By Emily Gantt
Published: 02/25/2022, edited: 02/25/2022
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There's just something about cuddling up to your freshly washed fur-baby that every pet parent loves. But do cats really need baths? The answer to this question isn't a straightforward one. We'll discuss circumstances when cats need baths, how to bathe a cat that doesn't like water, and some tips and tricks to make bathtime easier.
Do cats need baths?
Cats can usually handle basic grooming themselves — however, there are some situations where cats need outside help. Fur length, breed, lifestyle, and whether your cat is an indoor or outdoor cat all influence how often your feline pal needs regular tub time.
It also depends on personal preference. Pet parents who like their pets smelling squeaky clean may prefer to give their cats regular baths. Likewise, parents with allergies may need to bathe their cats often to prevent dander and keep their symptoms at bay.
When should I bathe my cat?
The next question pet parents often ask is, "How often should I bathe my cat?" For most short- and long-haired cats, you should limit baths to once monthly (or even less frequently). However, your cat may need a bath more often under some circumstances. Below are some reasons why a cat might need more frequent baths.
You notice fleas or other skin parasites
Skin parasites are not only annoying, but they can also cause skin problems and even systemic diseases (like Lyme disease).
Flea baths are an excellent first step for ridding your feline of fleas and can even protect them against flea-related anemia and intestinal parasites. A bath will also be in order if you notice mites, lice, or ticks in your fur-baby's coat, but regular shampoo won't work. You'll need to use shampoo with pyrethrin to kill these parasites.
They have a skin condition
Skin conditions like fungal infections or allergies are a good reason to give your fluffer a soak, and some vets will even prescribe medicated shampoo for cats with these conditions. Cats prone to contact dermatitis will need a bath any time they come in contact with an allergen to reduce the severity of the reaction.
They're unable to groom themselves
Senior cats or those with mobility problems may not clean themselves properly due to pain and loss of flexibility. If this is the case for your fur-baby, you may need to step in.
They smell or are visibly dirty
Obviously, your cat will need a bath if they start to smell or are visibly dirty. Here are some reasons your cat will need a bath right away:
- Run-ins with skunks
- Contact with fecal matter
- Rolling in mud or dust
- Spilling liquid on themselves
- Contact with hazardous chemicals like cleaning products or paint thinner
What about short-haired or hairless cats?
Some pet parents think that because their cat has short hair, they don't need baths at all — though this isn't always the case. Short-haired cats require less grooming than their long-haired counterparts, but they may still benefit from baths from time to time.
Like any fur-baby, short-haired breeds will need baths if they come in contact with dangerous substances, become visibly dirty, or get waste on their fur. Short-haired felines are just as likely to develop skin conditions and allergies as long-coated breeds and may need baths with medicated shampoos or periodic scrub-downs to remove allergens from their fur.
You may be surprised to learn that hairless breeds like the Sphynx require more frequent baths than their coated relatives — this is because they produce a lot of skin oils that can rub off on fabric and furniture. These breeds will need a weekly bath to keep their oils in check.
How to bathe a cat that hates water: quick tips
Most cats don't like water one bit. So when faced with the task of bathing a cat that hates getting wet, you may want to come prepared. These tips will help make your life easier and make bathtime as painless as possible for your pet.
Call in reinforcements
Hydrophobic kitties may claw, bite, or attempt to jump out of the tub during bathtime, and having an extra set of hands can help make the process smoother. Have your friend comfort the kitty and hold them in one place while you wash.
Try CBD products
CBD, a compound derived from hemp, is a natural anxiety reliever that might help make baths less stressful for your fur-baby. CBD products work by attaching to endocannabinoid receptors in your cat's brain and causing the brain to produce more serotonin, aka the "feel-good hormone". Try offering your cat a couple of CBD cat treats or spritzing their favorite toy with CBD catnip spray to relax them before their wash.
Test the water beforehand
Bathing your cat in water that's too hot or too cold is a good way to solidify their fear of water. Always test the water to ensure it's a comfortable temperature before placing Fluffy in the tub.
It may help to work up to full baths gradually. Start with partial baths using the least amount of water possible for the job. Begin by cleaning the most visibly dirty areas so if the bath does go downhill, at least you cleaned the most important areas.
Use positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is a highly underrated training tool and behavior modification method. Giving your cat lots of love, praise, and treats can put them at ease during their bath and make baths less scary in the future.
Keep it cool
Always maintain a calm and gentle demeanor while bathing a skittish fur-baby. Cats can pick up on their parent's stress, which may cause them to become even more stressed in return. Use a soft voice and be as gentle as possible when bathing your pet.
Try a grooming bag
Grooming bags are an excellent tool for bathing cats who tend to get aggressive in the tub. These bags zip around the cat's body and feature a mesh exterior that allows users to soap up their cat without getting scratched in the process.
Have everything you need at the ready
Before bathtime, set up a caddy with everything you’ll need (towels, shampoo, conditioner, a rinse cup, brush, hairdryer, grooming bag, etc.) This will streamline the bathing process and prevent your cat from climbing out of the tub when you have to grab something from the other side of the room.
Buy some cleansing wipes
If all else fails, buy some kitty wet wipes to keep your cat clean. Make sure you buy cleaning wipes made specifically for cats since regular wet wipes might contain ingredients that are harmful to felines.
Bathing a cat: best practices
Here are some practices to ensure bathtime goes safely and smoothly every time.
Use a cat-safe shampoo.
Cat fur has a different pH than dog and human hair, and dog and human shampoos may be too harsh on their delicate fur. Plus, shampoo made for humans or other animals may contain ingredients that are toxic to cats.
Read the directions.
Follow the shampoo directions carefully, especially if it is a medicated or flea shampoo. Misusing medicated shampoos could potentially harm your cat’s skin.
Brushing your kitty before their bath will help the process go a lot faster and give you better results too. Brushing will remove debris and tangles to help the shampoo penetrate their fur better.
Brush your cat often.
Make sure you brush your cat between baths to keep their fur healthy and clean. Not only will brushing keep your cat's fur looking silky, but it will also remove debris so you don't have to bathe them as often.
Don't forget the ears.
Gently wipe your feline's inner ear with a cotton ball to remove wax build-up and dirt. Never stick a cotton swab into your cat's ear canal.
Take care of Fluffy's nails beforehand.
Use nail caps or clip Fluffy's nails before the bath to prevent scratches.
Invest in a bath mat.
Line the tub with a non-skid bath mat to keep your fur-baby from slipping and sliding during their bath.
Don't bathe Fluffy too often.
Worried you're bathing your kitty too much or too little? Chat with a vet professional now for advice on all your grooming- and health-related pet questions!