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September 15, 2021 |6 min read

How to Bathe a Cat: Tips From Our Experts

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Some owners never need to give their cat a bath, as these pets are well known for their cleanliness. Nevertheless, there are several reasons why your feline friend might need a little bath time. If they’ve just gotten skunked, are experiencing a flea infestation, or are unable to bathe themself due to illness or being an older cat, you might find that a bath is in order.

But it’s common knowledge that most cats don’t like water, so giving a cat a bath might seem like an impossible task.

We’re letting the cat out of the bag: bathing a cat is not only possible, but also sometimes necessary! Thankfully, we’ve put together this complete guide to walk you through everything you need to know about how to give a cat a bath.

Step 1: Grab Supplies

When it comes to bathing your cat, you’ll need more than soap. In fact, it’s best to come prepared with items suited to particularities of the task. 

Prepare yourself for the following goals:

  • Protection – Heavy gloves and a long sleeve shirt can help spare your hands and arms from stray scratches.
  • Persuasion – Make sure you have a stockpile of your furry BFF’s favorite treats to reward them for cooperation.
  • Cleaning – Rather than simply turning on the faucet, you’ll want to ease your cat into the bathing process using small cloths, cotton balls or pads, cat shampoo (or medicated shampoo if you are treating pests), and a large cup of pitcher for doling out the water bit by bit.
  • Drying – Finally, make sure you have a large towel for drying.

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Step 2: Prepare Your Cat

If possible, it’s a good idea to trim your cat’s nails to ensure less severe scratching during the bath. You may also want to brush them before bath time.

While there’s no good time to bathe your cat, the goal is to make sure that they’re calm and happy before delving into the task.

Step 3: Ready the Bath

Cats can be bathed in a sink, bathtub, or plastic tub. Complete the following tasks before introducing your cat to the water: 

  • Fill the sink or tub with just a few inches of lukewarm water (never hot!)
  • Fill the large cup or pitcher with lukewarm water
  • Gather all supplies nearby
  • Bring your cat to the bathing area
  • Give your cat some treats 

Step 4: Take the Plunge! 

Eventually, there’s no way around it—bath time has to begin.

Place your cat gently in the water and follow these steps when bathing cat: 

  • Wet your cat – While holding them in the water, pour a small amount of water on your cat’s coat and tail, but avoid the face. 
  • Lather with shampoo – Follow the instructions on the product to determine how much shampoo to use and create a lather. 
  • Rinse – While holding them in the water, pour more water over your cat’s body and tail and repeat to thoroughly rinse. 
  • Wash the face and ears – Use a cloth to carefully clean your cat’s face. Your cat’s ear can also be gently wiped on the outside with cotton balls or pads (never use Q-tips). 
  • Dry – When all of the soap residue is gone, grab the large towel and gently wrap it around your cat to take them out of the sink or tub. Give your cat a few more treats as you spend some time drying them off with the towel (most cats will not tolerate a hairdryer). 

Voila! Your kitty is clean.

Tips for Specific Situations 

While the steps above should ensure success in most circumstances, there are a couple situations that call for additional considerations. 

How to Bathe a Cat That Hates Water

If you have a cat with a special hatred of water, it’s best to try to acclimate them well in advance of giving them their first bath. You can get them used to being wet by dipping their paws in water and rewarding them with a treat.

If acclimation is not possible, have lots of treats ready and bathe your cat as quickly as possible. 

How to Bathe a Cat That Got Sprayed by a Skunk

Skunk spray requires a special concoction. You may have heard of the tomato juice trick, though this won’t work to fully neutralize the odor. Instead, use the following remedy to safely and effectively bathe your cat if it is sprayed.

Mix together: 

  • 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap

Using rubber gloves and avoiding contact with your cat’s  eyes, rub this mixture all over your cat’s fur and then thoroughly rinse, as peroxide can act as a bleaching agent on fur. Dispose of the mixture immediately after use. 

Continue to Care for Your Cat With PrettyLitter

While bathing a cat requires thorough preparation, steely nerves, and some serious gloves, you’ll get through the process together.

The good news? Some aspects of cat care are much easier.

PrettyLitter, the World’s Smartest Cat Litter, is designed to help pet parents recognize feline health issues at their first sign. Through color changes in the litter, PrettyLitter indicates when your cat might require a trip to the vet.

PrettyLitter is a smart and simple way to keep you and your cat happy and healthy. Order your first bag today and experience the magic for yourself.


ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. How to [Safely] Bathe Your Cat.

The Humane Society of the United States. What to do about skunks.

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Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.


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