When and How to Clean a Cat

Posted by Dr. Jessica on

when and how to clean a cat plus cat bathing advice from vets

Cats are notoriously adept at self-cleaning. In fact, they spend anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the day licking, cleaning, and otherwise grooming their skin, nails, ears, and fur. While kitties love to keep clean, they sometimes need assistance from their pet parents.

Follow this Fuzzy cat advice guide on how to groom and bathe a cat, including tips on which cats might need more help with cleaning.

Cat Grooming Rituals

Cleaning comes naturally to cats, and they use this time as a relaxing ritual to remove loose hair, smooth their coat, and distribute natural oils. Their rough tongue and sharp teeth also make it easy for them to remove fleas, lice, and other parasites.

Cat Grooming Needs

Short-haired cats need less grooming than medium-haired and long-haired kitties. The longer the cat hair, the more likely it is to tangle, pick up dirt or debris, or become a home to unwanted parasites. Hairless cats don’t need brushing, but they do need bathing to remove excess skin oils. Older kitties also need more support to keep their skin and coats healthy.

How to Clean a Cat

Cat skincare and hair care are important for a healthy and shiny coat. To ensure good cat health, aim for a weekly brushing for short- to medium-haired cats and a daily brushing for long-haired breeds. Kitties may fight this attention at first, which is why pet parents should follow best practices like quiet time, gentle speaking, and cat treats until the feline love of pampering takes over their skepticism.

How to Know When Cats Need a Bath

Not all cats need bathing. In fact, some cats never need a bath because self-grooming coupled with brushing keeps their coats in excellent shape. Cats that need a bath may have slick or sweaty skin, excessively matted or dirty fur, or a coat with sticky patches.

How to Bathe a Cat

Bathing a cat can be one of the most difficult tasks for any pet parent. Most cats don’t like to immerse themselves in water, even though they may swipe a paw through water drips. To overcome this challenging cat behavior, follow these steps:

  • Fill the sink or a shallow basin with 2 to 3 inches of warm water.
  • Speak in a soothing manner to calm the kitty down and gently place them into the water with a smooth motion. Do not throw them into the water or hold them under the shower head.
  • Use a water pitcher or washcloth to wet their back and shoulders, but avoid pouring water on their head.
  • Massage cat-safe or medicated shampoo or conditioner into their fur.
  • Use a wet washcloth to massage shampoo into the hair on their head.
  • Use slow, gentle motions to rinse away the lather, and use the washcloth to wipe the shampoo from their head.
  • Continue speaking softly. Drain the water, and wrap the cat in a warm, fluffy towel. Gently cuddle them dry and develop a bond that also reassures them this practice is okay and worth repeating. 

‌Fuzzy also recommends pet parents use treats throughout the process to positively reinforce the cat’s patient behavior and to associate bath times with positivity rather than terror.


Checking a Cat

Grooming and bathing also let pet parents check for cat health issues. Make sure to inspect their eyes, nose, teeth, ears, skin, and breath. Feel across their skin for any lumps or abrasions. For any concerning areas, pet parents should check in with the professionals.

Professional Veterinary Support

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