Looking after your pawed friend and catering to its needs should be your main concern after adopting a cat. However, comfortable beds, cool water bowls for cats, and a couple of toys won’t be enough to make your pet feel like home. Since grooming represents an essential part of your kitty’s life, you can easily bond with the animal by pampering it and offering it a safe environment where it can perform its favorite activities.
Cats learn to lick themselves when they are around four weeks old and will spend almost half of their awake time looking after their fur, paws, ears, and nails. So, do they really need a bath after this long process?
Generally speaking, indoor cats are not exposed to dirt, germs, and bacteria from outside, so they will remain clean for a long time and will rarely need a bath. On the other hand, if your kitty enjoys spending time outside in the garden or even wandering around with its fellow felines, it is more exposed to parasites and dirt that can cause health problems and make its fur dirty.
Depending on how dirty their fur is and how much time they spend outside, cats should be bathed every 4-6 weeks. Any grooming episodes in-between should only be handled by themselves as they have sensitive skin that can easily dry or flake if it’s washed too often.
Why is bathing your cat important?
Apart from keeping their fur shiny, clean, and fluffy, cats also require a bath to keep parasites away. Besides, teaching your cat to enjoy the water and some one-on-one grooming time with you will strengthen the bond and will make it associate water with positive experiences.
This can also contribute to your pet becoming more sociable and easily accepting other people around. And, if your pet ever needs medicated baths as part of a treatment to remove ticks, fleas or ringworms, it will be less reluctant to get wet.
Preparing your cat for the bath
Unlike dogs that are natural swimmers and will enjoy any spare time they can spend with their owners, cats don’t particularly like water or being around it. Any strong noises scare them, so you need to try to turn the experience into a positive one if you don’t want your feline spitting or scratching you next time you approach it.
Cats may not hold grudges but they can easily associate humans and actions with positive and negative experiences, so they tend to keep their distance from anything that can potentially hurt or upset them. That being said, here is how to prepare your kitty cat for its monthly bath.
Previous training is a must so bathe your pawed pet as soon as you adopt it, as long as the animal is at least four-five weeks old.
You will also need some basic cleaning and grooming tools such as a shampoo labeled for cats, a few towels, a washcloth, a soft sponge (optional), and some floating distractions (rubber ducks or ping pong balls should be enough to keep your pet occupied during the bath time).
It is important to pick the right shampoo for your cat so ask your veterinarian if you’re in doubt. Avoid choosing shampoos that are labeled for dogs or even children as they may cause allergic reactions or contain strong smells your pet won’t approve of. Besides, some products may even be toxic or dry your pet’s skin too much.
Setting up the decor
You won’t need to create a romantic atmosphere with scented candles and bubbles to make your cat feel pampered. In fact, given that most felines are unpredictable, it is best to remove all unnecessary decorations from the bathroom and keep it functional yet minimalistic. Get rid of all the plants, the candles, and other decorations that you might use to set the mood and don’t forget to keep the door shut at all times.
Although it would be best to wash your cat in a large sink, if yours doesn’t meet the requirements, you can use the bathtub. Prepare to get wet, so it is advisable to wear old clothes and remove all the gadgets, accessories, and pieces of jewelry that might get damaged in the process.
Place a towel on the tub’s floor or a mat as cats hate slippery floors with no grip. Don’t forget to also clip your pet’s claws one day before the bath so it won’t risk hurting itself in the bathtub. The water should be around their body temperature so avoid water that is too hot as it may burn your pet’s skin.
Remember that cats are easily scared so you should avoid having any objects that might look frightening. Even the sound of the running water, the sink’s hose or showerhead may look suspicious, so remember to pet your animal and calm it down at all times.
Brush your cat’s fur before bathtime to stimulate the hair follicles and remove dust and debris. This process will also determine the skin to produce more oils which, in return, will keep the skin from getting too dry and flakey after the bath.
How to make the bath experience more pleasant
Washing your cat is a demanding procedure that takes a couple of days of preparation, so make sure you have enough time on your hands. We mentioned that you should clip the pet’s nails one day before the actual bath to avoid scratches and prevent it from associating the process with the bath.
You should also give your feline some time to adjust with the environment and not scare it off immediately by running the water and wetting its fur. Once you put it in the tub or sink, use the showerhead at minimum speed to first splash its feet. Remember that baby steps are always the key so take your time with your cat’s bath.
When there is enough water in the sink or bathtub to cover half of your cat’s body, you can start using the shampoo. Don’t forget to also add its favorite toys inside to make the experience more calming and friendly.
Avoid splashing your cat’s face or ears with water as they hate it and might even get aggressive. Thoroughly wash your cat’s body while also being gentle. Start at the top of the neck, massaging each part and don’t forget about its back or under the belly area. If your pet hates bathing, rinse off the soap or shampoo at once and give it another try in a few weeks.
Petting the feline throughout the bath is a must to keep it calm but if you’re not its favorite human, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Sometimes, it takes two full grownups to contain the cat and wash it thoroughly.
After you finished bathing, immediately wrap the pet in a fluffy towel, leaving its head, ears, and tails outside. Depending on how long and thick the cat’s fur is, you may need two or three towels to blot away most of the water.
If you still haven’t received a killing look from your feline yet, you might even consider using a blow dryer to complete the animal’s grooming ritual. However, even if your cat tolerates this torturous device, you should always use the lowest heat setting and power to avoid burns.
Other things to consider
As we previously mentioned, bathing your cat is a long process, so allow it at least a couple of hours to prepare the bath, wash your pet, dry it, and calm it down. If you don’t have the time or the skills, we suggest taking the animal to a professional groomer.
They often use a figure-eight cat harness to keep the animals in place and are trained to work with felines, no matter their age, personality or fur type. Professional groomers are also a good choice for giving your pet its first bath after adopting it to make the overall experience less stressful and more pleasant.
You can closely observe the groomer’s tricks and techniques to soothe animals and keep them in place while washing them so you can try it on your own the next time.