What You Need to Know About Bathing Your Cat

cat in a bathtub
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  • 01 of 09

    Not All Cats Hate Water

    It is common knowledge that lots of domesticated cats are not fans of water. There are times, though, when bathing may be a necessity, and you will want to make it as stress-free for you both as possible. 

    Some cats like water.  It often depends on how they have been introduced to it and what their breed is. Read on for a combination of some funny wet cat photos to make you smile, alongside practical tips and facts about cats and water.

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  • 02 of 09

    Cats Are Clean Animals By Nature

    Persian Cat after a bath
    Mark Liddell / Getty Images

    Cats are naturally fastidiously clean animals and usually have a very rigorous self-grooming regime.  You could be lucky and never actually need to bath your cat.  Sometimes giving a helping hand can be necessary though.

    Some cats have coats that gather dirt more than others, and some are just more mucky by nature. Persian cats' thick coats, for example, may need more attention more than a short-haired breed. 

    If your cat has mobility problems (this can often occur with elderly or arthritic cats), they may not be able to groom themselves as efficiently. If they have a flea infestation or a skin problem, they may need a special medicated bath.

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  • 03 of 09

    Positive Bathing Experiences From an Early Age Can Be Helpful

    Kitten getting a bath in the garden
    Anurakpong / Getty Images

    Introducing your kitten to bathing could make or break your experience when you must bathe them. If you give them positive associations with this from the start, it will make things easier and less stressful for you both if they need to be bathed in adult life too.

    Always start things off gradually and combine it with lots of food rewards and play sessions.  Don't just stick them straight in the bath and soak them without warning. 

    You can start by using a wet cloth to give them a gentle clean, and, if they are accepting of this with treats, you can then move on to introducing them to a very shallow pan of water.  Try to lure them into the pan of their own accord, rather than forcing them into it.

    When introducing water over the rest of their body, do this gradually too. Don't submerge them or soak their head.

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  • 04 of 09

    Make The Bath an Inviting Place

    Cat in a Towel In the Bath
    kevinjeon00 / Getty Images

    If your cat is happy to play in and around the tub outside of bathing time, this can help build up positive associations with the space. This means they are less likely to become stressed or reluctant when it does come to bath time.

    Encourage them to play in the bathroom.  Why not put some of their favorite toys inside the tub? Reward them for any voluntary entry into the bath, and make sure that it has a suitable non-slip mat or surface so they will not slide all over the place

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  • 05 of 09

    Be Careful About What Shampoo You Use

    Persian Cat Having a Bath
    Mark Liddell / Getty Images

    Always choose a shampoo that is specifically formulated for use on cats and that has been approved by your veterinarian. Human shampoos can contain chemicals that could irritate the skin and strip the natural oils from the coat.

    If they contain essential oils or other chemicals that could be harmful if ingested, this could also be a problem. Cats like to lick their coat after they have been bathed. Consult a veterinarian before using any shampoo or cleanser on your cat. 

    Try to pick a shampoo that does not have a strong odor. Cats are very sensitive to smell, and if it is too overpowering, this can also give your cat a negative association with bath time.

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  • 06 of 09

    Don't Bathe Two Cats at the Same Time Unless You Know They Are Very Relaxed

    A Maine Coon and a Calico Cat Having a Bath
    Elena Kulikova / Getty Images

    Unless you have two cats that are exceptionally relaxed with each other and you know they enjoy bath time, don't try to bathe them simultaneously. If they are stressed out, they may lash out at one another, and they can also pick up on each other's stress. This will make them even more afraid of taking a bath and could make them distrustful of one another.

    It is also much more difficult to restrain two cats and work on offering rewards at the right time.

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  • 07 of 09

    Drying Your Cat Off After a Bath Is Important

    Cat in a towel after a bath
    Dusica Paripovic / Getty Images

    Helping your cat dry off quickly can also make things less uncomfortable for them after having a bath. Their coats can become very waterlogged and, if they are left to drip dry, they can become uncomfortably cold.  

    Some cats can learn to tolerate being dried with the hairdryer on very low heat. Others will prefer being towel dried. Make sure that they have a warm spot to retreat to while they dry out fully.

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  • 08 of 09

    Sphynx Cats Need More Regular Bathing

    Sphynx Cat After a Bath
    By Wunderfool / Getty Images

    The Hairless Sphynx is one breed of cat that does need regular bathing. They have much more oily skin, and the oil can gather in the folds and cause smell, discomfort, and even possible infection if it is not regularly attended to. A bath around once a week is usually more than enough, and using a gentle shampoo is important too.

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  • 09 of 09

    Some Breeds Are Known For Enjoying Water More Than Others

    Maine Coon Cat Having a Bath
    Olleg N / Getty Images

    You may be surprised and find that you have a cat that enjoys bathing in water.  Certain breeds are known for accepting water more readily than others, and some positively love it.

    The thick-coated Maine Coon (as pictured above) often enjoys a bath, though this is all based on their personality. These cats, who have a water-repellant coat, were popular as the Captain's mascot and mouser on the ships around the coast of New England in days gone by.

    Some other breeds that you may find actively seeking out water include the Manx, the Bengal, and the Norwegian Forest Cat.