While cats usually do a good job of washing and keeping themselves clean it is still sometimes necessary to give them a bath. If you are planning to show your cat, then bathing will need to become part of the regular grooming routine. In addition, washing your cat can reduce the amount of dander and other allergens transferred from her saliva onto her coat and thus make it easier for anyone in the household with allergies, plus also reducing the incidence of your cat suffering from hairballs.
Before You Start
Although certain breeds and certain individuals love water, most cats do not enjoy being bathed so it is a good idea to start early if you can, while your cat is still a kitten, so she can gradually get used to the process. Using treats and praise will also help your cat associate bathing with positive things and make it a less traumatic experience for everyone.
It can be a good idea to trim your cat’s claws beforehand, if they will allow this, as it will help to reduce your chances of getting badly scratched. It might even be a good idea to wear gardening gloves, depending on how badly you think your cat might react, or thick, long-sleeved tops and trousers, which will shield you from sharp claws.
Make sure that you purchase a shampoo especially formulated for cats from pet stores; choose a day when it is warm (or turn the heating up in the house) and then prepare everything you need in the bathroom, such as towels within easy reach. Ideally, pick a time when your cat has just had a satisfying meal and is settling down for a nap – she will usually be in a calm, happy and sleepy state of mind and be much easier to deal with (as well as being a lot less suspicious!).
Remember, always remain calm and patient – your cat will sense your mood and react accordingly. Bring your cat into the bathroom and shut the door firmly, keeping it shut during the entire proceedings. It would be best if you can have someone else in the family assist you during the bathing process.
Place a rubber mat or towel on the bottom of the tub to help your cat find a grip and not slide all over the place. Fill the tub with lukewarm water, to a level just covering your cat’s paws. Place your cat into the water (you may have to get in with them) and then use your hands (or a gentle showerhead) to wet your cat thoroughly.
Next, massage shampoo into the cat’s coat – working quickly but don’t rush. Be especially careful near the face and to avoid getting any shampoo into their eyes or ears. Finally, rinse very thoroughly using the showerhead again or a scoop. Remember, cats will lick and wash themselves again afterwards so it is vital that you remove all traces of shampoo, which might otherwise be ingested and cause poisoning.
Try not to restrain your cat too much but keep a firm grip by gently holding them by the back of her neck. If your cat struggles or yowls, talk soothingly and quietly to it but keep going. If you slow down, it will just drag out the torment. Try to remain as calm as possible, even if your cat scratches you, as any excitability on your part will only add to your cat’s stress.
Lift your cat out onto some towels and then use some more towels to rub them gently but briskly dry. A hairdryer is not recommended as most cats find the noise very stressful and frightening. If you towel off your cat several times, you should get them relatively dry and then you can let them finish off the rest herself. They will probably run off and hide somewhere and it is best to let her recover (or sulk!) in peace. You can try offering some treats once you’re finished towelling them off but do not be surprised if they do not show any interest in them.
If your cat has somehow got herself covered in a substance that is particularly hard to clean, such as oil or paint, it may be a better idea to take them to a professional groomer.