How to bathe a cat

Who said cats hate water?

Updated

a grey cat sitting on a green couch

Key steps:

Wondering how to bathe a cat? Follow these steps:

  1. Start bathing your cat when they’re a kitten (over 4 weeks old) to get them used to water.
  2. Begin with small amounts of water rather than a full bath.
  3. Always wash them in shallow water.
  4. Dry your furry friend with a towel once you’re finished.

It’s a well-known fact that most cats hate water, so bathing yours may seem like an impossible challenge - but it's not. Follow our top tips on how to bathe a cat to keep your furry friend clean and happy and, if you are starting out as a cat owner, then check out our other tips on how to look after your new furry friend.

Bathing your cat for the first time? Wear gloves and thick, long-sleeved clothing to protect your skin from their claws if they try to escape.

Can you bathe a cat?

Yes! A lot of people think that putting a cat in water is out of the question but it's all about getting them used to the experience. Once your cat is familiar with the act of bathing you will both find the experience less stressful.

How often should you bathe a cat?

Cats clean themselves so you don't need to bathe them as often as you bathe yourself. Only bathe them when they need it - such as if their fur is visibly dirty - and never wash them more often than once every 4-6 weeks. Doing so could dry out their delicate skin.

How to bathe a kitten

The key to learning how to clean a cat is starting when they're young. That means learning to bathe a kitten. To make the experience as relaxing as possible, follow these tips:

  • Only bathe or wash kittens that are at least 4 weeks old.
  • Wipe your kitten with a wet cloth first - don't go straight in with the bath. Wipe their feet, not just their body.
  • Give them treats or food as a reward for bathtime.
  • After a few successful experiences with the wet cloth, fill a shallow tray with water and stand them in it.
  • Wipe them with the cloth while they stand in the tray for the next few bathtimes. 
  • Once they're used to this, start to gently pour small amounts of water from a cup or your hand over their back. 
  • It may take some time for your kitten to get used to this sensation but if you want to learn how to wash a kitten this is the best way to do it!

How to wash a cat

As your kitten grows, you'll need to start bathing them as a cat which involves a slightly different process. If your adult cat hasn't been exposed to bathtime before then you may want to follow the steps for bathing a kitten before you try to follow these steps.

  1. Fill your sink with up to 3 inches of water - make sure it’s not hot or cold, but lukewarm.
  2. Use your hand to wet your cat, covering their body from their shoulders to their tail.
  3. Apply cat shampoo, lather, and rinse thoroughly. Do not use your normal shampoo as it may cause irritation.
  4. When it comes to washing a cat, be sure to avoid splashing water on their face. Instead, use a wet cloth to gently clean their head.
  5. Rinse the shampoo from their fur thoroughly.
  6. Lift them out of the sink and fold a large towel around them.
  7. Rub your cat gently to get rid of as much water as possible.

Even if you don’t start when they’re a kitten, you can easily get your cat used to water and keep them clean.

Originally published