How to Bathe a Cat

Make bathtime a relaxing experience for your kitty.
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Cats seem to wash themselves 24/7. In reality, they spend only half their lives grooming. That fastidious cleansing does more than polish their fur; those deposits of saliva on their coats regulate their body temperatures, allowing them to stay cool in the summer and warm during cold winter months. With tongues covered by tiny grippers that remove dead fur and dirt, cats swallow and process the debris, keeping their rituals tidy.

But sometimes they can benefit from a dip in the tub. If your cat smells foul after recovering from an illness, if he's gotten into something sticky or stinky, if he's heavily infested with fleas or suffers from a skin problem, a real bath with specially formulated or medicated shampoo can restore his coat to gleaming perfection.

Baths are stressful for a cat, so trim his claws beforehand to save yourself from any errant scratches while bathing him. Do the manicure several days before the bath, allowing him to calm down before facing the next traumatic aspect of the beautifying experience: detangling. Brush out your cat's coat to tame any long or wild fur at least a day before the bath.

Because cats are wary of water, help him acclimate a day or so before he takes the plunge. Place him in an empty tub or sink to get used to this new space. Some cats will play with a drip or trickle from a faucet, placing a paw under the flow. Run a damp washcloth over your cat's fur and see if he begins to self-groom, which he may do if he feels you're encouraging him to wash. Once he's comfortable in the sink or tub, you can proceed to full bath mode and fill the basin with warm water. If you have a kitten, he'll adapt to the process and may grow up enjoying bath time.

Always play with your cat before bathing, and be sure he's mellow, not nervous or fearful. If bathing your cat is too much for you to handle, or your cat is just too traumatized, a professional groomer is an option. Whether the cat accepts bathing or still dislikes it, he won't associate you with the indignity he endures.  Read on for more tips on what to do if you're going to bathe your cat yourself.


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