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Bathing a Cat in Dawn Blue Detergent for Flea Treatment

Updated on August 1, 2014

The Magic Blue Dawn Detergent

Dawn is the common dishwashing liquid solution for cat flea baths.
Dawn is the common dishwashing liquid solution for cat flea baths. | Source

Bathe Your Cat to Remove Fleas

Have you ever picked live, running fleas from a wiggly four-month-old kitten's wet testicle fur?

If you succeeded, please tell me how to do it!

I apparently drove those dagnabbitable fleas from my cat's head towards what they perceived was a safer, dryer place, although everything there was also wet.

So, we know that water is effective against fleas.

Why bathe a cat? Answer: it is one of the recommended steps in fighting fleas. Also, the cat-safe soap which is frequently recommended is Dawn (TM) brand blue dishwashing liquid. Therefore, when I discovered flea bits and actual live fleas during a regular combing of my indoor-only cats, I raced to purchase Dawn.

Degrees of Feline Water Aversion

From the cats I have known, there are differences in how much water each will tolerate on its body. Some think you are skinning them alive. That is why the human "bath administrator" should wear a long-sleeved shirt; it mitigates all the claw scratches as the poor little feline tries to save itself.

I have heard that some cats like baths. Maybe these are show cats? I have not yet met this group.

I am fortunate to have two wonderful cats who are middle-of-the-road in water tolerance. They like to hop into the bathtub to sip water drizzling from the water-pik style showerhead or from the tub faucet. So, to them, the tub is a playground.

Equipment and Supplies for Each Cat's Bath

For the human:

A long-sleeved shirt and long pants which are permitted to get wet (because they will!)

For the cat:

Dawn dishwashing liquid

1 washcloth or rag

2 full-sized bath towels

Bathroom with a door which can be fastened shut

Shower or tub with running water

More on Equipment

I found the water-pik style shower nozzle on a hose to be EXTREMELY helpful in making the job easier. I could direct the water spray on to a back or belly without getting the cat's eyes.

I have also administered cat baths without a shower hose. If this is the case, use a washcloth to drizzle the rinse water on your cat.

Also, you may consider this to be part of equipment: a separate warm room for the second stage of drying - basically a place for the wet little raggamuffin of a cat to go to continue shaking and licking himself.

NEVER: This warning is in all the literature on cat care - Never use a blow dryer on a cat. We humans cannot gauge the hotness and skin burns often resulted when people used them. So, as Taylor Swift would say: never, ever, ever, ever use an electric blow dryer in the cat bathing process.

Steps in the Cat Bathing Procedure

1. Assemble all equipment.

2. Lock yourself and the kitty in the bathroom.

3. Llightly wet the washcloth and put 2 or more drops of Dawn on it.

4. Turn the shower water on at a very low volume and adjust the temperature to be lukewarm.

5. Tell your cat that you love him.

6. Pick up the washcloth and then firmly grab your cat and dab at his forehead, cheeks, inside the ears and neck. You do these areas first to make a barrier of water for the fleas. They will run away from the water. By doing the head first, you are not pushing fleas towards your cat's eyes, nose and mouth.

7. Wet and soap up all parts of your cat, as best as you can. This may involve forcible wrestling holds and possible escape and recapture. For a few moments, as you massage the soap into the skin - your cats may even enjoy having that itching stop as someone else does the rubbing.

8. When you feel that all has been soaped, start rinsing. This is great with the hose and nozzle. Otherwise, a new, clean wet washcloth might be the best tool. Gently, run your hand down wet limbs and the tail to squeeze rinse water into the tub.

9. Scoop up your clean, wet kitty with one hand while you simultaneously sit on the closed-lid toilet or a chair and put one towel on your lap. Plop kitty into the towel and wrap him up. Then rub various parts through the towel while continuously saying "I love you." It's a trust thing.

10. When the first towel is rather well-saturated, grab the second towel to rub areas of damp fur which you uncover.

11. When the second towel is saturated, take your cat to the warm drying room so it can recover, physically and emotionally.

Continuing to Dry Out

Skeeter, the 2 1/2 year old cat, chose a sunny window for more drying.
Skeeter, the 2 1/2 year old cat, chose a sunny window for more drying. | Source
The 4-month-old kitten, Cincy, found that a snack helped after the bath.
The 4-month-old kitten, Cincy, found that a snack helped after the bath. | Source
Cincy is dry in some places and damp in others.
Cincy is dry in some places and damp in others. | Source

How do Fleas Attack Indoor-Only Cats?

Although flea infestation of indoor cats is less common than for outdoor cats, it happens. Humans can carry fleas inside, just from their own travels out in the world or in their own yard. Fleas are smart and ingenious. Once they do hitch a ride inside, if there is a nice tasty "host," such as a cat or a dog, they will find it and start their dirty work of biting.

Mea culpa. I am guilty of complacency. Also, cheapness (or frugality, as some call it.) Since I knew my indoor-only cats are LESS likely to get fleas, I did not give them monthly flea treatments. Please notice the past tense of the verb. I have ordered medicine and will faithfully apply it from now on. This is an "adventure" I do not want to repeat. Perhaps others can learn from my mistake. Please let me know.


About the Author

Maren Morgan is a late-in-life cat person who is totally smitten with her two rescue cats. You can read more at Skeeter.

Photos and text copyright 2012 Maren E. Morgan.


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    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Johne542, good luck with your cat.

    • profile image

      Johne542 3 years ago

      Thank you for the sensible critique. Me &amp my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research about this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more from this post. I am very glad to see such excellent info being shared freely out there. kkdcdcfkckdd

    • Msmillar profile image

      Joanna 4 years ago from Valley Springs

      Too funny Maren, I loved it! I wore welding gloves when I had to wash my cat, once. Never again, yikes! Voted up and funny!

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Ractelbeast, thanks. This is the first time I used Dawn. I like it a lot, and your comment affirms that it is more than an old wives' tale. I will include it into my regular cat health maintenance routines. :)

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 5 years ago from United States

      What a first sentence! (And btw, the answer is no.) Voted up. (: One of your best!

    • ractelbeast profile image

      ractelbeast 5 years ago from Missouri

      Dawn dish soap is pretty awesome. We always use it on kittens and puppies that are too young to use flea and tick shampoo or other preventative medications.