Bathing Your Cat

Catherine Forman

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.

orange tabby in the sink

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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 267 Posts
August 28, 20080 found this helpful
Top Comment

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 Donna

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 Vicki

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 ellie

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 Annie Rios Hill

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 lynda

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

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
November 7, 20171 found this helpful

Good idea, but I doubt my 17 lb cat, Teddy would go for it but I will try! I also liked the idea about putting the cats in a pillow case up to the neck LOL! Both are good ideas!

Reply Was this helpful? 1

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