White cat taking a bath.

How to Bathe a Cat

Cats should be bathed when one or more of the following situations develop:

  • Accumulation of excessive dirt, grease, or other foreign substances on the skin and coat
  •   Build-up of waxy sebum (seborrhea), which often leads to body odor
  • Accumulation of skin scale (dandruff) s Skin infections

Cats with normal, healthy skin and hair coats really do not require routine bathing. As far as cats are concerned, that’s welcome news, since most cats abhor bathing! If a bath is indicated for your cat, a hypoallergenic shampoo is recommended. For medical conditions involving skin infections and seborrhea, use only those shampoos prescribed by a veterinarian. Using the wrong type of shampoo on such skin disorders will yield poor results and might even exacerbate them.

Before you put your pet into the tub, brush its coat out thoroughly and remove any mats and tangles. In addition, always apply some type of protection to both eyes to prevent accidental soap burns. Mineral oil has been used for this purpose; however, a sterile ophthalmic ointment is preferred. Such ointment is readily available from a veterinary clinic or pet store, and provides greater eye protection than does plain mineral oil.

After you’ve treated the eyes, stick some cotton balls into the outer portion of each ear canal to keep bath water out. If the nails need trimming, do this before the bath as well. If you are bathing your cat, place a window screen or rubber mat in the tub to give your feline something to hold onto while getting scrubbed. Once these preparatory measures have been taken, you can proceed with the shampoo and rinse.

If you are using a medicated shampoo, allow it to remain in contact with the skin for a good 10 minutes prior to rinsing. After rinsing, a towel, chamois cloth, or brush can be used for drying.