initially may make her shed more. This will stop as soon as the stress declines.
- Bathing a cat will make its coat shinier and healthier. And if you use a shampoo and coat conditioner of natural origin, it will also make your cat’s coat and skin healthier. Dandruff will be reduced, and if washing is accompanied by regular brushing, your cat’s coat will also be mat and tangle free.
- Bathing a cat will help to stop fleas as well as other skin parasites. If your cat already has fleas, it is highly recommended that you bathe her using a flea-control shampoo. You can find this in a veterinary clinic, where you will also be able to discuss other possibilities to get rid of those tiny pests.
There might also be other, albeit less important, benefits from bathing a cat, though there might be some drawbacks, too. For example, a cat can develop allergies to some ingredients in a shampoo (see below). You might also have to keep a cat indoors for the night after washing in the winter. And some cats are quite difficult to handle while bathing. So the good news is that you don’t need to “enjoy” this activity very often.
How often should you bathe your cat?
In general, the average indoor pet cat can easily handle being bathed one or two times per year. But as mentioned above, it’s also not a big problem if you never wash your cat. Many people don’t, and cats are okay with it. In fact, they are usually super okay with that. Understand that they don’t need the super level of cleanliness that we humans do.
Long haired cats and outdoor cats will require more frequent bathing as well as brushing to reduce tangles. This helps reduce hairballs as they may swallow less hair. Also, if you have a show-quality purebred cat, then it goes without saying that you will want to give them a wash before every show.
Indoor cats also require different washing schedules when compared to outdoor ones. They do not get dirty as quickly. Over time, their coats will build up dirt and oils that will may cause matted fur. This is nothing dangerous, but bathing your cat will provide a significant improvement.
Last, but not least, whether or not you give your cat a regular bath also depends on the cat’s personality, level of aggression, and how used to bathing your cat is (or will become). And a hairless cat will benefit from a bath as well, but benefits less from a bath.
If you wash your cat from kittenhood, she is likely to tolerate this procedure very well. But if your cat becomes hostile and hisses and spits even as you just read about washing her, you have a good reason to consider your priorities. Having a clean cat that results in her using her claws to scratch the heck out of you is not a win-win. In this case, you may consider a professional groomer.
Tips for Cat Baths
The ASPCA offers these tips to make bath time for your kitten or cat less stressful.
- Tire them out. By playing with your cat or kitten before bathing, they’ll be a little more relaxed. Increasing their activity level is always a good thing.
- Reward your feline friend. Treats will encourage your cat to resist less. We’ve found that even though our cats know that bath time is coming, a treat makes things more tolerable.
- Start young. An adult cat will resist a bath if they’ve never had one as a kitten. So start your kitten off right with a bath early in their life.
- Brush your cat first. Removing loose hair and mats by brushing shortens the amount of time for their bath. This is a good practice for short haired cats and a must do for long haired cats. Use a soft brush or fine toothed comb.
- Use a hand held sprayer. This will give you control over where the water goes. And you can more easily direct the shower head to keep water out of your cats eyes, ears, and nose. And by all means, use warm water. No one likes a freezing cold or boiling hot bath right?
- Trim your cat’s claws first. Again, this is easier if you’ve introduced your cat to this as a kitten. We found one of us would distract our kitten with treats while the other trimmed their nails.
- Use a rubber mat. No one (especially your cat) likes to slip in the tub. A rubber mat will go a long way to keep your cat safe and help reduce their anxiety about bath time. Several soft towels to dry them also help. A blow dryer make work if your cat has been introduced to it and accepts it. One of our cats hates it so he’s an air dry kitty.
- Head to tail. How do you shower? Head to toe right? This formula works great for your cat as well. Remember to keep water out of their ears, eyes, and nose. We found a damp cloth works wonders to clean around those sensitive areas. Remember to use it “around those areas”, not “in those areas”.
Can I use human shampoo on my pet?
We recommend using cat shampoo. Human shampoo can be too harsh for your cats skin as our pH balances are different. We have sweat glands on our skin, cats don’t. Human shampoo can be too drying for your cat. They have natural oils on their skin to help prevent infections. This isn’t to say every human shampoo is bad for your cat but as a veterinarian, I’ve seen too many cats with skin irritations that could have been prevented with proper care. To reduce the risk of your feline friend having skin problems, using a good cat shampoo is cheap insurance. If your cat or kitten does have a skin condition (dry skin is a skin condition), please contact your veterinarian right away. There are specific medicated shampoos with the ingredients needed for the condition your cat may have. For example, if your cat has a flea infestation, a flea shampoo will get rid of them quickly and help heal their skin if they also have flea allergies.. For regular use, a shampoo with is hypoallergenic (made to not cause allergic reactions) and pH balanced for your cat works best. We’ve used Burt’s Bees (yes, the same one that makes great lip balm) Shea Butter Shampoo For Cats. This helps keep their sensitive skin from getting too dry. Just as you wash your hair, use your hand held sprayer to get your cat wet and gently massage the shampoo in.
So consider that bathing provides several benefits to you and your cat. There may be medica reasons too. Just remember that it’s not an absolute requirement for most cats. In our next article, you will learn how exactly to bathe (and how exactly not to bathe) your cat.