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How to Give a Cat a Bath

Updated on January 21, 2009

Cats may accept water if you know what to do!

If your cat is particularly hydrophobic, when bath time comes around, you may expect a teeth and claw struggle worthy of considering the aid of a good pair of carpenter gloves. Unless you are fortunate enough to be blessed with a Turkish Van Dam (a cat breed famous for their tolerance of water) you may find yourself wishing your cat would never get soiled. However, with patience and a little bit of "cat psychology' you may ultimately train your cat to -let's not say "enjoy"- but at least tolerate better getting soaked in your bath tub.

10 Secrets for Obtaining a Bath Tolerant Cat

1) Start early

Your best bet in teaching your cat to accept a bath without struggle, is getting it used to water at an early age. When cats are kittens they are much easier to train. The secret is to start early and keep the kitten exposed to regular baths to keep up the training. It is very important to keep kitty from getting traumatized and turning bath time into a pleasant event.

2) Never use water badly

In other words do not use a spray bottle to punish your cat. Many owners use water to deter cats from unwanted behaviors. What this does is it causes cats to associate water with something unpleasant. All it takes is a couple of sprays and the cat will turn a natural aversion to water  into a phobia.

3) Encorage water play

Some cats are naturally attracted to water. It is not unusual to find cats playing with the water in the sink or their water bowl. Do not discourage such behavior. A water fountain may be a great gift to such cats. As the cat plays with the water he/she will eventually get wet and the cat will learn to accept and ignore such instance.

4) Stay calm

Cats can read your emotions, they know that you are tensing up at the simple thought of giving him/her a bath. They also can read from your physical cues that when you grab that towel and that sponge it means that he/she is next on the list and very likely will hide under the bed turning bath time into a hide and seek game.

5) Close the faucet

Your faucet running with water may feel like the roar of the Niagara falls to a small cat. Turn the faucet off. Try not to splash or make loud noises either. A cup full of water splashed on the cat's coat may scare the cat off. Rather, wet a sponge and pass it around until you can work the shampoo in a lather. Also make sure the water is at an ideal temperature.

6) Use a basin

Your shower is out of question and so is the bath tub and sink. Use instead a small water basin and place it in a place your cat normally plays or eats so he/she feels in a familiar reassuring surrounding. Do not over fill the basin as cats may be traumatized by being submerged  too much in high water.

7) Turn it into a spa

Pet your cat and praise lavishly as you bath him/her. Kittens may even purr from contentment. Make bath time a fun event that your cat may enjoy. Should your cat try to escape the basin, get the cat from the neck just as their mom does as kittens and place him/her back. By slightly pinching the skin on the neck most cats go into a relaxed state of mind.

8) Use towels to dry

Some cats may be pretty stoic when bathed but will freak out when dried with a blow dryer. Skip the blow dryer which by the way has been associated with severe burns. Instead wrap kitty in a towel and cuddly with kitty. Some cat really enjoy this part as they are safely parted from the water and feel comfy.

9) Turn baths to a routine

If you give a bath once a year, your cat may forget about all the good things associated with the previous baths. Take advantage od summer time to frequently cool down kitty with a nice cool sponge.

10) Allow kitty in the bathroom

Last but not least, show kitty that as an owner you take baths too! Leave the door slightly ajar when taking a bath and allow curious kitty to come in. Chances are high the cat will come in on its own. Allow the cat to stand up against the tub and look at the water. Cats are highly intelligent creatures and their inquisitive nature  allows them to learn a lot about the world around them.

While you may never find your cat inside your jacuzzi sipping on a cocktail, your cat at least, may show that it may be able to tolerate water. Do not have too many high expectations, but rather appreciate if your cat will stay for a few minutes still without putting up a major struggle.  Cats and water may never be be a winning combination, but be able to give a bath is really what matters. 


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      LINDA HAYES 6 years ago

      i HAVE A 22 POUND SOLID BLACK MALE CAT. When I go to the bathroom, he follows me. When I flush the tolit he leaps on the comode seat and watches the water go down. If I let him in the bathroom when I am bathing in the tub he jumps in the tub with me. He is my baby. He is 18 years old and the smartest cat I have ever had.