Do Cats Need Baths? What To Know

Four minutes
May 11, 2023

Cats and baths don’t normally mix. However, there are some situations where bathing your kitty may be necessary. This can be traumatic – for both you and your cat – because they may resist your efforts (with sharp claws) or see it as a violation of trust.

That’s why it’s helpful to know when a bath is necessary, how often they should be given, and how to do it as gently as possible. That way you can help keep your cat clean and healthy, while also maintaining a good relationship with your favorite feline.

When Should You Bathe Cats?

According to veterinarians, cats can actually be very good at keeping themselves clean. They do this by licking themselves using their rough tongues to remove fur clumps and foreign objects. Meanwhile, their saliva naturally spreads protective oils over their coat and skin to help them maintain their glossy coat.1

In fact, a bath may not be necessary very often, if at all, if you:1

However, you may need to give your cat a bath in a few situations.

When they’re unable to clean themselves

If your cat is overweight, suffers from arthritis, or has other medical conditions that prevent them from reaching all the parts of their body when they self-groom, you may need to give them baths. Otherwise, their coat may become greasy or sticky, their fur may become matted and their skin can become itchy, flaky, or even infected.1

If they’re covered with inedible or toxic substances

If your cat becomes covered with something like paint or sap that they shouldn’t eat, it’s imperative that you give them a bath right away so they won’t ingest something toxic while trying to clean themselves.

If they’re frequently outdoors

If you have an outdoor cat, you may need to bathe them if they get especially dirty, or if there’s a risk that they’ve been exposed to ticks or other disease-spreading parasites. Cats with longer hair may also require bathing more than a cat with short hair, especially if they’re active or if they have a skin condition like dandruff.1

How Often Should You Bathe a Cat?

If you do have a cat that needs regular baths, like a longer-haired breed such as a Maine coon or a short-haired breed with a dense coat, they’ll probably benefit from getting a bath every few months to prevent fur matting.

At the same time, hairless breeds may need more frequent bathing because they secrete an oily residue that can stain your fabrics, especially when they get dirty. If you aren’t sure, talk to your vet for recommendations.

Cat after bath

Pet Insurance Can Help Cover Cat Skin-Condition Costs

A Quick Guide to Bathing Cats

If you do need to give your cat a bath, be aware that your cat may become aggressive or irritated when you try to bathe them.

Getting your cat into a regular grooming routine can help ease the stress and tension for you both! Plus, if you start them at a very young age, they can almost (dare we say it)… enjoy getting a bath.

If your cat isn’t a frequent bather, there are steps you can take to make bath time less stressful. You can do this in two ways.

Lay the groundwork before bath time

Setting your cat up for a successful bath should start before you turn on the water. To make a bath for your cat less stressful you could:2

  • Bathe your cat when they are mellow or tire them out with a play session beforehand.
  • Trim your cat’s nails before bathing in case they try to scratch you.
  • Place cat-friendly scents like chamomile or lavender in the bathing area to help keep your cat calm.
  • Brush your cat first to remove any loose hair or mats.

Bathe your cat with care

Once you’ve done the prep work, there are additional steps you can take to help make your cat’s bath as stress-free as possible.3

  • Use a rubber mat in the sink or tub to keep your cat from slipping.
  • Use a hand-help sprayer to wet your pet – don’t spray directly in the cat’s ears, eyes, or nose.
  • Use a solution of one part cat shampoo to five parts water or follow the product instructions.
  • When washing your cat, start at the back of the head and work toward the tail, and avoid the face, ears, and eyes until the end.
  • When cleaning your cat’s face, eyes, and ears, use a washcloth to wipe your pet’s face with water or a more diluted solution of shampoo.
  • Rinse your cat thoroughly with lukewarm water – make sure all soap residue has been removed.
  • Wrap your kitty in a large towel and dry them in a warm place – use a blow dryer on its lowest setting and untangle their fur with a wide-tooth comb.
  • Praise your cat and reward them with a special treat for a successful bath.

Consider Cat Insurance

Looking for ways to protect your nice, clean kitty?  Consider investing in a cat insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance. Get your free quote today.

Help Keep Your Cat Healthy and Happy

1 “When You Should—And Shouldn’t—Give Your Cat A Bath.” Texas A&M School of Veterinary Sciences

2 “How to Bathe a Cat or Kitten Without Getting Scratched,” Daily Paws

3 “How to Give a Stress-Free Cat Bath,” Michelson Found Animals Foundation

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