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How to Bathe A Cat

By Edited Aug 21, 2015 1 6

Time to Bathe the Cat?

Cat Bath

Oh, you are in for a treat.

Few things in pet ownership can be more adventurous than bathing your cat.  -Or anyone's cat for that matter.  You are about to embark on a journey through which you will learn things about your pet's, as well as your own abilities that you might have never been aware of.

Cat bathing is not simply putting your cat in the tub, and creating rich shampoo lather through your pet’s fur, and rinsing your little buddy clean.  Let's look at the process from start to finish, using a theoretical example of you and your cat, during a typical cat bathing session.

First Things First: Preparation

If you expect to have any measurable level of success in bathing a cat, the first thing you need to do is prepare.  'What should I prepare?' you ask.  -Everything, would be the correct answer.

Start by leaving your cat alone until the time of the actual event is at hand.  You don't want to train your cat to pick up on any mannerisms, verbal clues, or any other event that will make future baths more difficult.  The little critters can be dang smart, so make sure you watch yourself out there.

Next thing you should do is probably make sure that somebody will be available to assist you in your insane desire to bath your cat.  This is not a joke: get somebody to help you, or you may end up with a situation that would have all the makings of a viral video.

After you have those two items squared away, you need to place all the products you plan on using during the process within arm’s reach.  Let me clarify that.  Place all the products you plan on using within the reach of a specific arm.  Which one it is I don't care, but you should probably pick the one that isn't going to be touching the cat throughout this exercise.

Here's a short list of things I would suggest having available:

  1. Two towels
  2. Pet shampoo
  3. Ziploc bag, sandwich size

I told you it was a short list.

The last thing you should do is run the water to bring it up to a comfortable temperature.  You wouldn't want to start the cat bath off with ice-cold water.

The Main Event

Now that you have everything in place, locate and retrieve your cat.  Make sure to put on a front like nothing is going down, or the little feline might pick up on the fact that things are about to get unpleasant.  Slowly return to the tub, where your helper is waiting (waiting to laugh hysterically at what's coming is more like it).

Place your cat in the dry tub, and observe the pet's general reaction.  If the cat seems like it's no big deal, then start petting its back, slowly transitioning to a mother cat's style of holding onto the pet, by having the skin on the back of its neck in your grasp.  Not hard, you don't want to hurt your pet; you just want to keep your hand in a place where you can control the cat, and minimize your chances of being bit.  If the cat is observed to be fairly nervous after being placed in the tub, have your helper hold the cat with two hands immediately.  One hand on the back of the cat's neck, and the other hand over the cat's hip bone.

Turn on the water, and pre-soak your cat.  You should immediately notice how thin your cat actually is.  Do not worry, this is normal.  As you soak the cat, you will get an idea fairly quickly of how well your pet enjoys baths.  The cat may handle it okay, or, it might try to escape.  If your pet opts for the later, then it's best to hold on to the cat well enough where you can keep it away from anything it can get a grip onto and pull itself away from your grip.  It may also try to jump, and the best way to handle this is to just move along with the pet, let it execute its jump, but maintain your hold, and simply return the cat to tub via gentle, guided descent.

Now you must shampoo your cat.  This is a tad bit more fun that soaking your cat.  It has the added value of providing you with an amusing view of your cat.  However, it doesn't last long, so enjoy that 2-3 seconds while you can.  Apply the same cat control techniques as previously described.

"What about the Ziploc bag?" you ask.  

Ah yes, the baggie.  You've heard the expression 'scaring the $h1T out of somebody', right?  If your cat is un-thrilled enough, this can occur, and the bag is there simply to contain the offending matter should it appear.  Hopefully, you don't need to go there.

Rinsing your cat is probably the best part of all because it indicates that the end of this crazy endeavor is near.  You may have entered this whole process thinking a cat bath once every month or so sounded good, but now you’re thinking once every 6 months to a year sounds better.

Take the towel, and wrap it around your cat tightly.  Not so tight that you hurt the cat, but tight enough that the cat can't break free until you have dried the pet off as best you can.

After that, let the cat return to regular life in the house.




Jan 20, 2014 2:33pm
Jan 20, 2014 2:34pm
Jan 23, 2014 8:26am
Id never get away with this with my cat. Happy for people who can though.
Jan 23, 2014 1:40pm
I trained my cat to accept baths from the time he was a small kitten. Make it fast, and pamper your cat afterwards, and you'll get far better compliance. It helps if you let the cat in the bathroom to observe you bathing, too. He'll get the idea that everyone has to do it.
Jan 24, 2014 5:32am
Totally correct with the 'positive reinforcement' approach there.
Jan 24, 2014 5:28am
We had 2 cats. HAD. And I think we bathed one of them too soon after we adopted him for the local shelter, and it 'wrecked' him. After that, if you carried him and happen to stop by the kitchen sink to fill your water glass, he would put it in 4-paw drive and get away like his life depended on it. (There were probably other things going on with him too).

Fast forward.....

The cat we kept is soooo laid back. Jumped into the tub on his own out of curiosity. We 'tested' him by pouring ounces of water on him. Seemed un-phased. Finally we tried giving him a bath.....he was in-different.

This article was written based on our experience with the first cat mentioned above. You milage may vary. :-)
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