What Is the Best Way to Bathe a Cat at Home?

Cats famously hate water—so much, in fact, that some cats can develop kidney stones and other ailments because they aren’t drinking enough water.

Most of the time, cats are great self-cleaners and typically don’t require baths nearly as often as dogs or other pets. But there are instances where giving your cat a bath becomes necessary. Unfortunately, bathing a cat is much easier said than done. Read on for some valuable tips on how to give a cat a bath without getting clawed, as well as some recommendations on how to make the bathing process quick and painless for both you and your cat.

Is Giving Cats Baths a Bad Thing?

While some people may have been told that baths are unhealthy for your cat, the truth is baths are perfectly fine—and, if your cat has gotten dirty from exposure to materials or surfaces that could make them ill, a bath may be important to preserving their health. Baths simply aren’t given to cats very often because they’re capable of handling most of their own day-to-day grooming needs.

While your cat may cough up the occasional hairball, it has proven its ability to maintain its own hygiene when it comes to the health of their hair and skin. Baths only appear to be bad for cats because of their intense negative reaction to any bathing situation.

Bengal cat wet after getting bath

How to Keep a Cat Calm While Bathing

Managing your cat’s mental health is just as important as prepping the bath itself. Although it may be impossible to get your cat to consent to the discomfort of a bath, you may be able to temper their reaction by taking steps to maintain their sense of calm as you ease them into a bath.

Here are some strategies to subdue your cat ahead of a bath:

  • Pick a low-key time of day. If you’re familiar with your cat’s daily routine, including when they’re more active vs. when they’re more subdued, aim to give the bath during one of the more relaxed parts of the day, if possible.
  • Give your cat exercise or play time ahead of the bath.“> A little stimulation and physical activity can relax your cat leading into a bath.
  • Consider giving your cat a calming supplement prior to the bath. Whether you use a natural/herbal supplement, or something prescribed by your vet, make sure your vet approves of the use of this supplement as a means of de-escalating bath time for everyone.

What’s the Best Way to Bathe a Cat at Home?

If you’re serious about avoiding scratches and speeding up the process for both you and your cat, you might want to invest in a cat bath bag. These bags are designed to prevent cat scratches and other incidents by restraining some of your cat’s legs during the bathing process. Cats are placed into a cat bath bag and can then be washed and groomed—including trimming the nails, if you desire—without exposing owners to bloody backlash from their pet.

The best cat bath bag is one that will fit your cat snugly, but not too tightly. It should be made with materials that are resistant to scratching, so your cat can’t damage or wear down the bag over time. It should also have vents and mesh panels to facilitate cleaning of the cat, as well as leg holes you can use when you want to free a cat paw and trim the nails.

For the safety of your cat, you should always purchase a specially made cat bath bag rather than attempting to make one of your own.

Additional Tips on How to Give My Cat a Bath

In addition to using a cat bath bag and deploying strategic calming techniques to ease your cat’s anxiety, here are some extra tips to make the process go smoother, faster, and less painfully than your past bathing experiences:

  • Don’t start the bathing process until you’ve gathered your supplies and prepped a warm bath. The longer your cat is aware of an impending bath, the more time it has to get riled up and fight your efforts.
  • Remain calm when handling your cat. Whether you’re bringing them into the water or attempting to slip their head into a bath bag, always stay calm and move carefully, rather than quickly. Your own behavior and reactions will serve as cues for your cat’s behavior.
  • Use cat-specific shampoo. Human shampoo can expose your cat to harsh chemicals that can lead to discomfort. Cat-specific shampoos will be formulated with your cat’s health and safety in mind.
  • Brush out your cat’s hair after a bath. If you don’t brush your cat’s hair after they’ve been bathed, your cat will be at risk of developing knots that can increase the risk of matting.Few cat owners will tell you that bathing a cat is their idea of a good time. But with the right equipment and approach, you can make this process as painless as possible and support your cat’s hygiene needs when their own self-grooming isn’t enough.