If you’ve never bathed a cat before, it can seem daunting to do so. However, it is not very difficult. If your cat hates water, it is better to tire it out by playing with it for a while. You could also choose a time of day when it is lethargic and sleepy.
I used to bathe my cats in the afternoon, for instance. They would have eaten lunch recently and wouldn’t resist the water.
A cat should be brushed and combed before bathing. Its nails should be clipped. You will then need to apply and rinse off a degreaser, a shampoo and a conditioner, in that order. It is very important to completely dry the cat after bathing, to avoid matting the coat.
Bathing your cat
Your cat will obviously need a bath when it gets dirty, but will benefit greatly from regular baths as well. Even if not apparently dirty, bathing your cat at least once a month is a good idea, irrespective of whether it is a longhair or a shorthair. But only bathe it if it doesn’t have any health issues like a cold or diarrhea. Bathing a sick cat will only make the problem worse.
Only use mild shampoos and conditioners that are specially made for cats. Degreasers, shampoos and conditioners for cats can be bought at pet stores or online.
Steps to bathe your cat properly (and safely)
Clip the Cat’s Nails
The first step in safely bathing your cat actually begins 2 days before the actual bathing. The nails of the cat need to be clipped so that it can’t hurt you if it moves its paws around after getting wet. Cats instinctively move their paws around with the claws out for grip while you’re bathing them. Clipping the nails 2 days before bathing gives them enough time to wear the jagged edges down.
Brush the Cat
Brush the cat just before bathing to remove any unwanted dead hair. Doing so will also free up the remaining hair so the water and shampoo, etc. can reach between the hair and to the skin better. If there is any matting, it should also be cleared before bathing.
I’ve written how to comb and brush cats in detail over here.
Wet the Cat
Now you need to wet your cat. Using a mug or a small spraying hose that doesn’t have too much pressure, wet the entire cat from the neck down. Don’t put the water directly on to the face or ears, as we don’t want water to enter the eyes, ears, nose or mouth. If water enters these areas, your cat won’t let you handle it anymore. And of course, shampoo water entering your cat’s body is never a good thing.
To wet the face and ears, wet your hand first. Dip your hand in the mug of water, then lightly rub it over the face and ears with a gentle motion. Then dip your hand in the water again, and repeat. Be careful to avoid the mouth, eyes, and nose; and don’t go very deep inside the interior of the ears.
Use a Degreaser
Take a small quantity of degreaser in a mug or other pitcher along with some water. Move the mixture around vigorously with your fingers so that foam is formed. The water should be enough so that foam can form. It won’t form properly if there is too much water in proportion to the degreaser.
Now take the foam that is floating on the water and apply it onto your cat. Use your fingers to rub the foam in – between the hair and directly onto the skin. Apply it in good quantities at the base of the tail, as a lot of oil is formed and deposited here. Then leave it on your cat for up to 5 minutes. Then you can rinse it all off with clean water.
If the cat is very dirty or greasy, you may want to repeat the step again.
Use a Shampoo
The degreaser removes the dirt and excess oil from the cat’s skin. But the coat is now too clean. All the protective oils have been removed, and the hair are completely exposed to the elements without any barrier. So we need to use a shampoo, which will protect the skin and coat until the natural oils return.
Same as the last step, take some water in a pitcher and add the shampoo. Move it vigorously with your fingers to form foam. Apply this foam on to your cat, avoiding the face. Massage it onto the cat’s skin. There are shampoos available that are safe to apply on a cat’s face. Use those on the face using the same method. Leave it on for up to 5 minutes again, then rinse it off with water.
To remove the shampoo from the cat’s face, use your hands and do it slowly, the same way you had wet the face.
Use a Conditioner (optional)
Conditioners make the fur coat more fluffy and shiny. They are not essential, and you can skip them if you want to. But who doesn’t want a cat whose coat is fluffy and shiny? Prepare and use them the same way as the shampoos. Leave it on for 5 minutes, then rinse it off.
Dry the Cat
Now you can dry your cat using a clean towel. Take your time and be sure to reach all corners and areas on the cat’s body. When the excess water has been removed and the cat is moist but not wet, you can stop. Then leave your cat alone. It will lick itself and dry itself completely. This is sufficient for shorthair cats.
For longhair cats, after you have removed the excess water using the towel, you will also need to blow-dry it using a blower or a hair dryer. You will need to turn the blower or hair dryer off after every couple of minutes and then on again, as they will get very hot and can get damaged if left on for too long. Dry your cat until it is bone-dry. If the air that is blowing out gets too hot, turn the machine off and leave your cat for a few minutes before start again. Longhair cats need to be dried completely, while shorthair cats can be left to dry on their own (after excess water has been wiped off).