How To Bathe a Cat
The good, the bad and the funny of bathing a cat
Bathing a cat should not be taken lightly. You could get hurt, your cat could be traumatized and your house could end up a disaster area. After 40 years of practice, I can help you avoid these 3 things if you follow the advice on this page. So, read on as you never know when you may have to bath your cat or kitten.
Here you'll learn not only how to give a cat a bath, but when a cat bath is necessary. I'll also share with you the 8 things you must do while bathing your cat and my step-by-step trauma-free way to bathe your cat.
P.S. Enjoy the funny photos of cats in baths. And make sure you bookmark this page just in case you ever need to bathe your cat or if you just want a chuckle by seeing the photos or captions.
5 Reasons a cat may need to be bathed
When would a cat need a bath?
A cat doesn't usually need to be bathed. They clean themselves and they do a great job of it. Here are 5 situations where cats may need to be bathed.
1. Young kittens
Many kittens need to be spot-bathed or fully bathed a couple of times due to poop or urine on their paws and body or, if you are bottle feeding them, they may get milk all over themselves. Make sure to follow my step-by-step below to know how to keep them safe and warm throughout the bathing process.
2. Older cats
Some older cats need to be bathed or spot-bathed because the are too sick to clean themselves or they have accidents where their poop or urine gets on them.
3. Skin problems
Some cats get a skin rash that requires applying medicated shampoo.
4. The cat gets something on her body -- tar, oil, tree sap, skunk spray.
These things will clog your cat's pores if it get on his skin. No matter where it is on the cat,he will lick it trying to get it off. If your cat ingests too much of any of these things, he can become sick to the stomach.
For skunk spray, see module below or click skunk spray
5. The cat steps into something poisonous -- weed killer, anti-freeze, rat poisons, insect sprays.
If your cat comes into contact with any of these items -- on their skin or paws or ingests it. Your cat could get extremely sick and can die if not treated in a timely manner. (For more plants and other poisons to cats, click Curiosity can kill a dog or cat.)
Do not take any chances, immediately call the poison center at:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Hotline
For any animal poison-related emergency.
24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
A $55 consultation fee may be charged.
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Buying something from this page will support FIV cats
All royalties raised from items purchased on this page go to FIV Cat Rescue, a 501C(3) organization, located in California, dedicated to debunking the myths surrounding FIV (Feline immunodeficiency Virus) and providing educational materials to vets, shelter workers and the general public about FIV.
FIV is a cat only virus. Many shelters kill FIV cats because of the misinformation and myths. Research is finally making its way to shelters and veterinarians showing what we owners and rescuers have known for decades: FIV cats live just as healthy and as long as Non-FIV cat and die of the same diseases. And, that FIV cat and Non-FIV cats can live together without passing the virus.
8 Things You Must Do While Bathing A Cat
How to bath your cat and keep you and your cat safe
Although there are some cats who love baths, most cats do not. Luckily, cats do not have to be bathed often, if at all. But when they do, make sure to keep these things in mind:
1. Be kind, calm, patient and gentle, even if your cat is going ballistic.
2. Talk to him gently the entire time you are bathing him.
3. Also be organized in advance.
4. Keep things moving.
5. Use warm water -- not too hot and not too cold.
6. Towel him off rubbing and massage him (this helps to calm him down).
7. When you think he is dry, wrap a clean, dry towel around him and hug him (if he'll let you), talking gently to him.
8. Give him his favorite treat as a reward (or apology).
See the next section to for The Trauma Free Way To Bathe Your Cat, my step-by-step method of cat bathing.
A shampoo foam for bathing your cat - What's better; a foam or liquid shampoo for bathing a cat?
Here's a great shampoo foam that makes it easier to bath your cat. A foam is easier to rub in and keeps you from using too much shampoo. It is easier to rinse off as well.
The Trauma Free Way To Bathe Your Cat
Step-by-Step Instructions for bathing a cat That Really Work
Deciding to bathe a cat is a fairly extreme measure, generally undertaken only when necessary because of a major case of fleas or some other unsavory misadventure. And, unless you have a highly unusual cat, bathing him will not be easy. Most cats hate water and being wet and will be frightened by the ordeal and will act out accordingly.
Here's the method I use to bathe cats with much success - remember to talk to him softly throughout the bath:
1. Get Organized
Put out cat shampoo, wash cloths, 3 absorbent towels, your cat's favorite treat, put a non-skid mat in a large bowl or tub in the sink half filled with warm water. Cotton balls for the cat's ears to keep accidental water out (if they'll put up with them).
2. Get A Helper
My husband holds the cat using the "scruff hold" also known as the "momma-hold" (gripping the skin behind the cat's head like a momma cat carries her kitten), which when applied correctly, makes the cat stop struggling - He supports the cat's body as he lowers him onto the non-skid mat in the sink.
3. Head First
With a wet washcloth, I gently clean his face. I do not use shampoo on his face unless absolutely necessary, thus avoiding soap in his eyes, nose or mouth.
4. The Body
I lift his chin and using a large cup, I pour clean, warm water down the back of his head and over his body. I rub a little shampoo between my hands and rub it into the cat's body, legs and paws.
I rinse with clean, warm water and use my hands to squeeze the water off his body and legs, repeating as necessary.
I take a clean towel, wrap it around his body, then pat and rub the water off. I repeat with a 2nd towel.
5. Cuddle Him
I wrap him in another towel and cuddle him, walking away from the sink while talking softly. I walk away so he knows the ordeal is over while I am warming him up with my body. Hold them for as long as he will let you. This is important because it ensures he is dry and warm and leaves him with a better feeling about the ordeal.
6. Give Him A Treat
Finally I take him to his favorite treat and unwrap and set him in front of it. I continue to stroke him and I tell him how proud I am of him and how grand he smells and how beautiful he's going to look, now that he's clean. And I promise I won't do it again unless I really have to.
He may eat the treat immediately, or he may scamper away to do his own cleaning, but when he's done, he'll come back to get his treat.
Music to keep your cat calm during and after bathing - Music will calm your cat
Anxiety studies have shown that certain classical music will calm cats and dogs. So why not play music before, during and after the cat bathing process? It will relax your cat AND you!
This is a great cd with music that has been tested and proved to calm cats and dogs. The cd w=as developed by award winning producer, performer and pet lover, Tom Nazziola. You may remember him from Disney's Baby Einstein.
How to Remove Skunk Odor
Skunk Shampoo for Sprayed Cats (and dogs)
What Does NOT Work
1. Tomato juice contrary to popular belief.
2. Lemon or orange juice.
3. Perfumes or other sprays.
What Does Work
Mix together and use immediately:
4 cups hydrogen peroxide
1 cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1 teaspoon liquid soap or dish detergent
1. Put cotton balls into the cat's ears so the shampoo does not drip into them.
2. Put a drop of olive oil into each of the cat's eyes to prevent irritation.
3. Wear a good pair of rubber gloves (long sleeves, if available) to protect your hands.
1. Bathe the cat thoroughly as in the above module.
2. Rinse with tap water and repeat as necessary.
3. If your cat did get some in the eyes, flush them out as soon as possible although the olive oil in Preparation Step 2 should have protected them.
4. Pat them dry.
6. Give them a treat.
Photo: Striped skunk. Wikimedia Commons
Don't be alarmed if you find your black cat now has a lot of brown fur. This is due to the peroxide and will last a long time.
How NOT To Bathe Your Cat
Cat bathing gone bad
Here are some things to remember NOT to do while bathing your cat. (videos follow with some great examples of these no-nos.)
1. Do not use a sprayer.
2. Do not run faucet during bath, use large bowl in 2nd sink filled with clean, warm water.
3. Do not put cat's face in water. And especially don't duck cat's head under it!
4. Do not use too much soap -- rub a DAB between your hands then rub on fur. Too much and it will be very hard to get out.
5. Use a helper if you can - one to use the scruff hold while the other gives the bath.
6. Do not use a blow dryer UNLESS you know your cat likes it!
Video of how NOT to give a cat a bath - Cat bath gone wrong
Video - How to Give A Cat A Bath - Good example of a cat bath
Videos of cats getting bathed - Mostly how NOT to give your cat a bath
Handy wipes from Amazon - Bathing wipes can be used for small boo-boos on cats
Sometimes you don't need to bath whole cat. Instead, you can use these wipes to clean up small areas. It's less traumatic for your cat and for you. I highly recommend having some on hand and in your cat first-aid kit.
I love these bags and consider them a must have. They come in different sizes and are pretty easy to use. We use them to bath the rump of long-haired cats when they need it. The bags are great for controlling an uncooperative cat because you can zip the paws and all inside, then take out the body part you want to work on. For instance, you can take out 1 paw at a time to trim the nails. We've also used them for giving meds when needed.
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How to Bathe a Cat
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