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Cats are fastidious groomers and spend much of their time cleaning themselves. Pet parents don’t need to regularly bathe their cats because their cat’s rough tongue can remove most dirt and debris from their fur. However, there are times when a cat may need a bath, so it’s important for pet parents to try and make the process as stress-free as possible.
Sometimes cats get into messy situations and self-grooming won’t be enough to get their fur clean. Situations in which a pet parent will need to bathe their cat include:
A sticky substance such as honey or gum is stuck in their fur
Fur is extremely dirty
Urine or feces gets on their fur
They need a flea bath
While bathing their cat, pet parents should fill the basin with 2 to 3 inches of warm water and rinse their cat with a water pitcher. Extra care should be made to avoid pouring water on the cat’s face. Instead, pet parents can use a damp cloth to gently wash their cat’s face.
Most cats are not fond of getting wet and may fight to avoid getting a bath. Pet parents can make the experience less traumatic for their cat, and themself, by desensitizing their cat.
Bath training and desensitization can start as soon as a pet parent brings their cat home. To begin, pet parents need to figure out what their cat’s favorite treat is and use that treat as a reward during training. Next, the pet parent will need to decide where they’ll bathe their cat, such as in the sink or tub.
Desensitizing a cat to the bath area is done by bringing the cat to the tub or sink and rewarding and praising the cat. Through this type of conditioning, the bathing area becomes a positive place for the cat.
Once the cat is not stressed by being in the sink or tub, the pet parent can work on getting their cat used to the sound of running water. The cat should be next to the sink or tub when the pet parent very gently turns on the water. Again, soft voices and rewards should be used.
When the cat has become comfortable with the sound of running water, the pet parent can finally start to cover their cat with water. Water desensitization should begin very slowly and not be forced. The pet parent should add a small amount of water to the sink or tub and gently place their cat in. Even during this process, rewards and praise are necessary.
Additionally, pet parents should keep the cat’s shampoo open and near the sink or tub so their cat can become desensitized to the scent.
A cat’s fur and skin are different from human skin and they shouldn’t be bathed with human shampoo. Further, cats shouldn’t be washed with dish soap. It is a common misconception that it is safe to bathe pets with dish soap. While dish soap is great for removing oil off of wildlife caught in an oil spill, it also removes an animal’s natural oils that keep their skin and coat healthy.
A high quality cat shampoo is necessary to remove the dirt and filth from their fur but should not strip the cat’s natural oils. Also, some shampoos contain toxic chemicals that will cause a cat to suffer fur loss, irritated skin, and/or poisoning.
Pet parents should take care to avoid these ingredients when shopping for cat shampoo:
Cat’s won’t need regular bathing but they do have a few grooming requirements pet parents need to maintain. Pet parents should clip their cat’s claws with cat clippers to prevent the claws from becoming overgrown. It is also recommended that pet parents do their cat's regular nail trim prior to attempting bath time. This can reduce the risk of scratching.
Cats also need regular dental care. Pet parents can buy a cat toothbrush and toothpaste to regularly brush their cat’s teeth. If the cat’s teeth aren’t brushed, then plaque and tartar can build up and cause serious health problems.
Finally, pet parents will need to brush their cats regularly, especially if they have a long-haired cat. Fur tends to get matted and clumped on long-hair cats, especially if the cat can't reach every area for grooming. Matted fur can cause skin problems, such as sores that can become infected.
To help with basic maintenance, pet parents can purchase cat coat supplements, cat teeth cleaning products, cat oral health products, and more.
Most cats don’t require a lot of grooming maintenance. They may need an occasional bath and pet parents can simplify the bathing process by desensitizing them. While training and desensitizing can make bathing the cat less stressful, not all cats will become completely comfortable with the bath.