Bathing Your Kitty

April 02, 2018

Bathing Your Kitty

One would think that any creature that moves so beautifully, emulating the flow of water with the grace and finesse of a ballerina, would not bear such a longstanding loathing and dread of it. The fact is, most domestic cats do not enjoy getting wet. Even the thought of walking in the rain would send chills down the spine of even the toughest of house cats.

Domestic cats may have evolved to dislike water because most breeds have coats that absorb rather than deflect moisture. It’s harder for them to get dry after they’re soaked, easily getting them shivering due to cold.

Naturally equipped with an arsenal of the best grooming tools nature has to offer (tongue and teeth, of course), your fastidious feline is well-equipped to tackle her own hair care needs. Cats can be meticulous groomers but sometime as, they inevitably need a bath if the situation calls for it.

Sometimes they get into something very sticky or dirty (gum, grease, paint, and so on). Other times, they have a medical condition such as Ringworms, Sporotrichosis, Allergic Dermatitis, and other bacterial or fungal infections that requires regular bathing with medicated shampoo.

Despite this, most cats will react negatively to getting a bath, which can be stressful for both the cat and the owner. So, do cats need baths  and how do you bathe a cat? (see Article Cat Care and Grooming)

Now, before you turn on the faucet and throw kitty into the sink (please don't, or your cat will despise you for the rest of its life), you should have all of your bathing necessities ready and at an arm's reach.

Trust me on this one! Once your cat is actually in the sink or tub, you will not want to leave the room, for if you do, I can almost guarantee that your cat will be gone when you return! So what items will you need in order to bathe your cat?

All We Need To Bath Kitty

The best solution is to make sure that you have all the necessary supplies handy, so you can make your cat’s bath as quick as possible:

  • Rubber gloves (even the most gentle feline may scratch during a bath)

  • Protective clothing (same reasons as for rubber gloves, a long sleeve shirt, sweater or jumper is a good choice. Even an apron will do)

  • Cat shampoo (various brands available at pet stores like or supermarkets)

  • A spray bottle for rinsing (I prefer this than other methods)

  • A brush (if you have a long-haired kitty)

  • A large towel (of course)

  • Cotton balls or swabs to clean the ears

  • A small cloth to dry the face

  • Someone, I mean literally someone else to help you, just in case

Now It's Time To Catch That Mouser!

First thing you want to achieve is maintaining control of your cat. If your cat got used to being handled pretty much all the time, it will be easier for you, but if you are still struggling, try to talk to your cat in a calm, quiet voice while washing (calling out his/her name frequently so that your cat's attention will be directed to you, and not from the bathing process) to avoid your cat escaping from the tub. 

If they prefer to have only two of their feet in the water, face them toward the back of the tub and let them stand on two feet.

Do your best to hold them still. It is recommended to use a harness with a snug fit to harmlessly secure your cat in the bath and for you by holding onto the harness instead of the scruff their neck or collar, which could hurt your cat (and probably will try to struggle even more).

If you can't manage it all by yourself, ask for help. It is easier to bath a cat if four hands are working together, especially if your cat is a larger breed and is strong enough to kick and wiggle or worse, scratch its way out of your grasp. One person can hold on to the cat via its harness or the scruff at the back of its neck to secure it while the other baths the cat.

You should do all of this as quick as possible without rushing, and be sure that your cat has no trouble breathing and still comfortable while restrained during the whole ordeal.

Do not fight your cat, best to avoid it. At no point is it recommended to fight with your cat. A scared 10 pound cat can do a lot of damage to a human (or two). Just start first by getting the feet and legs wet and watch for any violent reactions. If there is, stop the process and continue on another day, trying more until you work your way up to a full bath.

Quick note: If you are nervous throughout the whole process, your cat will respond by being nervous too, If you are unsure of what you are doing, there is a good chance that your cat will definitely escape. 


Let’s Go Fresh!


  • Wet your pet cat from the neck down and use a small amount of shampoo and water to wash your cat's neck, body, legs, belly, and tail (don't throw a pitcher of water right away at your cat, simply wet it first gently using your hands until the desired part is wet enough to apply shampoo).

    It is advisable to use warm water, for it helps the skin and hair absorb the essential nutrients in the shampoo, and aside from being wet, cats also hate being cold at the same time.

    Always start at the neck and work your way towards the tail, in the direction of the growth of their fur.

  • Make sure to keep shampoo out of your cats eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. If it does (especially the eyes and ears), you'll have one angry mouser that is about to scratch you and will definitely fight back wildly to escape. There is a possibility that if the lather from the shampoo reaches the eyes or ears, it may result to temporary blindness or ear infection.

    To minimize the risk of creating an ear infection, put a cotton ball—a small wad of soft material used to stop up a wound or an opening—in each ear.

    Don't forget to take them out at the end of the bath, for it may lead to a lot of problems in the future if left unchecked. That cotton wad may also reduce the noise and makes the job easier.

  • After shampooing your kitty, rinse it thoroughly using the whatever in the tub (1st rinse), Then, drain the tub and rinse two more times (I prefer to use my spray bottle containing warm, clean water from the tap).

    Make sure to remove all the soapy residue from your cat's coat. Keep rinsing if necessary until the water is not cloudy anymore and shows no signs of bubbles or soap. (remember, cats grooms themselves by licking their fur and you don't want your cat ingesting soapy residue from her coat, right?).

    You might see clumps of fine hair on the water. That's normal, for those are just tiny, pesky hairs that was not brushed away before shampooing.

  • There's no need to take the risk of upsetting and hurting your cat by getting shampoo or soap in their eyes. What I usually do is I take a small washcloth, wet it in warm water and add a little bit of shampoo, rinse it and gently run it along my cat's face, brushing the face to the direction of the fur and away from her eyes and nose.

    I keep on doing this until can make sure that there is no more dirt, dust or food particles left around her face.Don't insist on doing this on your cat after getting the bath done unsuccessfully. Just simply call it quits and probably next time, you'll be successful in bathing your cat. And yeah, don't ever force your cat's face under water.

    It's not just cruel, this is guaranteed to make them panic (cats are known vengeful creatures, you don't want them to take their revenge on you by playing tic-tac-toe on your face using their sharp claws in the middle of the night while you are asleep).

  • Always on the lookout for any signs of panic and distress your cat may show. These includes hissing, growling, breathing hard, sneezing, crying, meowing profusely and even in their body language such as arching their backs and erecting their tails upward, fur standing on end and looking at you with an angry expression and fangs bared. 

    Always pay attention to your cat throughout the bath time. If your cat is too frightened anything you are doing, please stop (or else, this may lead to a fight-or-flight response). There is no reason to continue if one or both of you will get hurt or the cat is overly exhausted.

  • Be easy on your cat for his first bath (especially the kittens). Don't do anything that will highly stress them out and make him terrified on the next bath. It's better to take things slowly so you can try again next time. Try to look at this book Complete Kitten Care - Kindle Edition (AMAZON) which you can get ideas and how-to's in your kittens first bath.

    If you have done several attempts to bath your cat but it still fight against it. Use a wet washcloth instead (same procedure as mentioned above, but not just strictly on the face, but use it for the whole body too) It removes dirt sticking on your cat's fur and it moisturize their skin and fur too, or instead, use cat wipes and cat no-rinse shampoo. It doesn't need water so it's easy to use, just wipe your cat's body first with cat wipes (make sure to wipe the whole body), after that, spray the cat no-rinse shampoo lightly all over your cat's fur. 

    Now, after shampooing and rinsing your cat, take a towel and gently press as much water as you can from the fur. (make sure that when you lift your cat after pressing the first towel, your cat is not dripping with water).

    Then, wrap your cat in the towel and rub gently. Change your towel to another dry one if gets too wet to be effective. Don't stop until you have taken out most of the wetness from your kitty.

    When you dry your cat using towels, do it in a gentle motion and in one direction, as if you are massaging them. Also, it is advisable to warm the towels under the sun or in the dryer first. Many feline pets find this comforting (and so that they would not shiver due to cool air running through their wet or damp fur, making them feel cold).

    You should be the one who is adjusting with your cat on this part, and not the other way around. If your cat won't allow you to keep drying her with the towels, just stop. Don't worry, your cat will just simply shake its fur to dry itself.

      Cats have different drying times depending on their fur density and fur length. Short-haired cats can finish drying themselves in the bathroom as long as they're away from drafts.

      Heat source (space heater or warm air vent, or even under the sun) and a dry, warm towel to sit on, are a welcoming thing for them. For long-haired cats with dense coats, you will need a brush with wide spaces between each bristles or a com and more dry towels.

      Long-haired cats mat more easily when wet, so you might want to brush or comb the coat until it is completely dry.

      • A hair dryer is a nifty tool that you can use to ease the process and save time in drying your feline companion, as long as it is not scared of it. Set the hair dryer on warm (not hot) to finish drying your cat from a distance (about ten to twelve inches away from its coat), doing a quick side-to-side sweeping motion, combing it as the dryer goes along to get rid of any knots or tangles. Avoid using a hot blow dryer on any cat as it may burn them and cause more reason for them to detest you!

      • And lastly, always reward your cat after all that it has been through. This is a must. If you want your cat to have something to look forward into the next bathing and grooming session, you must give them a positive association with the process by simply giving their favorite wet food, catnip (take a look at The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie - Kindle Edition in AMAZON for more Catnip Ideas), or other treats. You can give her and even more extravagant treat that you have been saving for exceptionally rare occasions. Once it is engraved into their minds that bathing means receiving special treats, they will be the one to ask you to bathe them and groom them every time.

        Don't forget to praise your kitty by petting them, telling them what a good kitty they are, and giving lots of attention and affection when bath time is over. They are likely to feel vulnerable and scared if not loved, so your affection will make a big difference. You may visit Importance of Cleanliness in Cat as it may help you maintain you cat's hygiene and health. You can also refer to some books (The Well Cat Book: The Classic Comprehensive Handbook of Cat Care Reissue Edition - Kindle Edition, AMAZON) available online, the how-to's in caring for them on daily basis 
        So that's pretty much it, I hope you and your cat will have a great time on your every bathing session.