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How to Clean a Cat Giving the Cat a Bath Without Getting Scratched

Updated on October 21, 2011
My cat Patch
My cat Patch

I’m not talking about the You Tube video I have seen where the cat is standing calmly in the tub wanting to be in the water and loving the attention. That would be nice if all cats were like that. Heck many dogs won’t even stay in the bathtub very long. House cats usually have a natural instinct not to like water, unless they are a certain breed, or are trained otherwise from an early age.

I’m talking about cats who hate baths. They start to get anxious as soon as they see a tub full of water. Their claws will start showing when you get them near the water. I can already feel their claws on my skin. I know this sounds almost impossible to bathe a cat scared of water without having them scratch you, but it can happen. I have done this with my cats without getting scratched. I practically eliminated all possibly of getting scratched without going to extreme measures that will not further scare the cat or seem inhumane.

Why bathe a cat that scared of water? I know cats can clean themselves, and usually keep themselves clean. There are times when then need help to get clean. Such as, one indoor cat tipping over your flower pot on top of another indoor cat who just happened to walk by at that exact same time. Your indoor cat escaped, and got all muddy. Someone in the house is working on a messy project, and your cat just happened to get in the middle of everything. Otherwise, I usually don’t give them a bath, unless I think they really need it.

If your cat is calm and/or likes water, here is a good how to wash your cat the traditional way.

Bath Cat Wars - A couple of my cats are this bad when it comes to taking a bath.

First, here are a couple of early mistakes I made when going to bathe them. I have multiple cats, and usually steer clear of bathing them. My first mistake was thinking I could handle them like my husband does, and give them a bath. He doesn’t mind getting scratched. At least he says he doesn’t. My only protection was a long sleeve shirt. Not good. The cat ended up scratching my hand and arms up. Ouch. Then after I had to let the cat go, we had to hunt her down to dry her.

Mistake two. One of my cats had dirt all over it. None of us were keen of getting scratched. My daughters and I filled the tub with some water. I took the cat near the tub, and threw the cat in. The cat went in the water, out of the tub on the edge, made a semi circle to the other edge, and then into the bathroom. The cat was wet, but clean. My girls dried the cat. I got scratches on my arm from when the cat jumped in the water.

Yes I really thought of how to do this without getting scratched. I did come up with a way to do it. All you need is a sink half full of lukewarm water and a washcloth. Ok, the sink does need to be in a bathroom that has a door you can close to keep the cat in. You can buy pet shampoo if you really want to. Do not use regular shampoo, since it can be dangerous for your pet whether it is a cat or dog. The shampoo will make this task much longer and much harder though, since you will need to make sure all the shampoo is washed off.

After I get the cat into the bathroom, I immediately close the door. The smaller the room the better since there is not as much space for the cat to wonder around in. I fill the sink half with lukewarm water, and let the cat hear the running water. Sometimes the cat will jump up to watch the water running in the sink. I grab the washcloth and get it really wet.

Instead of holding the cat or trying to force it in the water, I let the cat walk around. I’ll start petting it first with my hand. Then I will pet the cat with the wet washcloth. The cat will wonder away from me, and I let it. I as well as most cat owners can judge if the cat is ok, angry, or happy. For my experience with several cats in doing this, the cat never really gets angry in that they will turn and bite or swat. They have the room and can just walk away. Since they are in a confined bathroom, they can’t go far.

When the cat walks away indicating it had enough for the moment, I go and re-wet the washcloth. By that time the cat is usually back for more petting and I repeat the process until the cat is totally wet and clean, or the part that needs clean is clean.

If the cat doesn’t come back, I usually give the cat a minute. Then I go to where the cat is, and start the petting process over again. Rarely did the cat go to where I couldn’t get to it. I don’t use pet shampoo, because the water along with the washcloth works fine. It will take a lot longer to make sure the shampoo is thoroughly out of the fur.

After their fur is clean, I take a large towel, and scoop the cat up. Make sure to get the towel under the legs, and wrap it up in a cocoon. You can hold your wet cat without worrying you will get scratched, since the towel has their legs. At this point in time, I talk softly to the cat, and rub the towel as much as I can over the fur. The cat is usually purring by the time I let it loose from the towel. The cat looks clean, with slightly damp fur. At this point I open the bathroom door so the cat can go to its favorite spot, and give it self another bath.

My kitten Squirt
My kitten Squirt

This process works very well, unless the cat is extremely dirty, or needs a flea bath. For extremely dirty cat, I would find several small bucket size containers. About the size of a kids sand bucket will be good. Fill them with lukewarm water, and have them ready by the tub. Bring the cat in the bathroom, and set it in a dry tub. While the cat is calm, take a container and pour water over the dirtiest part of the fur. At the same time use a wash cloth to help rub the dirt off. The cat is more than likely jump out of the tub. If you want to risk getting scratched, you can hold the chest area to try to keep the cat in. If you don’t want to risk it, let the cat jump out of the tub. Wait a little bit to let the cat calm down. Then re-try the process, until the cat is clean or mostly clean. When the cat is no longer extremely dirty, you can finish cleaning the cat with a clean wet washcloth as described above. For a flea bath, I would be handing off the cat to my husband. At that point the cat will need to be submerged in water. You will be bound to get scratched sooner or later.


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    • Bible Studies profile image

      Bible Studies 5 years ago from PA

      Just remember don't hold your cat,or try to make your cat stay still. Let him/her walk around. If your cat hisses, back off a bit until he/she calms down. Then try again. If needed pet your cat some before trying to apply the wet wash cloth again. If you use soap, use soap made for animals.

    • profile image

      kaitlyn 5 years ago

      i hope this works my cat hate bath's but he need one so bad and i don't want to be bleeding of the bath

    • Bible Studies profile image

      Bible Studies 6 years ago from PA

      lol, You're right, he does look like he is thinking that.

    • kruney profile image

      Karen R 6 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I just wanted to say I lvoe that first picture! He looks like he's thinking "Not again". lol.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Oh, smart approach! This could have saved me a lot of flesh wounds had I read it some years ago. Love the photos and helpful video, too!

    • SKCandles profile image

      SKCandles 6 years ago from Canada

      I think I could likely do this with my one cat, but my other cat, I'm not sure if this will even work. But I may have to give it a try. :)

    • gitrdun4444 profile image

      gitrdun4444 6 years ago from North Carolina

      I think you've taken something that most people find very difficult, and made it simple. Voted up & very helpful! Thank you! Debbie