Washing A Cat: Tips For A Clean Cat

Cats are naturally very clean animals, and do a pretty good job of keeping themselves spick and span. Sometimes, though, they can end up in a mess that they just can’t fix themselves. Maybe they’ve been on a muddy adventure outdoors, suffered from an upset stomach, or gotten into mischief in the kitchen - whatever the mess is, sometimes you need to know how to wash a cat.

If your cat’s looking a little dishevelled but isn’t particularly dirty, then grooming your cat might be enough. But when you need to know how to clean a cat, there are some key steps to make it as stress-free for your cat as possible - and get back to a clean cat in no time at all.


How To Wash A Cat

Cats aren’t always the biggest fans of bath time, but sometimes it’s the only route to a clean cat. There are a number of things you can do to help take the stress out of the process, both for your cat and for yourself! 


Prepare the room

To keep the process as quick and smooth as possible, make sure you’re fully prepared in advance. Get all the equipment you’ll need and make sure it’s within arm’s reach - and put down some towels to try and limit spills and splashes.


Brush before

Ideally, it’s best to brush out any bigger pieces of dirt or matted fur before you wash your cat, which can not only simplify the washing process but also prevent any issues with too much dirt going down the drain and causing problems. 


Trim claws beforehand

It’s recommended to trim a cat’s claws every 2-3 weeks, and if they’ve not been recently trimmed, it can be a good idea to do this before a bath. Cats may become stressed during bath time, so freshly trimmed claws can prevent them from being able to do too much damage if they claw at you.


Use a non-slip mat

A good grippy surface on the bottom of the bath (or whatever else you’re using to wash them) can help your cat to feel more secure. If they can’t get a good grip, they might panic and start slipping or sliding around in an effort to scamper out of the bath. 


Use suitable cat or kitten shampoo

This one should go without saying: don’t use your human shampoo on your cats! Only use shampoo that’s suitable for and specially formulated for cats or kittens. Cats have sensitive noses, and the scents in human products can be overwhelming for them. Cat shampoos are formulated to be mild and gentle on their sensitive skin, and are generally unscented to avoid any stressful smells.


Don’t use hot water

Keep the water temperature lukewarm. While no one likes an ice cold bath, using water that’s too hot can also cause your cat to overheat or even scald them. 


Pour over, don’t dunk

Cats would never willingly get under water, so keep this in mind when washing them. Gently pour water over them when washing them, either with a jug or a gentle setting on the shower head.


Rinse thoroughly

While your cat might be in a hurry to get out of the bath, it’s important that you rinse them thoroughly to prevent any shampoo residue being left on their fur or skin. Not only can this end up causing skin irritation, but leftover shampoo can also be ingested by your cat when they groom themselves after the bath.


Dry well

If you’ve made it through the washing, then there’s one more important thing to consider: drying! When considering how to dry a cat, towel drying is a good start. Keep a warm soft towel by the bath and place them on this after they’ve been washed. Wrap them in the towel and sit with them for a while, allowing the towel to absorb a lot of the excess water. 


Get someone to help

A second set of hands can make the process of washing your cat much easier. A friend or family member known to your cat can help to speed up the process and help it run more smoothly.


Positive reinforcement

After the bath, don’t forget the treats! Positive reinforcement will help your cat to realise that the process isn’t so bad after all, and make future bath times a little less unappealing. 


How Often Should You Wash Your Cat?

Outdoor cats that get dirty may benefit from more regular baths, every 4-6 weeks, but indoor cats may only need washing 1-2 times per year, if at all. Try to limit baths to every 4-6 weeks to prevent skin irritation, and remember that they only need washing if they’ve gotten particularly dirty. 


Reasons A Cat Might Need A Wash

Cats shouldn’t need to be washed too often, but there are some occasions when a bath just can’t be avoided. If you’re unsure whether to wash or groom your cat, here are a few situations when washing your cat is probably the best option:


  • They’ve had diarrhoea - If your cat has been unwell with diarrhoea, this often calls for a bath. In this situation, your cat will struggle to get themselves clean and it’s the best and most hygienic option to give them a helping hand. 
  • They’ve had another poop-based incident - Some cats, and especially kittens, may lack the necessary litter tray skills to avoid their own poop. If they accidentally step in poop, they may get it over themselves and any other cats in the household as well. To save both themselves and your floors and surfaces, this probably means it’s bath time.
  • They’ve rolled in something - If your cat has laid down in something or gotten some mystery filth in their fur, you might need to reach for the cat shampoo. Outdoor cats can get into all kinds of scrapes, but even indoor cats might get into some mischief that requires a bath to get back to a clean cat again.
  • Your cat is a hairless breed - While furry cats only need bathing in exceptional circumstances, hairless cats have slightly more demanding grooming schedules. Due to their sensitive skin and to help with the build-up of natural oils, it’s recommended to give hairless cats regular baths.

If your cat has gotten particularly dirty, you can help to speed up their bath time and keep their stress levels down by focussing only on the areas that really need it. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse away any shampoo!


We all want a happy, clean cat, and learning how to wash a cat will help you in those situations when your cat’s cleaning skills just won’t cut it. 

If you want to learn more about cat care, take a look at our top tips for keeping cats cool.



What is the easiest way to clean a cat?

Gently washing a cat in the bath with a shampoo suitable for cats and kittens is the easiest way to get a cat clean. 


How do you clean a cat without a bath?

If you need to clean your cat but you don’t have a bath tub, you can use the base of your shower or a sufficiently large plastic tub on your kitchen or bathroom floor.


Should I bathe a smelly cat?

If your cat is smelly because they got themselves dirty, then you can gently bathe them. If you’re unsure why your cat is smelly and you think it may be related to a health condition, always speak to their vet.


Can I use baby wipes to clean my cat?

No, you should not use baby wipes to clean a cat. They can irritate a cat’s skin, leave residue on the cat’s fur that will be ingested during grooming, and any perfumed scents can be stressful for a cat.


Can I use fairy liquid to wash my cat?

No, do not use any soap detergents or human shampoo products to wash your cat. Only wash your cat with shampoos suitable for cats or kittens.

16/10/2023 by NatuTeam

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