What to Bathe a Cat With and Best Methods

Updated on July 18, 2019
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Laura is an avid pet lover. he is an advocate for pet adoption and senior pets. She has multiple cats and a sweet old poodle mix.

Choosing the right bath products and space may not make your cat love baths but it will help both of you cope.
Choosing the right bath products and space may not make your cat love baths but it will help both of you cope. | Source
  • While most cats don't like baths, it is sometimes necessary.
  • Make sure the product you are using says it is safe for cats.
  • Create a safe environment to bathe the cat.
  • Make sure they stay warm as they dry.
  • If the cat is older or sick, consider dry shampoo or pet wipes.

Although most cat owners do not have to bathe their pets as often as dog owners, it is sometimes still necessary depending on the breed and the particular circumstances for that cat.

With a little preparation, the task may not be as bad as you think.

What You'll Need to Wash Your Cat

Even though cats hate baths and will clean themselves, sometimes they need that extra boost. Before you find your cat and start the bath you will need to gather your supplies.


  • A nice fluffy towel or two
  • Bathroom or area with a large sink that you can close off
  • Brush (especially if they have longer, dry fur)
  • Shampoo
  • A small plastic cup or bowl (for scooping water)

You should never use human shampoo on cats. Here are some of the things to consider when picking the right cleanser.

Some cats enjoy playing in water.
Some cats enjoy playing in water. | Source

Choosing the Right Shampoo/Cleanser

It is important to pick out a cleanser that is made for cats. This will insure that it has the correct balance for your pet and doesn't have chemicals that could make them sick.

Dogs and cats handle different ingredients in different ways so a shampoo that works for your dog may not work for your cat. For example, tea tree oil, found in some cleansers and shampoos has been shown to be toxic to cats.

After you have located the cat shampoo section of your pet store or online merchant, you will notice a wide selection. But how do you choose the right one for your cat?

Consider some of the options below based on your cat's fur, issues or needs.

Best Types of Cat Shampoo

Type of Problem
What To Look For
Look for scent free shampoos that say they are hypoallergenic
Allermyl, Earthbath Totally Natural, Pramoxine Anti-Itch
Look for shampoos that remove dander or relieve dry skin
Nature's Miracle Dander Destroyer, 8-In-1 Perfect Coat Dander
Dry Fur or Skin
Look for a moisturizing shampoo or one that comes paired with a conditioner
Whisker City Ultra Moisturizing, Four Paws Magic Coat
Look for products that fight fleas. (Note: Do not use if you are using a topical flea treatment)
Adams Flea and Tick Shampoo, Natural Chemistry Cat Flea Shampoo
Long fur that tangles
Look for shampoos especially designed for long haired cats
Avoderm Natural Oatmeal, Pet Head Purrtastic Passion Fruit
Hard to Bathe
Dry Shampoo or Pet Wipes
Pet Head Dry Clean Spray, Petkin Pet Wipes
It is important to find the right shampoo for your cat.

Note: Do not use a flea shampoo if you are already using a topical flea medication or a flea collar. You can use flea shampoo and an internal medication such as Comfortis.

How To Bathe a Cat

Now that you have picked out the products, you are ready to bathe your cat.

It is best to bathe them in a room that you can close such as a small bathroom.

Also choose a place that they don't have a lot of places to hide if they jump out of the tub.

Here are the steps for bathing the cat along with hints about making it easier.

Try to make your cat feel comfortable as you are bathing it.  They need to know they will not drown.
Try to make your cat feel comfortable as you are bathing it. They need to know they will not drown. | Source

Step-by-Step Guide to Bathing a Cat

Fill the tub or large sink with warm water.
Make sure the water is warm, not hot. Do not fill it any higher than the bottom of the cat's belly if they are standing.
Gather the cat up and place in the tub.
You have need to wrap them in a towel to lower them in the water (this towel will get wet).
Using your hand or a cup, wet the cat thoroughly.
Never force a cat to lay down in the water. Be careful that water doesn't go in the ear canals.
Bathe with the shampoo according the package instructions.
Some shampoos need one application and some need two.
Rinse thoroughly.
Use a cup and pour water on the cat until the fur is clear. You may need to rub it to make sure the shampoo is out.
Remove cat and wrap in a dry towel.
You may need to do this twice in order to get as much water out of their fur as possible.
Place cat where he or she can get warm.
My cats often like to sit on a heating pad on low. Some also may tolerate a hair dryer.
Brush if necessary
If your cat's fur tangles easily, you may need to brush it after the bath.

How to Clean Older or Sick Cats

If your cat is older or sick, then the stress of a bath may be too much for them.

But sometimes they still need to be cleaned up, especially if they have been unable to clean themselves.

Try purchasing some pet wipes from the pet supply store or online. These wipes work kind of like wipes used to clean babies up during a diaper change. You simply wipe down the cat and there is no need to rinse.

This way, you can clean them where they are resting and it will be more like being petted rather than being bathed. This may not provide the deep clean that a full bath does but it will help your sick or older cat feel fresher and smell better.

Although they hate it, sometimes cats do need to be bathed. It is important that you choose the right kind of shampoo for your cat and create a safe environment to bathe them.

In this article, you'll learn about some tips for bathing your cat, such as:

Some Breeds Like Water

There are a few breeds of cats that love water and may want to actively play in it.

According to vetstreet.com, these breeds tend to love the water:

  • The American Shorthair
  • Turkish Van
  • Bengal
  • Turkish Angora
  • Maine Coon
  • American Bobtail

So bathing this type of cat may be easier. However most cats don't like doing something that they haven't decided to do.

Some Cats, Such as Bengals, Love the Water

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


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