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How to Bathe Your Cat Without Getting Attacked


The first time I bathed my cat I went into it with high hopes and false expectations. I was in my early 20s and up until that point, my cat had always shown this intense interest in water and even loved playing with it. Obviously, she was not your typical cat, so I turned on the tub, hoisted her up off the floor, and soon felt the sting of a thousand claw marks as she frantically bounced out of the tub and out of my bathroom. 

Since then, I’ve learned a couple of tips and tricks that have made bathing my cat inherently easier, though, granted, she’s still not the biggest fan. Here’s how to bathe your cat without getting attacked.

How Often Should You Bathe Your Cat? 

Before diving in (ha, pun intended), how often should you bathe your cat? Experts from the National Cat Groomers of America recommend washing your cat every 4-6 weeks. This frequent bathing is to help prevent their fur from getting matted. However, that rule doesn’t apply to indoor cats. 

Since indoor cats are just that…indoors all day, many experts agree that they should only need to get a bath once or twice a year. This is because cats spend hours each day grooming themselves. Most indoor cats spend approximately 15-50% of their day grooming themselves. For cats, the purpose of grooming themselves is to remove dirt and debris from their paws and fur. Furthermore, the act of grooming helps them regulate their body temperature. 

Is it Okay to Never Bathe My Cat? 

I know it may sound like a gross answer, but yes, it is perfectly fine and acceptable to never bathe your cat. As mentioned above, cats spend so much time cleaning themselves that it’s more natural for them to do it than for you to do it for them – especially since cats tend to look at us as just large, ungroomed, clumsy animals

Tips for Bathing Your Cat (Without Them Getting Too Angry)

The best tip for bathing your cat is to get them used to the idea from an early age. As with everything, the earlier a behavior is learned, the more normal and commonplace it’ll feel for them, which in turn, will make them less anxious when they see their little toe beans approach the tub. 

However, this isn’t always possible since many people adopt cats at various stages of their life. In this case, here’s how you can bathe your cat: 

1. Wear Them Out

If you want to start giving your cat a bath, it’s recommended that you wear them out a little first. Play with them. Toss a toy across the room. Doing an activity with them first will tire them out, which will make them feel more relaxed and less combative when it’s time to get into the bath.

2. Trim Their Claws First

To avoid the situation I encountered in my early 20s, I recommend trimming your cat’s claws beforehand. While you will still feel some pain from their attack, it’s less likely to hurt you the shorter their claws are. This will also help reduce your negative, shocking reaction. If your cat is already freaked out, they’re going to be more freaked out if you start screaming due to their scratches. This just makes it easier on everyone all around. 

3. Reward Them

After your cat gets into the tub and as soon as they get out, give them a treat. Over time, they’ll begin to associate the bath with a treat, which will give them more incentive to act calm and not resist the bath. One of the best treats are Greenies, which are low in calories and help keep your cat’s teeth clean.

4. Use a Hand-Held Shower Head

If your cat doesn’t want to be in the water, try placing them in the tub and using a hand-held shower head to help clean them. This will give you more control and allow you to simultaneously pet your cat to help keep them calm. 

5. Apply Shampoo From the Shoulders to the Tail (And Avoid the Face)

While most cats generally don’t enjoy getting wet, they especially hate getting their heads wet. As such, you should only apply shampoo to their shoulders and work your way down the same way you would in the shower. Once they’re clean, use a warm washcloth to gently clean their head afterward. 

What Kind of Shampoo Should You Use? 

You should never use human shampoo on your cat. Oftentimes, human shampoo is made with chemicals that are going to be too harsh on your cat’s skin and cause irritation. You should always use cat-friendly and cat-intended animal shampoo. Here are a few brands we recommend: 

  • Burt’s Bees for Cats
  • Espree for Kittens 
  • Earthbath All Natural Cat Shampoo
  • Four Paws Magic Coat Cat Tearless Shampoo

Benefits of Giving Your Cat a Bath

While it may not be the most enjoyable task, there are many benefits to bathing your cat. First, a bath helps to remove excess oil and dander that could make them sick. Since cats use their tongue to lick themselves, they encounter many allergens that are transferred through their saliva. 

Furthermore, baths can be incredibly beneficial for cats who are older or suffering from arthritis and are unable to properly clean themselves. In this type of scenario, not only will a bath make their coats feel better, but the warm water can help ease their joint pain. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re interested in giving your cat a bath, these tips can help make the process easier for you. If your cat has never gotten a bath before, they may be resistant at first but the more you work at it, the easier it’ll be for them. Take your time and if you can, try to get someone else to help you like a friend or spouse if they’re available. At the end of the day, your cat is taking care of their hygiene but a little help from their owner never hurts.