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Tips and Tricks for How to Give Your Cat a Bath

Cat in towel


Your cat is your whole world, no doubt about it. But you have to admit you're likely to tense up at the thought of bathing your cat. Some popular advice about how to bathe a cat is just not to do it. But if your feline friend gets into something messy or smelly, you need to help get them cleaned.

Cats get a bad rap for hating water, but not all cats avoid water like the plague. Some breeds even love to splash and play in the water, but they prefer to do it on their terms. The best way to bathe a cat is to make sure you take the time to acclimate them to the water. If you get your cat when they’re a kitten, the sooner you start, the better.

Brushing a cat

10 Tips for Calmer Cat Bathing

You might be thinking, don’t cats groom themselves constantly? Why do I need to bathe my cat, anyway? Well, it’s true, cats are pretty amazing self-care experts. But, they aren’t impervious to getting into some sticky situations (hello, messy litter box). Plus, licking themselves all over won’t get them as clean as a proper bath can.

Sometimes, as a cat parent, it’s necessary to lend a hand to help them look and feel their best. Getting your cat used to the process as early as possible is always a plus. But additionally, practice these tips to get the most out of your cat bathing experience.

1. Trim Your Cat’s Nails

    Anyone with a cat knows that when a cat starts to knead you with some untrimmed nails, yikes! Check your kitty's claws before bath time. Depending on your cat’s habits, you might not need to do anything with their nails. 

    Scratching posts and similar products help your cat keep their nails nice and trim. But, if you attempt to bathe a cat with untrimmed nails, you’ll undoubtedly end up with the scratches to show for it.

    2. Brush Your Cat Before Bathing

      Regularly brushing your cat is key to maintaining a healthy, shiny coat. It also helps reduce the risk of pesky hairballs

      It’s always a wise choice to brush out your pet before a bath. It helps prevent matting and tangles, and it gets rid of all the loose hair that would otherwise clog your drains. So, take the time to give your friend a thorough brushing, working through any mats you find.

      3.  Don’t Let Your Cat Slip and Slide

      Cats like to feel in control, but sliding all over the tub or sink makes them feel the opposite. Your feline friend will likely panic more and try to escape the situation if they can’t stand their ground. So, put a towel or rubber bath mat in the bottom of the tub or sink. This simple step will give your cat the traction they desperately desire.

      4. Choose the Right Time for a Bath

      Plan bath time after a long play session with your feline friend. A tired cat is an easier cat to bathe. Bonus points if you can give your cat a bath when you have some extra hands around to help.

      5. Use a Sprayer or Cup

      Don’t attempt to put your cat in deep water. It’s not going to go well. Instead, use a cup or handheld sprayer to wet your cat. Wet your furry friend from the neck back toward the tail. Avoid pouring or spraying water on your cat’s face or head.

      6. Wipe Your Cat’s Face

      Use a damp washcloth to clean your cat’s face, carefully wiping their eyes. Only use shampoo if you absolutely need to in this area. If you use shampoo, only use a drop or two on the cloth, then follow with a clean cloth.

      7. Use the Right Products

      Make sure to only use specially-designed cat shampoo when you bathe your cat. Using human products can irritate your pet’s skin.

      8. Make Sure to Rinse Your Cat Well

      It’s important to rinse every trace of shampoo from your pet’s coat to avoid skin irritation and mats. Plus, as your cat continues to self-groom, you don't want them to ingest any shampoo residue.

      9. Dry Your Cat Thoroughly

      Equally as important (if not more so) as rinsing your cat thoroughly is to make sure they’re completely dry. A wet cat is an unhappy cat, and the weight of the water on their coat makes them feel all off-kilter. Plus, leaving your cat’s coat wet can lead to mats and tangles. Use a hairdryer on a low setting if your feline is willing, and brush them as you dry.

      10. Reward Your Cat

      Treat, treats, and more treats. Make sure your cat associates the whole bathing experience with positive vibes.

      Clipping a cat's nails

      Extra Cat Grooming Tips: Trimming Nails and Cleaning Cat’s Ears

      We mentioned possibly having to trim your cat’s nails before bath. If you need to attempt this feat, the same tips apply. Start trimming your cat’s nails when they’re a kitten to get them used to it. Also, set up a routine to trim your cat’s nails every couple of weeks (your furniture will thank you).

      It’s best to trim claws after a long play session so your cat’s in a mellow mood. You might want to just clip a few nails at a time, letting your cat take a few minutes break in between. See how your cat reacts and plan accordingly. Plus, use good-quality tools to make the job efficient.

      When cleaning your cat’s ears, hold your pet comfortably in your lap or wrap them in a towel. Gently pull back the ear flap to open and straighten the ear canal. Squeeze enough ear cleaner into your cat’s ear to fill the ear canal, but don’t put the bottle tip in your cat’s ear.

      Gently massage the base of your cat’s ear for about 30 seconds to let the cleaner do its thing. Then, use a cotton ball or piece of gauze to gently wipe the ear flap and upper ear canal. Let your cat shake, then wipe the area again. Praise your cat with treats, and then repeat with the other ear.

      If your cat ever seems to be in pain at any point when you’re cleaning their ears or trimming nails, consult with your vet.

      Products That Help Keep Your Cat Looking Good

      Here are a few products that can help make trimming nails, cleaning ears, and cat bathing easier. 

    1. John Paul Pet Lavender Mint Cat Shampoo 
    2. Not only does this shampoo get your cat clean and beautiful, but it calms as it cleans. It’s infused with tea tree oil and lavender, chamomile, and spearmint extracts for a soothing bath experience.

    3. Vetnique Labs Oticbliss Ear Flush
    4. This gentle ear cleaning solution helps remove dirt and earwax as well as unpleasant odors from your cat’s ears. It also contains Vitamin E and Aloe Vera, which help reduce redness and irritation. 

    5. Vetnique Labs Oticbliss Ear Wipes
    6. If your cat can’t stand the feel of fluid going in their ears, try these wipes instead. They deliver the same great results as the Oticbliss ear flush without having to pour the solution into your cat’s ears.

    7. Safari Self-Cleaning Slicker Brush
    8. This slicker brush features retractable pins, so with a push of a button, all the cat hair falls into the trash. The pins are gentle and won’t irritate your pet’s skin. The brush also has a comfort-grip handle making it easier to brush your feline friend.

    9. The Neat-Lik Mat
    10. Giving your cat a way to stay calm during a grooming session is a big plus. Spread a tasty treat over the mat to encourage your cat to lick. Licking releases endorphins which help calm your pet down and keep stress at bay.

    11. Pet Republique Nail Clippers
    12. These clippers feature sharp, stainless steel blades that allow you to clip your cat’s nails quickly and easily. The half-moon design also makes it easy to get your cat’s claws into the perfect position for clipping.

      Having the right tools to bathe your cat certainly makes it easier, but you also need patience. However, with a calm attitude and consistent effort, you can bathe your cat without all the muss and fuss. For more helpful tips on caring for your feline friend, check out the rest of our blog.


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