How To Give Your Cat a Bath Without Being Mauled in the Process

It happened quickly. I was painting the family room when the cat clumsily stepped right in the paint tray, coating his paw and leg in Benjamin Moore's Snowfall White. The cat looked as horrified at his gaffe as I did and in his shock, I managed to grab him before he left Snowfall White tracks all over the floor. Once I had him in hand, I realized there was only one thing to do: I had to give the cat a bath.

Cats are typically tidy and self-cleaning, so most cat owners never need to bathe their feline friends. There are of course exceptions. Daily Paws points out that hairless breeds like the Sphynx, long-haired breeds like Maine coon cats and Persians, and older cats who may not be up to cleaning themselves regularly, may need a bath every few months or so. That said, every cat will need a bath if it steps in something messy like paint or something potentially harmful like antifreeze, gasoline, or motor oil, which need to be cleaned off right away before the cat tries to clean it off themselves. While cat wipes (the feline version of baby wipes) or a washcloth and warm water can do a lot of good, if neither of those are a match for the problem, you may have to go for a full bath.

Bathing a cat is not an easy task. Cats generally hate water and have the claws and fangs to make their point known. The result is that cat baths are usually not easy nor fun for either party involved. (My cat left puncture wounds up and down my arm in gratitude for saving him from licking paint off his paw.) That is why, in my opinion, it's an activity best left to the pros. But if you have to bathe your cat, here are some ground rules, via Daily Paws:

  • Make sure the cat is tired or has a full belly in the hopes they will be calm.

  • If possible, trim and file nails before the bath.

  • Fill the sink or tub with a few inches of warm water before bringing the cat in as the sound of running water can make them panic.

  • Put all your bath supplies within easy reach, including a non-breakable cup for rinsing the cat, as well as cat shampoo and crème rinse. Crème rinse is important because shampoo alone may strip the cat's fur of its natural oils and dry out the skin.

  • If your cat likes a particular treat, have it ready to reward them afterwards.

  • If possible, find a helper so one can hold the cat while the other handles cleaning the cat.

  • Once you have the cat, get the dirty parts of the cat wet and then lather with shampoo, washing only the parts you need to and then rinsing thoroughly. Use a washcloth around the face and ears.

  • Follow shampoo with the crème rinse, letting it sit up to five minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

  • Towel dry as much as possible. Then, brush or comb to remove any loose hair to make the cat's self-grooming process less hairy.