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Do Cats Need Baths? How and When to Get Your Kitty in the Water

Cats usually don’t need baths, and most famously dislike being bathed or getting wet. There are, however, some cat breeds that actually enjoy water. Topping that list is the Turkish Van, which is actually nicknamed “the swimming cat.” While most cats can groom themselves, some will need human help to stay clean, or may enjoy a dip in the tub for recreational reasons. If yours falls in either category, read on so you can bathe them properly.

Do Cats Need Baths How and When to Get Your Kitty in the Water

When do cats need baths?

You generally won’t need to bathe a cat unless it’s filthy or is unable to bathe itself. Older and overweight cats tend to fall into the latter category. For the record, cats are considered old after they reach the age of 11. Like elderly humans, old cats can develop conditions like arthritis that reduce their ability to care for themselves.

A cat may also need a bath if is susceptible to fur problems like matting, making it harder for them to groom their own fur properly. This is especially likely with a longhaired cat like a Persian. Similarly, your cat will need a bath if it has things stuck to its paws or rear end. Hairless cats like the Sphynx need to be bathed at least once a week because their skin tends to be oily. The resulting accumulation of oils can make the cat susceptible to acne and even bacterial infections.

Prepare your bathroom

If you’re planning to make cat baths a regular thing, you’ll want to call a residential plumbing service to help install drain fur catchers and pull-down showerheads. A drain hair or fur catcher is a simple and inexpensive device that is placed over the drain to prevent clogs. Some types are removable and others are not. A pull-down showerhead is one that can be used as a hand-held device. You may also want to put a towel in the tub to give the cat something to grip and keep it from sliding in the tub. Also, have several other towels handy to dry the cat after its bath.

Start bathing the cat when it’s young

Kittens are most receptive to new experiences during their first two or three months. It is thus important to get them used to experiences like car rides, trips to the vet, and interactions with people and other animals during this time.

That said, it’s not a good idea to bathe a kitten that’s under eight weeks old. Your first step will be to simply get the kitten accustomed to being handled. Then, put the kitten in an empty bathtub and let it explore. Never try bathing a kitten in a sink, for it could jump out and hurt itself. Turn the water on and fill the tub with enough water to cover the kitten’s paws. Once the kitten is used to both the sound of running water and being wet, you can give it a full bath.

Only use shampoos and other products made for cats

Cats have sensitive skin, and human shampoo can irritate it or dry it out. On top of that, because they groom themselves, any residue from the cleaning solutions will likely be ingested. Thus, you should only use shampoos specifically made for cats. You can find them at your local pet store. If your cat has a skin condition like ringworm, the vet will probably recommend a special shampoo to help treat it. There are even waterless shampoos for cats that really getting wet.

Bathing a kitten or small cat should not take more than five minutes. Taking much longer than that increases the chances of the cat getting agitated and deciding to flee.

Debbie P

Sunday 21st of November 2021

It's an interesting question if you don't know.

Crystal M

Tuesday 8th of December 2020

I have a cat that I bathe during the summer because he has skin allergies. Bathing helps remove allergens like dust and pollen.

Calvin

Friday 27th of March 2020

Not sure if my indoor cat would need that. I did give him a bath a long time ago after he got mud on himself escaping outdoors, but that's it.

Shannon Holmes

Tuesday 25th of February 2020

Thanks for all of these tips.

Dorothy Boucher

Wednesday 20th of November 2019

Thanks for this information, one of the cats I have I had bathed and just as you have written here,her hair would matte up in the back. Thus leaving her with balls of hair, we actually had to take her to the vet to be shaved, because It got so bad I couldn't even get the comb or brush through it. But now she is so happy. @tisonlyme143

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