6 min read

Do You Really Need To Give Your Cat A Bath?

If your cat hates water, here’s what you need to know 🐈💦

If your cat isn’t busy napping, chances are she’s involved in her second favorite activity — grooming.

A cat’s tongue works overtime to sweep away dirt and loose hair, which not only maintains her healthy coat but helps her stay cool and comfortable. With up to 50 percent of a cat’s time devoted to performing daily ablutions — do cats really need our help staying clean?

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According to Dr. Robert Proietto, a veterinarian based in New York City, there is no clear-cut answer to that question: “When should I bathe my cat?” Instead, breaking out the pet shampoo depends on the individual cat’s health and personal grooming habits.

When should I bathe my cat?

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If your cat’s coat looks well-maintained, most pet owners will never need to go near the tub. But if your cat is having trouble with those hard-to-reach spots as she ages, or has a long coat that is constantly becoming dirty or matted, you may need to give her a hand.

“Most healthy cats do not need for us to give them baths; they do a great job of cleaning themselves,” Proietto tells The Dodo. “We do see cats who begin to develop health problems needing baths. Overweight cats or arthritic cats can have difficulty reaching their back, towards the tail, and we can see a greasy appearance, matting and scaling.”

Pet owners who notice these symptoms should first address their cat’s health issues with a veterinarian. A frequent bath may then be recommended to help keep your feline friend clean and free from any skin infections or matting.

How often does my cat need a bath?

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For cats with medical needs, a wash every two weeks will help keep their coat healthy. Bathtime won’t hurt a cat, so if your cat loves water, and will easily allow you to bathe him, Proietto notes that you can give even a healthy cat a gentle scrub every month, if you so choose.  

Giving your cat a bath every now and then can also be beneficial to owners with animal allergies. “Baths can help with dander and shedding, which can help to cut down on allergens,” Proietto says, “but most cats hate it and brushing once a day (with a Furminator) can help accomplish the same thing.”

While bathing can help both cats and their owners, excessive bathing can have unintended health consequences, such as dulling a cat’s coat, or causing dry, flaky, itchy skin.

How do I give my cat a bath safely?

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Proietto recommends using a gentle oatmeal-based shampoo when bathing your pet to prevent allergic reactions, and avoiding products with harsh chemicals.

“If your pet has fleas you should seek care from your veterinary professional and not use over-the-counter products as they can be dangerous,” Proietto explains. “We see cats have severe reactions and even seizures from the toxicity of flea shampoos or other shampoos with chemicals in them.”

If your cat is afraid of water, Proietto recommends trying dry bath products that clean and moisturize as they are brushed into a cat’s fur. “You can also use a moist hand cloth if necessary, although it does not do as good of a job as a bath with water,” Proietto notes. Placing a rubber mat on the floor of the tub or shower can help prevent paws from slipping and scrambling, making the bathing experience more comfortable for your pet.

For cat owners who feel uncomfortable bathing their pet or dealing with a long, matted coat, professional cat groomers are a good option and can be recommended by your vet.