How to wash a cat

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How to wash a cat

So far on the blog we’ve talked about dogs, dog breeds and dog grooming but we haven’t forgotten that a great deal of our customers use our products for grooming other animals too. It’s not just dogs that need a good wash or a brush and people are using our pet grooming tables and baths for rabbits, guinea pigs and wild rescue animals.

But the second most popular pet getting the Gravitis treatment after man’s best friend is the cat - echoing their popularity in the UK where there are currently around 9 million dogs and 8 million cats. 45% of households own a pet and many of these keep more than one animal. 

However - whilst many people wash their dogs quite regularly - cats don’t seem to go in for the salon treatment quite as often, if at all and most people never wash their cat during it’s lifetime. This is because - unlike dogs - cats are far more likely to groom themselves and can often be seen licking and preening their fur. So why would you want to wash a cat – and how do you go about it?

Cute fluffy cat photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on UnsplashCute fluffy cat: Photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash

Why would you wash a cat?

Most cat owner never wash their cat, but there are exceptions to this – if a cat has rolled in something they can’t get off, they have long fur that has become matted or they are unable to groom themselves. Many breeds of show cat are bathed regularly – particularly the longhaired varieties such as Maine Coons and Persian cats. Most kitties hate water and so find bath time very stressful but if a kitten has been bathed regularly from a young age then they become accustomed to the process and generally grow to enjoy it. If you’re planning on washing your cat regularly, then it best to start getting them into the routine when they are a kitten - but don’t wash them more than every 4-6 weeks as their skin can become very dry.

I'll wash myself thanks! Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on UnsplashI'll wash myself thanks! Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

How to wash a cat

Assuming your cat is not bathed regularly, if you’re planning on bathing a cat then it is advisable to assemble everything you need close to hand before you begin.

If you’re washing the cat in your own tub or sink then some non-slip rubber matting is advisable – preferably get two pieces - one for the bath and one for the table where you intend to groom your cat afterwards. If you have show cats that you are wash regularly then you may want to check out our range of pet baths and grooming tables which all have non slip tread and a range of features designed to keep your tools to hand whilst also keeping your pet comfortable and secure during the grooming process.

Don’t use any old shampoo – you can get special cat shampoo and conditioner from your vet or pet store. This is specially designed for use with cats and kittens and does not contain any harmful chemicals, which will taste horrible when they inevitably lick themselves afterwards. A cat’s skin is very different to human skin, with a different Ph balance so don’t assume it’s OK to use your regular (or even baby) shampoo on them. If you’re only planning on washing your cat once then see if your vet or pet store has some free samples of cat shampoo in sachets so that you don’t have to fork out on a whole bottle. You will also need several clean dry towels and a brush for detangling the fur.

Part fill the bath or sink with warm (not hot) water and gently lower your cat in. depending on what your cat enjoys you can reassure them with treats or strokes, or if they are playful a floating toy or ping pong ball to keep them distracted. A nervous cat may bite and scratch or struggle to escape. It is important to stay calm. Do not scold the cat and be patient during the washing process. Allow plenty of time and don’t decide to wash your cat if you are in a hurry or need to be somewhere else. Get someone to assist you if necessary, to distract the cat and if they are really distressed then it may be necessary to stop and ask for professional help, either from your vet or a professional groomer, depending on your reasons for washing kitty in the first place.

Once the cat is reasonably settled, begin to wet them using a shower hose on a gentle setting or a jug of warm water, depending on your set up. Try to avoid getting the cat’s head wet or getting any water in their ears. Then gently work the shampoo into their fur. If you have a long haired cat then try to work any knots or matted sections out of the fur with your fingers and then gently rinse the soap off using clean water.

Cat with a tap: Photo by Kazuky Akayashi on UnsplashCat with a tap: Photo by Kazuky Akayashi on Unsplash

How to dry a cat

Most cats refer to be towelled down rather than dried with a hair dryer, due to the noise although again if your cat is groomed regularly for showing then they might enjoy a gentle blow dry after their wash and become accustomed to the sensation. If your cat does not seem likely to enjoy a blow dry then - after a gentle towel drying - it is best to let them dry naturally in a warm room. If you are washing your cat because it has matted or tangled fur then be sure to use a cat conditioning product during the bathing process, brushing the fur once it is fully dry to remove the tangles. If you have more than one cat in your house then you may notice that the cat that was not bathed is confused by the scent of the cat that has been bathed as they might not smell as they should. If this happens, keep them apart for a few hours and rub them with the same dry towel when they are both dry in order to make them smell familiar to one another once again.

Cats that love water

It’s not always tricky to bathe a cat, but it can be. Our best advice is to make sure you are fully prepared before you start, with everything you need close to hand. Some breeds of cat actually love water so you might be pleasantly surprised once you get them in the tub, especially if you have a Bengal, Sphynx or Abyssinian kitty.

Bengal Cats Love water:Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash Bengal Cats love water: Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Have you bathed your cat recently? Perhaps you have some tips for kitty bath time too. Let us know in the comments section below!

(Main Pic: Ginger kitten gets a bath: Photo by Dan Wayman on Unsplash)


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