Many big cats, such as jaguars and tigers, actually like water. The same is not generally true of their small, domestic cousins. Big cats have fur that deflects moisture, but housecats have evolved coats that absorb it. The difficulty of drying off after getting soaked may account for pet cats' aversion to water. Cats typically do not like water, but if you have to bathe your cat, there are things you can do to help her tolerate it if necessary.
When Do Cats Need Baths?
The bad news is that, because cats tend to be averse to water, they typically do not enjoy baths. The good news is that there is usually no need to bathe your cat at all. Under ordinary circumstances, cats are very effective at keeping themselves clean with self-grooming.
That doesn't mean that cats don't need any maintenance at all. You should brush your cat on a regular basis to remove loose hair and prevent matting. How often you need to brush your cat depends on the length of his fur. Long-haired cats need to be brushed several times a week, perhaps even every day. Short-haired cats only have to be brushed once a week.
Baths should not be part of your cat's regular grooming routine. In fact, unnecessary baths may cause cats unnecessary stress and anxiety. However, there may be exceptional circumstances in which you may feel it is necessary to bathe your cat, or your veterinarian may recommend it. For example, baths may be necessary to control fleas in cats that are younger than 10 weeks and too young for other treatments. A bath may also be necessary if your cat has gotten into something that would be dangerous for her to ingest while grooming herself or if she has gotten extremely dirty. For example, a curious cat may try to crawl up into the chimney and become covered in soot in the process.
How Do You Give a Cat a Bath?
When you think your cat might need a bath, the first thing to do is to call your vet. He or she can determine whether a bath is necessary. Once you have made the determination, here are some tips to make the process easier for both you and your pet.
1. Brush your cat before the bath, if possible. This helps to remove any dirt or debris from his fur and also prevents excess fur from going down the drain and clogging up your pipes. However, if your cat has gotten into something sticky and you can't get a brush through his fur, you can skip this step. Trying to brush him under these circumstances is counterproductive and may just cause him additional discomfort.
2. Because cats don't like water, they may try to fight back if you try to give them a bath. Protect yourself from scratches by wearing rubber gloves while bathing your cat and cutting her toenails ahead of time, if possible.
3. Bathe your cat in the sink rather than the bathtub if possible. A small sink may be less threatening for him than a big bathtub, and it is more comfortable for you to be able to stand upright at the sink while bathing your cat rather than having to bend over the tub.
4. You don't need a lot of water to bathe your cat. Two or three inches in the bottom of the sink should be plenty. Also, run the water first and then put your cat in. Otherwise, the running water may terrify her.
5. Put a rubber mat or a folded towel in the sink before running the water. This gives your cat's feet some traction and helps him feel more secure during the bath.
6. If your cat gets dirty by sticking her nose, tail, or paw somewhere that it doesn't belong, only wash the part that is dirty. This makes the experience shorter and therefore less stressful. This rule doesn't apply if your cat is dirty all over or if the bath is performed for flea control.
7. Get your cat wet by using a plastic cup or a pitcher to pour water over her. Don't pour or splash water in your cat's face. Instead, use a damp washcloth to clean this area gently, taking extra care around the sensitive ears and eyes.
8. Only use cat shampoo to clean your pet during a bath. Products made for humans may irritate the kitty's skin or be toxic for him if he licks it off. Cats often lick themselves right after a bath to help their fur dry faster.
9. Be sure to rinse your cat off thoroughly after you have gently soaped and scrubbed her. Your cat shouldn't ingest cat shampoo in large quantities by licking herself after her bath, and shampoo residue remaining in the fur could attract more dirt, potentially requiring another bath, or irritate the skin.
10. Be sure to dry your cat off thoroughly after his bath. This is especially important if he is still a kitten as he could become dangerously chilled. Before the bath, spread out a bath towel near the sink. Once you are finished rinsing your cat off, take him out of the sink, place him on the towel, and wrap it around him so you can dry him thoroughly. Keep your cat in a warm room until he is completely dry.
If your cat behaves herself during her bath, give her a treat when it is over. This may form a positive association with bathing in your cat's mind so that it may be easier the next time if you ever have to do it again.