How to Bathe a Cat

Stephanie Dube Dwilson

Even though your cat takes care of most of his cleaning needs himself, you still need to bathe your cat every now and then, especially when he's really dirty or has fleas. Bathing a cat isn't necessarily the easiest feat, depending on your kitty's personality, but it's not impossible either. If you're wondering how to bathe your cat, remember that patience and a calm demeanor are key.

When Does Your Cat Need a Bath?

Cats do a great job of keeping themselves clean. It's not unusual for a cat to spend 30 to 50 percent of his day grooming himself.1 If you have more than one cat, you may even notice they groom each other from time to time. Under normal circumstances, an extra bath from you isn't needed too frequently.

However, if your cat gets extra dirty or gets into something sticky or smelly, you definitely need to give your cat a bath.

If you think your cat has fleas, a bath can help kill the fleas. Adams Flea & Tick Cleansing Shampoo for Cats is a great choice. It prevents flea eggs from hatching for 30 days, and it kills fleas, ticks, and lice. The Adams Plus Flea & Tick Foaming Shampoo & Wash for Cats and Kittens is another excellent choice. It has all the flea and tick fighting power of the cleansing shampoo, but it comes with a delightful coconut scent.

Preparing for the Bath

Some cats handle baths just fine, while others get really stressed. If you can start bathing your cat from the time he's a kitten, then he'll get used to baths. If that's not an option, follow these steps to help prepare for a smoother bath time.

  • When it's time for a bath, place a mat or towel on the bottom of the sink or tub to keep your cat from slipping. This will make him feel more at ease.
  • Try to pick a place that's warm, with dry towels nearby, and where you can reach your cat easily.
  • Brush your cat first to get out the tangles.
  • Make sure the water is warm (not hot) because cats are more comfortable when they're not cold.
  • Put a floating ball or toy in the bath to keep your kitty distracted.
  • Have a soft, warm bed ready for him to snuggle in when you're finished, and he's dried off a bit. A self-warming bed might be great for this.

How to Safely Bathe Your Cat

Run a few inches of lukewarm water into the sink or tub and place your kitty in the water. Gently put water on your cat, scooping the water with your hands, and speak soothingly. Some cats may prefer a low-volume shower head with a gentle stream of water from above because it reminds them of rain.2

Work a small amount of cat shampoo over your cat's body, but avoid getting any soap (or water) into his ears, eyes, or nose. If you're using a medicated flea shampoo, then read the directions closely. You might need to leave the medicated shampoo on your cat for a few minutes. You may also need to use a regular shampoo too, depending on the instructions.3 Watch your kitty closely to make sure he doesn't lick himself.

Thoroughly rinse his entire coat with warm water. This is especially important because your cat will wash himself after the bath and will surely lick up any shampoo you missed. After rinsing, wrap him in a fluffy towel, dry him off, and be sure to keep him away from any drafts until he is completely dry. Give him some healthy treats when you're all done, so he'll develop a positive association with bath time.

If you want to give your cat on-going protection from fleas, use the Adams Plus Flea & Tick Spot On for Cats & Kittens. After your cat is completely dry, squeeze the spot-on treatment onto your cat's skin between his shoulder blades. If you use the treatment before giving your kitty a bath, wait at least 24 hours before sudsing up your cat. This treatment kills fleas, flea eggs and larvae and prevents a flea reinfestation for 30 days.

The first few times you bathe your cat may be the most stressful. You might need to keep a firm but gentle grip on him so he doesn't escape. Over time, he'll learn to tolerate a bath better, and he might even start to enjoy the extra attention.

1. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. "Cats that Lick Too Much." Vet.Cornell.Edu,

2. Eastridge Animal Hospital. "How to Bath your Cat and Survive Scratch-Free!",

3. Barnette, Catherine. "How to Bathe Cats with Medicated Shampoo." VCA Hospitals,

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