Friday, March 24, 2017

What I know - Should you give a cat a bath?


I was on a forum the other day where a cat owner posted a photo of her arm. She had recently been on the receiving end of the paws of fury and her skin showed the battle wounds of having business with an angry cat. Her post contained the details of that battle - a bath.


The community was up in arms (pun only slightly intended). Apparently, some people do not understand that there actually times when it is not only necessary to give a cat a bath, sometimes it is absolutely vital and confuse caring for a cat with torturing a cat..


There are a few things to keep in mind when you find yourself in a place where you need to give a cat or kitten a bath. You need to remember that cats have a higher body temperature than we do, so having water that is warm to the touch is important. If you can, keep the room warm as well, this will also help the kitty stay nice and warm.  Kittens more so as they have a very hard time maintaining their body temperature. You want to use as little soap as possible to make bath time a bit easier; the more soap you use, the longer it is going to take to rinse out.


You will understand the importance of knowing that sometimes bathing a cat is a good thing, when you find yourself with an adult cat that, oh say, investigated a bucket of heating oil (that stinks to high heaven) by sticking her feet in it and then shows up in your bed in the middle of the night to tell you of her adventures.


I find it helps if you have a milk crate or a very sturdy laundry basket that you can put into the tub upside down to give the cat some place out of the water to stand while you soap up the important parts.  I will fill the tub up with several inches of warm water, put the crate in the tub, get a large cup that holds 16+ oz of water and then get the cat. I place the cat on the crate with its face pointing away from the exit.. either into the wall or into the corner. Once I'm in position, I will take the cat off the crate and put it into the water. The cat will want to escape, but keep redirecting it towards the wall, do not let it turn around or it will see the exit and fight to leave.



When I bathe adult cats, that first initial contact with water is generally the only time the cat is submerged in water. This is the fastest way to get most of the fur wet. When I am comfortable that the area I need to clean is soaked, I let the cat back up on the crate and get the soap. Using as little soap as possible, I lather the area to help loosen the dirt (or oil, or whatever).  I then use the cup to scoop up the tub water and gently pour it on the cat to rinse away the soap and debris.  This can take some time and chances the cat has long since given up on dealing with your shenanigans and really wants to leave. Just keep redirecting the cat over and over toward the wall. If your cat is a bit like a Gremlin when it gets wet, you might want to think about investing in a muzzle, which covers the cat's eyes so it can not see to escape and keeps the mouth closed. This will not protect you from flailing claws, but hopefully, you trimmed those before you started.


Once you are satisfied that the bath is successful, Getting your cat into a nice big absorbent towel will help minimize the distribution of water around your house. Wrapping the cat up will hopefully provide a little security to your cat that the bath is over. Your cat might be so over your shenanigans that it wants nothing to do with you and wants to run off and lick itself to restore some semblance of normalcy in scent and demeanor.  If your adult cat is in good health, allowing it to run and hide is generally okay and will not result in the cat becoming too chilled. Checking on it in a few minutes, offering treats as a bribe will help reassure you that all is fine.

Young kittens and cats that aren't in the best of health need to monitored to ensure they do not become too cold.


I've found that kittens do not want to be snuggled up into a towel, so I will pat them dry, then let them down for a few minutes. They will start to groom themselves to "fix" what I've just done. When they become distracted from grooming - which inevitably happens - I will scoop them back up into a towel and work on drying them and warming them up until they struggle to get down. I'll do this over and over until they are distracted by food and start to eat.

So, yes, you should give a cat a bath if you have a reason to do so. You should keep the kitty as warm as possible while doing it and monitor them until they are completely or at least mostly dry.

13 comments:

  1. Wow. I've never read such fantastic advice on bathing cats. When I was in middle school, our rabbit got sick and we had to bathe him a couple times. After he died, my Mom got it in her head that our new kitten should get baths as well. I was designated as the person to sit in the tub and hold the kitten while my Mom did the washing. Let's just say I still have the scars. I agree that it's necessary sometimes. That kitten became Kitty and, as a senior, she became diabetic. She had a couple incidents with low blood sugar so I did as the vet advised and poured syrup down her throat. Now, a fuzzy kitty with sticky syrup all in her fur from struggling is one thing ... but the diarrhea she had about 10 minutes later was the straw that broke the camel's back. It didn't go any better than when she was a kitten (the first and last bath). Fleurp makes a great model :)

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  2. My human is SO spoiled when it comes to cat baths. Binga, Boodie and I have all had baths, and as you probably know, I get them twice a month because I am a therapy cat and a show cat (even though I only go to shows to be petted, I still need to look my best). None of us has given her a hard time. Yes, we might complain, but we just deal with it.

    You have lots of great advice here. If I may, here is some additional info. When I get my baths, my human uses a spray nozzle to wet me down and to rinse me off. She did have one especially installed in the enclosed patio sink, but there was one already in the kitchen sink. (I get baths in the kitchen sink when the weather is colder.) That way I never have to stand in or be immersed in water. If you have a set-up like that, a mat is a good thing so the cat doesn't get her foot caught in the drain grate. (That happened to me once! My human had a really hard time not freaking out and just letting my soapy foot and paw pad work its way out of the drain grate... which it did.) Another thing to keep in mind is that cats have several different kinds of coats. I am single coated, so I am easy to bathe - my fur is easy to wet down and rinse out. Some cats are double coated (and that is not always long-haired cats - some short-haired cats have really thick fur). The double coated cats (like my roommate Boodie) take a lot longer to wet down and rinse out. Some cats are even triple coated, and it is a lot of work to bathe them!

    If you are lucky enough to have a cat from kittenhood, it is easier to get them accustomed to being bathed. But some cats will always hate it, no matter what. My half-sister Vana is like that - she is the only cat my breeder has had an issue bathing! She loathes it like crazy. And my breeder has bred Somalis for 30 years, so Vana is pretty special being the first cat like that. :) So usually it is actually not hard to get a cat accustomed to bathing when they're young. If they get used to it and wind up having to do it regularly, for whatever reason, they may not like it, but they will accept it without slashing out or freaking out.

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    1. I've tried the sprayer, but the sound of the water coming out seems to freak them out more than being submerged, at least that was my experience. Every cat is different, that is for certain.

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  3. I can't believe you had time to write this post before you went to Florida! I had to bath Sadie a couple of times when she was a tiny baby. She was full of diarrhea and smelled badly.

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  4. Such great advice for giving kitties a bath! I bathed my boys long time ago. Niko got so spooked and climbed me like a tree. If it becomes necessary to bathe them in the future, I sure come back to this post and read again :-)

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  5. The plastic crate in the bath is a great idea--I never thought of that!

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  6. We are expected to get bathe at 2x a year. We don't mind it at all.

    Emma and Buster

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  7. We haven't had baths in many, many years but sometimes things get a bit.. messy... in the nether regions so Mom trots out the kitteh wipes.

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  8. We've never needed baths...well, Wally did when he was much younger and got his paws into some motor oil.

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  9. We've never had to give our cats baths, but this was so interesting and we learned a lot. Thank you! :)

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  10. I wish that I had known about giving cats baths when our stray cat turned inside pet first entered our lives! He is 16 now, and when I recently took him near the sink filled with water, he showed a side of him I've never seen. Luckily, I escaped without a scratch, but he was NOT going to get wet. I think if I had tried when he was first adjusting to indoor life, he might have been more receptive to the idea.

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  11. Great advice ! We never had to be bathed till today, but who knows ? Purrs

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  12. What great advice! We've only ever bathed Dexter and Olive once (when we found them as stray kittens). For Sophie, she received several baths for a few months after we found her until we got her tummy issues straightened out. But as adults cats, we've been able to avoid it so far.

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