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How to Give a Cat a Bath
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
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How to Give a Cat a Bath Bathing a Cat

Q. What is the best way to bathe a cat?
A. Though cat owners may want to depend on a cat to clean herself, there may be a time when you will want to give your cat a bath. The following tips will help you and your cat have a more pleasant experience.

Grooming a catPrior to the bath, you will want to groom your cat. Use a grooming glove, fine-toothed comb, or soft brush for shorthaired breeds and a wide toothed comb and a soft slicker brush for longhaired breeds. Brush your cat thoroughly being especially gentle on the skin because it is thin and sensitive. Also, make sure to brush out any mats you may find - they are much harder to remove from wet hair. This is also a good time to check for sores, abscesses, lumps, and other skin problems. Clean your cat's ears and look for any excess wax or debris in the ears. You will also want to clip your cat's nails at this time. If your cat does not enjoy any of these procedures, wait until your cat has calmed down before starting the bath.

Assemble all the materials you will need before you get the cat. Include a soft towel and shampoos and conditioners formulated especially for cats. If the shampoo is very thick, it is sometimes helpful to dilute it with some water before applying it to the cat. Just prior to the bath, place cotton balls in the ears and apply ophthalmic ointment to protect the eyes. Place a towel in the bottom of the sink or tub you are going to use to prevent slipping. Be sure the area where you give the bath is warm, and your cat will have a warm place to dry off.

Remember that cats do not like to be restrained, so the less she feels like you are controlling her, the better. Speak in soft tones and try to appear calm, since your cat will become more nervous if she senses you are apprehensive. Signs that your cat is anxious include flattening of the ears or whiskers, tail thumping, loud vocalizations, and open mouth panting.

Use lukewarm water. Cats generally dislike sprays, so it is often better to pour water over the cat rather than spraying. If you must spray, avoid hard sprays and spraying near your cat's face. You may want to wrap your cat in a thin towel and wet the coat through the towel, remove the towel, and then apply the shampoo. After shampooing, rinse your cat thoroughly. Rinsing is the most important step. The old adage is: 'Once you think you've rinsed your cat thoroughly, rinse her again.'

Wiping a cat with a bath toweletteDry your cat gently with a towel. 'Blotting' is better than rubbing, especially in longhaired breeds. Longhaired breeds will also benefit from an additional brush out and a blow dryer on no-heat setting (if your cat will tolerate the noise).

If your cat absolutely cannot tolerate being wet, try using a waterless or powder shampoo, pre-moistened bath towelettes for pets, or give your cat a 'sponge bath' with a damp towel.

Remember, the younger a cat is when you begin to bathe her, the more likely it will be that she will come to enjoy an occasional bath.

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