Cats are generally not big fans of a bath or being in the water. Although some species like the Bengal and the Turkish Van have been known to enjoy a splashing about in the water, most cats will avoid getting wet when possible.
It is not completely instinctual, as cats can be conditioned to tolerate and even enjoy being in the water. There is even a cat that goes scuba diving with its own specialized equipment.
Chances are that your cat dislikes water though, and you might even have a few scratches to remind you of it.
Luckily for the majority of cats that are loath to get their feet wet, they come equipped with all the necessary tools to clean themselves. Their tongues even have spines on them, called papillae that act like a hairbrush. Cats spend many hours a day licking themselves and the spines on their tongue removed debris and dirt from their coats, leaving them shiny and clean.
Can I give my cat a bath? Answer: If necessary.
As they use their tongue to clean themselves cat occasionally regurgitate the fur that has collected in their stomach, but regular brushing should minimize the amount of fur that accumulates in their gut. Even though they spend hours preening themselves, there are situations where it might be necessary to bathe them.
When to Wash Your Cat
Cats can clean themselves, but sometimes their hairbrush tongue cannot handle the problem effectively. Cat fur can in some cases become visibly oily and dirty, a situation that is more frequent with long haired cats, since they have more hair to clean. An occasional bath can help them keep their fur clean and oil free, but make sure not to overdo it. Always use shampoos specifically designed for cat fur. When infested with flees or other parasites, licking just won’t suffice.
In this case it is fine to give your cat a bath, but it is always best to consult a veterinarian first for advice on the best treatment to eliminate fleas. If a cat’s fur is covered with a toxic, poisonous, or dangerous substance it is necessary to give it a bath. Since they use their tongues to clean, anything that may damage their health through ingestion or contact should be washed off as soon as possible.
Tips to Washing Your Cat
If your cat is one of those that hates getting wet, there are a few practical tips to make the bath a little easier. Get prepared, but be sneaky when you do so because your cat will hide from you when it gets suspicious. Practice how you will hold your feline in the bath, how to reach your shampoo, and where your towel will be. Don’t panic, you need to use a calm tone to reassure your cat. Close the door to the room where you are bathing the cat.
If the cat wants to escape it’s going to be difficult to catch it. It will be more effective if you can enlist some extra hands, so that one person can hold the cat and the other can wash it. It may be helpful, especially for long haired cats, if you brush them prior to the bath. Try to make the water as close to the body temperature of the cat (102ºF/39ºC) as you can, because any colder will make it more uncomfortable for the cat. Your cat will probably complain by meowing, yowling, maybe even growling. Do not be intimidated. Remember to rinse the cat well, because the leftover shampoo residue could irritate the skin.
Watch the Ears, Please
Avoid washing the cat’s head. If its head is dirty use a moist washcloth to wipe it off. Be careful to not get any water in the ears. It can alter the pH balance in the ear canal and increase the chance of infections.
Drying Your Cat
It is important that your cat remains warm. Do not tumble dry. Hairdryers would be the ideal way to dry a cat, as they are effective and provide warmth. However, most cats are terrified of hairdryers so you will probably have to use towels. Warming the towels in the dryer first may make your sulking, furry companion more appreciative, but make sure to be very gentle when you dry them off.
An Occasional Bath
The good news for both you and your cat is that a bath is generally not necessary. That saves you the scratches and the heartbreak of seeing your cat so upset with you. It saves your cat the trauma of an aquatic bath. The occasional bath will not harm your cat, but frequent baths could lead to skin irritation.