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Giving a Cat a Bath

Category Grooming
Bathing a cat can be extremely difficult but is necessary from time to time. There are some tips and techniques to minimize the trauma and injury to your cat and yourself. This is a guide about giving a cat a bath.


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By 7 found this helpful
July 20, 2011

When I give my house-cats, Josie and Fuzzybutt, their bath, I love each one up really good first. Then I pick her up and get into the shower with her. I have the water just right for her and have the two separate large plastic cups from a Quickstop with diluted shampoo and conditioner ready on the floor. Pouring this mixture slowly over the animal helps you evenly distribute it through the hair and not get it all in one spot. It also helps it get rinsed out better.

I get to her level and use the hose and sprayer at the softest level and wet her down and soap her up. I turn the water off when I don't need it, and this keeps her from being traumatized. She may act like she hates it, but she really likes it!

Dogs and cats that only get bathed occasionally need skin conditioning just like we do. Their skin can get dry and flaky and cause scratching. Have your towels over the wall or shower rod and wrap your kitty up to calm and soothe them. Absorb as much water as possible before releasing your cat in the closed bathroom. Keep the kitty confined till nearly dry. Change towels several times to dry.

Source: I learned to use my shampoo and conditioner from working at my friend's grooming salon.

By Carlajo from TX

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September 21, 20110 found this helpful

Thanks for the great information. We have 2 cats. Sweetie doesn't mind a bath but Twizzler is a whole different story! LOL maybe this will work with Twizzler...lets hope.

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August 28, 2008

My cat, Teddy, is impossible to bathe. Although normally cats do not require a bath, he sometimes seems to get dirty using his litter box and then smells, albeit rarely this happens. This is going to sound harsh, but he really does not cooperate usually, so I put him in the tub and then placed a tall plastic laundry basket over him and held it down, or you could have a helper do that part. Our shower has a hand-held hose, so then I just sprayed him wet through the holes in the laundry basket. He was unable to escape or scratch me. I avoided his ears and face. When he was soaked, I used my old Joy dish soap container with watered down shampoo to suds him, because by this point he had stopped meowing in protest and relegated himself to the whole procedure. I held his back down so he was squat to the tub bottom while sudsing. All the while I chat with him in a soothing tone, then place the laundry basket over him again and spray rinse. Have a towel at the ready, lift off the laundry basket, wrap the kitty and dry. Ta da, done!


By Carrie from N Liberty, IA

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October 9, 20120 found this helpful

Your description of bathing Teddy really made me laugh. The 1st time I bathed my cat I filled both kitchen sinks with nice warm water. I gently set the cat in one of the sinks and believe it or not she just sat there. So I washed her quickly and moved her to the next sink for rinsing. I had expected to be missing at least a couple of fingers. Thanks for a great story.

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Catherine Forman0 found this helpful
April 16, 2006

You may feel like giving your cat a bath is akin to taking your life in your own hands' but it doesn't have to be a traumatic experience. Really!

If you have a short haired cat, consider yourself lucky. They very rarely need a bath. Long haired cats, however, often need grooming help from their owners. Unless you start giving baths when your cat is a kitten, your cat may not be thrilled with the idea of a scrub in the tub.

Prepare everything you need before starting. You'll want a few towels, feline or baby shampoo, and a shower attachment or large cup for wetting and rinsing. If you are planning to use a conditioner on your long haired cat, you will need the conditioner and a wide-toothed metal comb for detangling. You may also want to bribe a friend or family member into helping you give the bath.

A flat-based sink is best, a cat in a curved sink may be wrigglier as she tries to keep her footing on the slick, wet surface. Make sure the room is warm and secure! If there is a place to escape, your frantic wet cat will find it. Fill the sink about two inches with warm water, test the temperature before putting your cat in. Use the cup or shower attachment to wet the fur, then apply a drop of shampoo and work into a lather. Don't let the foam get into your cat's ears, nose, mouth, or eyes! You may want to only wet and scrub up to the neck to avoid any accidents. Rinse thoroughly.

If you are using a conditioner, add a drop of conditioner and use the wide-toothed metal comb to work it through the fur. Rinse thoroughly.

Squeeze the excess water out of your cat's coat by running your hands down her body, legs, and tail. Wrap her in a towel and lift her out of the sink. Rub gently to dry her, you may need more than one towel! After toweling, you will need to comb her to help untangle the hair.

You may want to use a hairdryer set on low to help dry your cat. Don't hold the dryer too close! While you lightly blow the air over your cat, lift and comb the fur to help it dry. Be careful to separate any knots with your fingers, and pay special attention to any areas where the fur tends to mat, on the legs, belly, armpits, and groin.

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August 28, 20080 found this helpful

How do you wash a adult cat, besides very carefully? I've never bathed her, but she has had baths at the vet's. She's not declawed.

MsDee from Lillian, Alabama


RE: Bathing a Cat

I adopted Beffie from a shelter in October 2004. He hates being picked up and will not allow me to carry him around, so I struggled to find a way to bath him. Once we have a really hot day, I will just wipe him with a cloth dipped in Cleen Green diluted with tepid water. I was actually thinking of putting oven gloves on him - like boxing gloves! On a serious note: how about asking your vet? Maybe they will bath him for a fee, or be able to recommend a responsible pet parlour where it can be done. (09/07/2006)

By Willem

RE: Bathing a Cat

I guess it all depends on the cat, because I have 2 adult cats (12 years old, brothers), and they neither one mind taking a bath. I just put water in the sink, use baby shampoo, and then rinse with the sprayer. No problems. (09/08/2006)

By dse77

RE: Bathing a Cat

To bathe a cat with claws, I use the bucket that kitty-litter comes in, or even a 5 gal. bucket. My shower has a detatchable head on a hose so I fill the bucket up half way with warm water and while the shower head is gently flowing, I lower kitty in the bucket, feet first. I use one hand around his neck to hold him in the bucket.

I gently talk while running the shower over his shoulders and back. I never turn off the water, but lay it in the tub (so he is used to the gentle sound of water and I don't have to readjust the water temp) while I use a gentle cat shampoo diluted in half with water in a clean dish detergent bottle--easier to suds and easier to rinse than the concentrated soap, which never distributes evenly. After I suds completely, I gently begin showering him again.

I keep his chin just above the top of the bucket and he holds on with his "hands" to the top edge. He is very strong and my biceps get a workout. The water bath rinses him well and I even take him out (sorry-false alarm! You thought you were done, Kitty!), tip the bucket over to empty the water out and rinse a second time, as soap residue can cause skin irritations.

I always have plenty of old bath towels handy to double wrap him, cuz he wiggles and growls and claws can easily go through one towel.

This is a Maine Coon cat, neutered male, 20 lbs. and VERY ACTIVE.

Hope this works for you! lindajeang (09/09/2006)

By lindajeang

RE: Bathing a Cat

I discovered this when I had a flea problem. I have 4 cats; none are declawed and do not like baths. So I use a pillow case to cover their body up to the head so they can see. Then I bathe them, one at a time of course, in the tub. (09/09/2006)

By Karen from Iowa

RE: Bathing a Cat

I have 6 cats who all get baths. (If you get them used to it from kittenhood, half the battle's already won) I could never dream of having them declawed, but I do trim the very tips of the claws carefully with a nail clipper before I bathe them, just in case...

I also screw off the detachable shower head and just use the hose. The trick is to make sure all of their 4 paws stay firmly down on the floor of the shower room or tub. I do this by holding them gently on their backs just behind their front legs and gently pressing the cat down and sort of forwards with one hand, while washing them with the other. If they don't get their feet up, they of course can't scratch you. (If the cat does start to freak out; let go. Rather a soaked bathroom than cat scratches.) Talk calmly and praise them all the while, also afterwards when you're drying them off. Never spray water on the cat's head or in their ears. You can always gently wash their faces afterwards with a washcloth. Also it's a lot easier if you can get someone to help you. We wash our cats about twice a year. I wash, hubby dries. It's a pretty non-traumatic event for all of us, but nonetheless be prepared for a messy, wet bathroom afterwards... :o) (09/09/2006)

By feemayl

RE: Bathing a Cat

I think it all depends on the temperament of the cat!

That is if they are adult cats, not used to being bathed from kitten hood. I have two.. one a fiesty smokegrey female I can never attempt to bath she would reduce me to shreds! But she does love being brushed, so I make do with doing that daily.

The other a laid back ginger male will allow me to bath him, as per advice above.



By elliecat

RE: Bathing a Cat

My dear AllieMae LOVED her baths. However unless it was fun time from get go, you might approach it this way;

  • 3 buckets
  • 1-warm water with cat shampoo
  • 2-warm rinse
  • 3-warm final rinse with a bit of white vinegar to remove excess soap residue
  • 4-have towels (2or 3) pre warmed in dryer to wrap and dry with

When you put the cat in the bucket you can hold kitty and kitty can hang on to the edges with the 'death grip" and not tear up your skins. Oh some prefer dish gloves to protect from scratches. If you are calm, patience and reassuring the kitty might relax and get ready to jump in shower after as sometimes you get the bath too!

good luck

= ^,,^= (09/09/2006)

By meoowmom

RE: Bathing a Cat

For some unknown reason, each time I ever bathed my cats, they caught colds and died! I have had over 30 cats in my long lifetime and learned that no one can clean them better than themselves. Indoor cats do not smell, they RULE ! LOL (09/10/2006)

By lyndagayle62

how to hold a cat to bathe it

I have tried many ways to bathe my cat (poka). She`s not fully grown. She's maybe 1 years old and I have the hardest time giving her a bath. But see I have an older (myzus) cat that never got a bath until he was probably 5 or 6 and acts like a human getting a bath. So I have no problem giving him a bath.but o.m.g. poka, my younger cat, is awful at baths. (12/02/2006)

By amber

RE: Bathing a Cat

Cats clean themselves, and very well. They do not need you to give them a bath. (08/22/2007)

By CandyCane

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

July 31, 2007

Could someone please advise me how to clean my cat? I adopted Beffie some time ago from a shelter. The hair on his back is very dirty and hard, but there is no way I will be able to bath him, as he HATES being held. Could I dust him with baby powder/Maizena and then brush him?

Thank you!

Kind regards,

Carol from Republic of South Africa

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By guest (Guest Post)
August 1, 20070 found this helpful

They sell bags for washing cats in. This keeps the cat unable to claw you and you just have to focus on the teeth. Best to have one person restrain the cat while another baths him. I would guess that any close meshed bag, would serve the purpose.

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By guest (Guest Post)
August 2, 20070 found this helpful

I have washed my cats, when necessary, in the kitchen sink, using pet shampoo that is labelled for cats - dog shampoo is not the same stuff. You can then rinse with warm water using the kitchen faucet, which is convenient, and cuts down on the amount of time the cat is actually sitting in the water.

I had a friend, a brand new cat owner, who decided to bathe his cat - he was holding the cat against his bare chest as he stepped into and turned on his shower. I know it's not really funny, but this was definitely a case where ignorance was NOT bliss!

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By guest (Guest Post)
August 2, 20070 found this helpful

WARNING ! DO NOT PUT BABY POWDER ON YOUR CAT. IT CAN KILL PETS! I'd sprinkle corn flour, leave on permanently if your cat is in the house and not outside, because the flour absorbs. If outside, he may not be trusting enough to be tamed so I'd forget the dirt and concentrate on getting him well and healthy. Food is one of the best ways to get a pet to trust us over time, IF we do NOT try to touch them too much. Some cats born outside just don't want to be touched at all. If you are able to ever touch the animal, I'd certainly not jump in an try to eliminate hair right away. That's the least of the cat's problems. I'd try taming, so that one day, after the hair begins to dry out, it will allow you to tamper A BIT with the dirty hair. It is likely something like old food from a trash can, or someone tried to get rid of him and swatted him with a cup of something sugared. He likely then tried to clean himself/herself

by rolling over in the dirt, which may have been greasy or dirtier than normal? The cat may have been trapped inside a dirty box and finally escaped. Who can tell? Regardless, take your time and be patient. Perhaps with God's help, you will gain it's trust. God bless and help you. : )

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August 3, 20070 found this helpful

Definitely have someone help, since it often takes two to bathe a cat properly, one to hold the pet and the other to wash it. I find it easiest to fill a sink partially with water, place the hind legs in the water, and allow the cat to "stand" while holding the front legs up. Be careful not to push the cat down too hard if it tries to jump out. The excess pressure on the back legs can hurt the cat (even to the point of fracturing the legs). And have the towels ready--you won't be able to get it out of the water quick enough.

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August 4, 20070 found this helpful

I agree with Noella on having heavy clothing on. I always wear my sweats and wore long sleeves at first. I only put about 3 inches of warm water in the tub. The vet told me if you are using flea shampoo only use on the neck area and back. Then use tearless baby shampoo on their face. They will love you better for it. My husband always has the holding part of it. The cats' rear legs are in the water and he holds on to the front two paws and talks soothing to the kitty while i do the shampooing and rinsing. Dry them off in a big fluffy towel best you can before you let them loose. I usually cover their head up for a few seconds while i rub them briskly. Of course i think everybody failed to say you must latch the door so they don't run out, lol. Anyway, no matter how much they act like they hated it, after a couple of times, they don't fight it so much and actually seem to enjoy it!! cause cats love to be clean!! be sure you do it early in the morning so they can catch the sunbeams in the windows in the house. Brush them a couple of times to help them out because they start licking themselves and sometimes end up with "furballs" and the hacking cough. My cats love the salmon flavored furball remedy medicine , think it is hartz brand. They come running when mommy has it on her finger for them to lick it off. Good luck. oh lastly, and importantly, both my husband and i wear rubber gloves to protect from the claws when they get over excited!! Helps a heap.

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August 11, 20070 found this helpful

I have the same problem. Everyone in the house is afraid to bathe her and she needs a bath. I guess it's either try to bathe her with the help of the police "swat" team (lol) or take her to a groomer and feel sorry for the groomer. I regret that we didn't start when she was a tiny kitten. We should have bathed her more often no matter how much she complained. We have been using kitty wipes for her fur which helps some, but she is at the point where she needs a bath.

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March 7, 20060 found this helpful

I just wondered what people's opinions were on giving cats baths. My cat, Destiny, is an inside short-hair and when I first got her, I gave her some baths, which she hated, of course. As she got older, I had such a hard time giving her baths because I couldn't hold her in the tub and she'd claw me to death, and ultimately, I decided not to give her any more.

She never goes outside, so she doesn't get dirty and I know they keep themselves clean. Anyway, my mom has been having some problems lately and kind of decided it's the cat giving her trouble. I definitely don't want to give up my kitty, I love her too much, but my mom thought perhaps giving her a bath every 1-2 weeks might help with her problems somewhat.

I gave her a bath tonight and had a little more control holding her in the tub and we did get it done (as much as possible), but she really hates her bath - does anyone have any advice or opinions about this? Or an easy fast way of doing it?

Thank you so much!

Stacey from Orem, UT

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March 8, 20060 found this helpful

Yes my cat loved her showers. She also liked her

baths the key being to start young. Make it fun for

the cat. you might want to start with the bucket method.

1)cat shampoo and water bucket

2)clear lukewarm rinse bucket

3)clear lukewarm final rinse

towels LOTS

dip cat in each bucket so they can stand with cat deathgrip claws hanging on bucket rim not your skin

be gentle but FIRM

have a good grip

most important tip

keep door closed otherwise you will have a soaking

wet mad CAT running for its life through your house

and it will find your best bedding, couch to find

shelter (I learned this the hard way)

good luck

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By guest (Guest Post)
March 8, 20060 found this helpful

I give my persian baths occasionally. She doesn't really like them but has been bathed all her life so she doesn't freak out. I put her in a tub of water and pull the shower door or curtain over close to me so she doesn't think she can get out, or at least she hasn't tried. Good luck

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By guest (Guest Post)
March 9, 20060 found this helpful

I feel I'm a conscientions pet owner. I dont give my cat a bath. I let her groom herself. She stays indoors and keeps clean. Shes has a wonderful smell when I put my nose to her fur. Frankly, sometimes I wonder how she does that.. lol.. Cats are innately afraid of anything coming down on their heads.. For hunting, they position themselves on something higher.. tree or rock.. and jump down on their prey. Let your heart be your guide.

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March 9, 20060 found this helpful

In a cat magazine, once, I saw a bath for a cat. It was like a large shoebox, with a neck hole cut out of one end. You would put the cat in with her head sticking out the neckhole, then there was another piece you would put on the box to hold the cats head, while bathing the whole rear of the cat in the box. Looked like a great idea, only at the time I could not afford to buy it. I have often wondered how to make something like that. My cats go in and out and can get fleas readily. Then I have to bath them which they hate. See if your dad or mom could rig something like that for you to bath your cat.

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By guest (Guest Post)
March 12, 20060 found this helpful

I have used Allerpet on my cats to keep the allergens from pet dander down. It comes in a squirt bottle, and you can apply it with a washcloth or papertowel. Just squirt some on the cloth and wipe down your cat with it. My cat loved it--felt like she was just getting a good pet and a little extra attention.

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 28, 20080 found this helpful

I'd be curious to know what breed of cat Neko (the previous poster) has that she likes water that much -- Turkish Van? Manx? I've never heard of showering with a cat, although mine likes playing around and in the tub and often lets the water run down her head and over her face while drinking from the tub faucet, lol. Both of them also love watching the toilet flush and will even climb atop the toilet seat ring while it is flushing to watch the water swirl and go down, often sticking their heads down into the bowl as if to get a closer look. Hmmm...I suppose I should try teaching them to use the toilet and save on all the litter box cleaning and expenses! =)

But getting back to your cat's bathing aversion, what bathing technique are you using? Is it in the tub, bathroom sink? utility sink? etc. Usually bathing a cat is a two-person job (one to restrain/soothe cat, while the other soaps and rinses). I don't suppose your mother will volunteer, since she's the one responsible for all your extra work! (my mother-in-law, I'm beginning to believe just doesn't like cats, period). But perhaps you could employ the help of a cat-loving friend or other family member when bath time rolls around.

Also, there's two things I would suggest, one which I've tried and works well for me; and another which I read about in multiple places (and sounds feasible). The first one is to place a rubber bath mat (or if bathing your cat in the sink, one of those small dish protector mats) underneath your cat when bathing. This helps improve her footing against slipping and sliding around; and thus makes her feel more secure and less 'panicky'. The tub decals might also work; but aren't quite as reliable since a cat has relatively small feet and they don't cover the entire area.

The other suggestion is to utilize an old small window screen (still in frame) for your cat to rest on. You can prop it up on an angle against the side of the tub, or if it's large enough, across the top edge of the tub. The soapy water will drain through (as you suds and rinse), while your cat's claws will anchor themselves in the screen (and not your skin!).

Good Luck!

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June 17, 20120 found this helpful

It is hard to bathe my cat, so now what?

By jjaross

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June 19, 20120 found this helpful

Have someone help you and both be personally calm and verbally soothing and don't be overly forceful. After the bath wrap your fur baby in a towel and hold him/her close to you while giving praises for being a good sport and then just leave him/her alone while they preen themselves and dry off. After about an hour give him/her more loving praises and a treat. The more you give a cat a bath in this way the less stressed they'll be at bath times in the future.

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June 19, 20130 found this helpful

I've found that unless the cat is really dirty, wiping them down with a warm wet washcloth will take care of dirt on their fur. (if they're short haired) It will remove the worst of the dirt, and encourage him to groom himself. If he's long haired, recruit a brave friend to help you. Hold him firmly by the scruff of the neck, and use warm water, like you'd put in a bath for yourself.

Work quickly, and make sure you rinse him completely. To dry him, wrap him in towels, covering his head. Hug the towel-wrapped cat for a few minutes, then let him to to groom himself and sulk. Clean up the bathing area, change your wet clothes, and offer him some of his favorite foods to apologize.

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August 28, 20080 found this helpful

How can I bathe a stray cat that evidently got into some nasty smelling stuff, like swamp water.

Thank you,
Cynthia in PA


Bathing a Cat

Bathing cats is a tricky proposition anytime, but with a stray that probably doesn't know you very well... Have some band aids on hand. Here's how we bathe our cat (when he rarely needs it):

Fill the bathtub with water. Put an old shower curtain on the curtain rod (you don't want an angry cat shredding your good shower curtain). Make sure you have your cat shampoo (don't use people shampoo) easily at hand. Also make sure you have an old towel handy too. Pull the curtain shut.

Now, find the cat. Hold him and pet him and talk to him nice on the way to the bathroom. When you get in the bathroom, close the door immediately. Pull back the shower curtain just enough (probably with a foot) to stuff the cat in. From here on, you have to work VERY fast. Plunge said cat in the water. Pour shampoo on him (DON'T LET GO OF HIM!) and lather. If you have someone willing to help you pour the shampoo on, it will make it a little easier. After you've lathered him enough, plunge him in the water again to get all the shampoo off. WARNING: It may take several plunges and strong arms. After he's clean, swaddle him in a towel to dry him off as much as you can.

To minimize the risk of injury (to you), you can try bathing him with elbow-length oven mitts, but I prefer to have my fingers free to get the best grip on him. If you happen to have one of those nice sprayer heads on your shower (the kind like hospitals have that's on a hose), use it so you don't need to plunge the cat in the water. You could also do this in an enclosed shower, but then there's more of you exposed to angry cat claws.

Be prepared for him to sulk under a bed the rest of the day. Good luck!

Camilla (02/07/2005)

By calnorth

Bathing a Cat

Oohhh - you're very brave Camilla! I wouldn't bother - its a cat - they are very clean animals and it will clean itself given time. Just feed it outside until the smell subsides - if the food is there it shouldn't stray again. Scared cats, as I would imagine a stray would be, can scratch and bite very severely - the bites are very deep and usually become infected. Is it really worth it???? You can be kind and care for this cat while waiting for nature to take its course without putting yourself at risk.


Jo (02/07/2005)

By Jo Bodey

Bathing a Cat

This may sound cruel, but it certainly works. fill the bathtub with warm, tepid water. find your cat and put it in a plastic animal carrier, making sure there are drainage holes in the bottom and sides. Have your cat shampoo handy. You will also need a sprayer like described above, only one that fits on your faucet for your tub. Lower the cat and carrier into the tub. You might want to apply the shampoo before putting the cat into the carrier. Of course this will make him suspicious, so be prepared for the cat to bolt. Shut the bathroom door. You can also add the shampoo to the carrier after it is in the tub. When you lower him into the tub in the cat carrier he will thrash about (kind of like a washing maching agitator). Allow him to "swim" about for a few minutes. You should talk to him and try to reassure him. Oh yes, have a large towel or two handy for when you are all done to dry the cat. Once he has agitated the water in the tub and has therefore "washed" himself, drain the tub. Use the sprayer with tepid water to rinse the cat thoroughly. drain the water out of the cat carrier and tub. I usually rinsed him at least twice. As you are opening the carrier door, have the towel ready to throw over him as he exits. This will slow him down. When you throw a towel (or blanket) over a cat they will usually stop moving until they figure out what's going on so Scoop him up in the towel(wrapping him up tightly) quickly and dry him as best you can. Be sure to talk to the animal throughout this whole process lovingly. Use more than one towel if necessary. Although the cat might sulk for a couple of hours, he will soon realize that because you didn't drown him that he can trust you and will soon come around. Also feed him something he really likes. This worked with a stray I took in that needed a bath. This cat, whom I named Rufus, stayed with me after that for fifteen years and was very well behaved. He was allowed to go out side and could have left at any time. Wait until the cat is completely dry before allowing him to go outside. This sure beats getting scratched up or bitten, or worse yet being defecated on(which cats have been know to do). (02/19/2005)

By sue

Bathing a Cat

when i bath my cat i take her into the laundry sink i fill it up only so it just covers her legs i then hold her by the collar and pat her for a while before doing anything that way she calms down a bit then i poor cat shampoo on her and massage it. Now this bit gets tricky i hold her really tight and turn on the tap and put her under there until its all rinsed of then i put her in a towel dry her off a bit and then let her do the rest. (03/12/2005)

By cinta

Bathing a Cat

Ok, Now i don't know how well you know this cat, but when i bath my cats, i Round up and extra person to help. and i start by filling the bathe tub with about 6 inches of warm water. Also make sure you ahve a big plastic cup ready , have the extra person grab the cats front and back paws, and use the cup to wet the cat. once the cat is wet, you can let him run around the bath room floor( make sure nothing in floor is important.) and shampoo him while he is walking around the bathroom. this causes less stress for both the cat and you. then let the soap sit in for a few minutes, to kill any fleas, then grap your helper again and hold his paws and rinse him off water out of the cup. i have had cats all my life and i have found that if you dont turn the water on in the tub while you bath them that they are less scared. the loud noise from the spout freaks the cats out.
good luck (07/28/2005)

By Kimmi

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