Do cats need to be bathed?


Some novice cat owners ask if cats need to be bathed and how often should owners do that? The opinions of experienced owners are diametrically opposite. Some believe that cats can take care of themselves licking the coat with a rough tongue, and bathing only damages the quality of the coat. Their opponents are sure that cats should be bathed and it isn’t harmful at all.

Cat’s self-hygiene

A healthy cat is the cleanest animal in the world! Taking care of its coat a cat will never miss a centimeter, methodically licking dust settled on the coat for the day. The more cats move around their territory, the more actively they lick their coats, getting rid not only of dirt, but of unpleasant smells. Looking at such hygiene many people don’t even think a cat should be bathed. Who on Earth needs that? Cats can do that on their own. Besides, for centuries cats lived in cities and villages and none of them ever suffered without bathing. So why should owners consider bathing useful nowadays?

Alright, let’s travel to the past and imagine a village existed several centuries ago: forests and birds, rivers with safe drinking water, no dumps and pollution. Safety and ecological purity! And what we can see now? Dumps, dirty basements, chemical pollution, acid rain and a myriad of microbes. We can’t see hazardous substances with the naked eye, but they are everywhere, and be sure – they settle on your cat and then get to its stomach when the cat is licking itself. As it is much easier to bathe the cat than to treat it from chronic diseases, bathing is worth it.

And if the cat never goes out for a walk? Do owners need to bathe domestic cats? They don’t seem to “collect” dangerous substances and microorganisms on their coat. Experienced breeders believe that it is absolutely necessary, as harmful bacteria get into the apartment through the air and on the people’s clothes. Of course, cats kept at home have to be bathed less often.

Bathing and molting

During seasonal molting cats take care of their coats especially carefully, trying to remove all the hairs that come out. The cat swallows hairs, and they get into the stomach making a tight ball. Some cats vomit this hair balls right on the floor, but it is much worse when for some reason cats don’t vomit hair balls suffering from heavy stomach, digestion disturbance and in rare cases even from bowel obstruction. Bathing accelerates the process of molting, as water and mechanical manipulation contribute to coming out hairs. But you should ask the breeder about how often it is possible to bathe the cat during molting as some breeds lose way too much coat making their owners upset because of bare areas on the sides (all Rex breeds, some of Siamese and Oriental cats). Breeds with plush coat, long-haired breeds and short-haired with developed undercoat aren’t likely to have such problems during molting.

In what cases bathing isn’t recommended?

Cats with wet coat just after bathing don’t have to be protected from cold (contrary to popular perception). Average room temperature is quite suitable for coat drying. The only dangerous thing is drafts, so the window and the door to the room where you take the cat should be closed. Another dangerous factor is stress experienced by nervous cats not used to water. The nervous system of a healthy pet isn’t under threat, but in weakened or sick animals bathing may lead to their state deterioration. Vaccination and quarantine period after vaccination are serious reasons to postpone ‘bathing’. Kittens shouldn’t be bathed until teeth change or until it is really necessary.

Is it allowed to bathe a pregnant cat? Pregnancy is not a disease, the vaccination was performed long ago, and the hygiene should be kept at the high level, as the cat will soon become a mother. However, veterinarians, give a negative answer to this question due to the reasons mentioned below. Pregnant cats should be bathed only if they got dirty with some dangerous substance that may get into the cat’s stomach.
The danger of injury occurs during each bathing of a pregnant cat. The cat may be scared and jump out of the bath, falling down or slipping on the smooth surface. For cats such slight traumas aren’t dangerous, but for unborn kittens even a minor injury may be very harmful.

Draft and stress can cause miscarriage or pathology of pregnancy, if the pet gets sick. Is it possible to bathe a pregnant cat at the early pregnancy stage? It depends on the temperature in the room and on the attitude of the cat to bathing: if the cat isn’t scared of water procedures, you can bathe it if necessary.

Chemical substances contained even in high quality expensive shampoos can harm the litter, although for pregnant cats they are absolutely safe. No matter how carefully you wash the shampoo away, some of it remains of the coat and gets directly into the cat’s stomach. What would be safe in this case? Instead or regular cat shampoo it is better to use dry coat cleaning: four tablespoons of ground oatmeal (or starch) mixed with two teaspoons of baby powder. The powder is gently rubbed into the coat and carefully combed out. This idea will be great if the owner has doubts whether to bathe a nursing cat or not (chemical substances, draughts and stress can lead to milk shortage or its quality changes). If regular bathing is necessary the shampoo should be safe and contain natural components only.

How often should cats be bathed?

If the cat doesn’t leave the apartment, and the owner regularly combs the coat, it is necessary to bathe the pet every three months. And how often should a cat walking outside be bathed? If the family lives near the highway or railroad – bathe your cat every two months, if you live in the countryside – three-five times a year. Professional cat shampoos allow bathing cats every month keeping the coat in perfect condition, without overdrying the skin and coat.

What is better to wash the cat with?

Can I wash the cat with regular soap or with my shampoo? It is possible, if the owner doesn’t care about the quality of the pet’s coat. Human shampoos and most of soaps have a pH that won’t work for cat hair, and isn’t able to enrich the coat with useful substances. Quality shampoos are not only safe, but also a good buy – one bottle is enough for a year.

So what should you wash your cat with and how to choose the suitable shampoo? Think of the coat type and condition. Shampoos for short-haired pets contain oils and other active substances structuring coat – after bathing every hair lies smoothly and is positioned closely to the skin. If you use this shampoo for a Siberian or a Persian cat – its luxury fluffy coat will look completely unattractive. The state of the coat is also very important: oily or dry, light or damaged. For example, Siberian cats usually have oily hairs near the croup – if such a pet is bathed with nourishing shampoo with oils, it will become worse.

How to bathe the cat right?

The best shampoo will be useless if the owner has no idea how to wash the cat right:

  • untangle problem areas on the coat and remove the hairs that have come out;
  • protect cat’s ears with cotton balls;
  • mix the shampoo with warm water in 1/2 or 1/3 ratio (if the shampoo is concentrated);
  • take away everything the cat can drop or break;
  • pour the water into the bath so that the water level reached the cat’s belly. The water temperature should be about 98.5 °F (37 °C);
  • on the bottom of the bath put a rubber mat or a town (the mat is more preferable, as it is heavier and doesn’t glide);
  • confidently and nicely put the cat into the bath on the mat;
  • use a plastic (unbreakable) cup to pour the water from the bath starting with croup (if you pour water on the shoulders, the cat can be frightened, so let it first get used to the water temperature and to the sound of pouring water);
  • apply shampoo on the wet coat and gently rub it; then leave for a couple of minutes;
  • thoroughly rinse the shampoo off and apply conditioner. If the cat was very dirty or there were some problems with the coat, the shampoo should be applied twice;
  • both the shampoo and the conditioner should be rinsed well as they will make the coat heavy and oily;
  • you don’t need to rub the coat with the towel – the cat should be wrapped in a large towel and kept there;
  • if it is warm in the room, you don’t have to use a hair dryer (of course, they are necessary for exhibition preparation).

The main thing is to act without violence. Just affection, ease and persuasions. Tips like: “call an assistant, immobilize the cat or put it into the bath so that it couldn’t escape” are given people who don’t have a clue about cat’s psychology. The more trust between you and your cat – the easier your cat will go through any unpleasant procedures. Violence destroys any trust, so keep it in mind.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here