Why – and how – you should bathe your cat!

Does this picture look familiar? If you’ve ever tried to give a cat a bath, I’m pretty sure you’re smiling, or perhaps outright laughing in knowing recognition.

The general school of thought goes that cats don’t ever need a proper “bath” because they do the job very effectively themselves with their rough little brush-like tongues. In addition, anyone who’s ever tried to bathe a cat is “told” in no uncertain terms just how against the concept the cat is! If the cat isn’t used to baths, it usually takes two people, a closed bathroom door, multiple towels and maybe some earplugs to get the job done. And forget about staying dry (or perhaps even scratch-free). It’s true that cats don’t require as much bathing as dogs – especially if they are indoor-only cats – however, for a variety of reasons it’s a good idea to get your cat used to water baths when s/he’s young. If you or anyone in your family suffers from cat allergies, bathing your cat monthly and using special wipes weekly (or even more frequently) is one of the best things you can do to alleviate your sneezing fits. In addition, if your cat is allowed outside, bathing your cat is necessary to prevent disease and parasite infection.

By following the simple tips below, the dreaded procedure of bathing your cat becomes a bit more tolerable – and the end result – a sweet-smelling, fluffier, danderless (well, reduced dander, anyway) feline is well worth it!

1. First, trim your cat’s nails. I can’t emphasize this enough. The last thing you want to do is close your razor-sharp clawed cat in the bathroom with you, only realizing you forgot to cut kitty’s nails AFTER your t-shirt and shoulder blades have been scratched to pieces upon the first splash of water!

2. Brush your kitty – especially if it’s a long-haired cat. For the same reason that it’s best to brush your dog’s coat out before you bathe it, it’s best to remove any mats, tangles, and excess hair before you start the shampooing process. Brushing alone is a daily grooming procedure that can help reduce the amount of hairballs your cat will pass, and in general will help her groom herself with more ease.

3. Make sure you lay out all of your bath implements: cat shampoo and tons of towels are pretty much all you’ll need, though if you think cat toys and/or treats will distract your cat during or after the bath, have those handy too. Make sure you use a shampoo that is gentle enough and non-irritating to a cat’s special sensitive skin and coat. Earthbath has made a special conditioning shampoo just for our finest furred feline friends. pH-balanced for mildness, our shampoo contains nature’s finest blend of natural cleansers, supple conditioners, aloe vera and fragrant essences. Plus, your kitty will smell deliciously of wild cherries and emerge beautifully shiny and soft.

4. We’ll just say this as delicately as possible: wear what you don’t care about – getting wet, scratched, or otherwise defouled (or defiled)! Some people recommend using gloves (garden gloves) to prevent scratches, but I wouldn’t recommend gloves because your cat will be freaked out enough as it is without feeling the cold and impersonal hand of heavy latex around him! I would, instead, recommend corralling your willing (or perhaps not so willing) partner or a friend to help you – one can hold kitty firmly but gently, while the other works the shampoo through the fur, and then rinses kitty off. Usually, in my experience this keeps the flailing to a minimum, though the distressed howls may increase in volume and intensity as duration of bath does.

5. Put cotton balls in kitty’s ears to prevent any accidental water splashes from getting in there – water in the ear canal can be very harmful to cats.

6. Be sweet to your cat when it’s in the middle of what it is likely imagining is a prelude to certain death (see the pic of the adorably terrified kitty to the left for illustrative purposes). Talk to your cat in a reassuring, gentle voice and use gentle massaging motions as you work the shampoo through. This also gives you time to notice if there are any unusual areas of sensitivity on your cat’s body, including any new growths, burrs, or tender spots (to which you should alert your vet).

7. Don’t shampoo the head and face area – for these areas, use hypo-allergenic ear and eye wipes. These are made specially for these delicate areas, and are amazing at getting out eye- and ear-gunk!

8. In between water baths, or perhaps taking the place of them altogether, try one of earthbath’s waterless grooming foams.  Simply rub into your cat’s coat and towel dry. Voila! Gone are: dirt, dander, and whatever else your kitty has managed to get into (before she even knew what “foamed” her)! Here to stay: your mental sanity and an intact (scratch-free) epidermis!

What are your experiences bathing your cats? Do you do it at all? How frequently? For what reason (e.g., smelly cat, human allergies, dirty cat, to rid your cat of outside parasites and pests, or another reason entirely)?  We’d love to hear your stories and see your pics! We’ve seen plenty of earthbath-loving dogs… they shouldn’t have all the fun! We’re pretty sure your cat-bath pictures may be fodder for lots of laughs… Join the earthbath party on Facebook and post your pics and comments there!