How to bathe a cat

By Jean Sanders
Info Guru,

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wet cat being rinsed
Not all cats need a bath and in fact some will not tolerate it at all

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Bathing a cat can be a real challenge to someone with little or no patience. If you are the kind that does not have the time or patience to handle a yowling wet feline, then your best bet is to take your cat to a professional pet grooming service and have them do it. The younger your cat is when you start bathing, the better it is. The cat will eventually grow accustomed to being bathed on a regular basis and will be less likely to freak out in the tub. However, if you feel you can conquer this daunting task, all you would need are a few essential cat supplies.

Before giving your cat a bath, here's the list of items you will need:
  • Clean towel
  • Cat shampoo (one that is specifically formulated for cats)
  • Cat conditioner (same applies as above)
  • Nail clippers
  • Cotton balls
  • Cat brush/comb
  • The cat (good luck on this!)
Tips on bathing your cat
  • If your cat has any mats, please see your veterinarian or a professional groomer for advice on how to remove them. Sometimes they can be teased out with a special mat removing comb, sometimes they need to be clipped out. If they need to be clipped let a professional show you how the first time so you do not cut their skin.

  • When getting ready try to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Cats know when something's up and will hide. After everything is set up, clean the cat's ears to remove any debris and check for signs of parasite infections.

  • Trim nails with the special cat nail clippers. Before putting the cat into the tub, you will want to brush the fur to remove excess fur that's been shed, and to remove all mats and other things that may be caught in the fur.

  • Make sure to be very gentle because cats have very sensitive skin. Use this time with your cat to check for any skin problems your cat may have. Look for open sores, abscesses, rashes, ticks, signs of flea infestation, or any other skin abnormality. After this has been done, and your cat seems calmed down from being groomed, you can then prepare the bath water. If you do happen to spot any infestation or abnormality, make sure you buy the appropriate pet meds and consult with your veterinarian.
      Cats prefer tepid (lukewarm) bath water as opposed to hot. Hot water will cause your cat to be uncomfortable and can dry out the skin. Fill the bathtub enough to cover the cat's feet up to 4 inches. Try not to use a shower or sprayer because this could frighten the cat. Because of a cat's independent nature, restraining isn't the best idea. If you talk gently and just block all the ways out of the tub, the cat will eventually calm down. If the cat still insists on getting out of the tub, then you will need to hold the cat.

      Place the cotton balls in the cat's ears to prevent water from getting into the ear canals. Getting water in a cat's ear can disturb the pH balance in the ear canal, which can make the ear more susceptible to an infection. Lather the cat up with shampoo while gently massaging the cat's body. When the cat is completely lathered up, take a cup and gently pour water over the cat to rinse all the shampoo off. Even though the cat may seem thoroughly rinsed, rinse the fur again. Cat fur can still contain soap that is not visible, but will still cause some skin irritation.

      If your cat has had problems with dry skin after being bathed, then you may want to add conditioner to your cat. Each type is different depending on the brand. Make sure to follow the directions that come with the product, and that you rinse it off thoroughly to prevent irritation to the skin.

      After the cat has been thoroughly rinsed, you will need a towel to dry your cat. Before using the towel try to gently remove excess water from your cat by running your hand down their back and sides. After this gently blot the cat dry. Rubbing them can cause the fur to mat and can also hurt a cat because their skin is so sensitive. Your cat will try to shake off.

      You can prevent getting the whole room drenched by laying a towel over the cat until he is finished shaking off. Make sure the cat stays warm. You can use a blow dryer set on cool to dry your cat if the noise doesn't frighten him. Never use a heated setting because a cats skin is very thin and sensitive and the direct hot air can not only dry out their skin, but also it can seriously burn your cat.

      Note: There are specially made cat bath wipes that can be used without water to freshen up your cat's coat. These can be purchased at any pet supply retailer. There are many online sources also.

      So why bathe a cat?

      The fact is, you would only bathe a cat if they are going to be shown, or if they need a shampoo treatment from the vet.

      Most cats stay very clean without being bathed. If you think your cat smells abnormal, don't jump to the conclusion that he or she needs a bath. Have a check up with your veterinarian. Most of the time the odor is NOT skin related, but has some other cause, and you may go through an unnecessary bath, which may not be much fun for you or your feline pal.

      Some cats never need a bath, but for those pet owners, who have allergies, bathing your cat can reduce your allergy symptoms. And there are times that a cat may actually need a bath like for instance if your cat falls into the toilet, has a problem as fleas, ticks, miliary dermatitis, seborrhea, etc.

      If a bath is an absolute necessity, hopefully these suggestions will make it a bit easier for both of you.

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