How often should you bathe a cat?

Is there anything more crazy than when someone you know proposes brushing your cat’s teeth or bathing your cat?  Okay, maybe it’s not that crazy. But honestly. Do you really, really need to bathe your 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.

In this article, you will learn how often you should bathe your cat, the benefits, and important helpful tips.

Kitten taking a bath
Do you give your cat a bath?

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How often should I bathe my indoor cat?

Do you bathe your cat? It’s not that bad of 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. Thankfully it’s not 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. But you or someone in your home may be allergic to this as they lick themselves clean. But doesn’t that mean my cat is covered in their own spit? Well, yes.

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 your 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 your cat will reduce shedding. Having to live, sleep, eat and play 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 floors and furniture. 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, they will likely undergo a serious amount of stress, which initially may make them shed more. This will stop as soon as the stress declines.
  • Bathing your cat will make their 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 your 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. 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?

Cat taking a shower in a bathtub.
Can I please get some privacy here?

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 don’t 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, they’ll likely to tolerate a bath better. But if your cat becomes hostile, hisses and spits even as you just read this article about washing them, you have a good reason to reconsider your priorities. Having a clean cat that results in them using their 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. In fact, it’s how we lure them into the shower stall.
  • 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. Use several soft towels to dry them. A blow dryer might work if your cat has been introduced to it and accepts it. One of our cats hates it so he’s a “towel dry, 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?

Yes, but we don’t recommended them. We suggest using cat shampoo. Why? 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. Further, 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. 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.

Can you use conditioner on a cat?

Yes. But only use a conditioner made for cats. If your cat has a skin or coat condition, talk to your veterinarian about what condition may help. Conditioners are great as they can help restore the moisture removed by the shampoo. They can also help treat skin and coat conditions. They also make your cats fur smell great. Make sure you rinse all the shampoo and conditioner from your cats fur. This is because your cat will groom themselves after their bath. You don’t want to make them sick or have digestive problems by consuming shampoo and conditioner that may have been left on their fur.

So consider that bathing provides several benefits to you and your cat. There may be medical reasons too. Just remember that it’s not an absolute requirement for most cats.

You have learned how often to bathe your cat, the benefits, and important tips to bathing your cat. This will go a long way towards a happy life for you and your pet cat. And keeping your Pet Happy is what we all want.

In our next article, you will learn how exactly to bathe (and how exactly not to bathe) your cat.


Question: Do I need to bathe my cat?

Answer: No. While it’s not an absolute necessity, there are certain benefits from bathing a cat. If your cat has gotten into something messy, then you should wash your cat. Otherwise, bathing a cat isn’t an everyday task. In general, the average indoor pet cat can easily handle being bathed one or two times per year.

Question: What are the benefits of giving a cat a bath?

Answer: Bathing a cat can make them cleaner, reduce shedding, make its coat shinier and healthier, and 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.

Question: How often should I bathe my indoor cat?

Answer: The average indoor pet cat can easily handle being bathed one or two times per year. Long-haired cats and outdoor cats will require more frequent bathing as well as brushing to reduce tangles.

Question: Can I use human shampoo on my pet?

Answer: No. You shouldn’t use human shampoo on your pet. Human shampoo can be too harsh for a cat’s skin, which can lead to irritation and dryness. Instead, use a shampoo and conditioner that is specifically designed for cats, and consult your veterinarian if you have any questions.

Question: What are some tips for bathing a cat?

Answer: Here are some tips for bathing a cat:

  • Make sure the water is lukewarm and at a comfortable level for your cat.
  • Wet your cat’s fur thoroughly, but be careful not to get water in their eyes or ears.
  • Use a cat-specific shampoo and conditioner.
  • Rinse your cat thoroughly and make sure all the shampoo is washed out.
  • Use a towel to dry your cat, and avoid using a hair dryer.
  • Reward your cat with treats or playtime to make the experience positive.

Question: Why do cats groom themselves?

Answer: Cats groom themselves to keep clean, to cool down, to remove loose or dead fur, and to remove any scent that could attract predators. Grooming also helps distribute natural oils throughout their coat, keeping it healthy and shiny.

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