Monday, November 30, 2009 11:06 AM

Is It Ever Necessary to Bathe Your Cat?

If you have an indoor cat, the short answer to this question is: Probably not. Cats, as we all know, have an innate self-cleaning system that is much more efficient than anything we mere humans could devise. Unless your indoor cat gets into something toxic, which most likely will not occur if you have "cat-proofed" your home, your feline will probably be able to live a long, happy life without ever being subjected to this indignity. This is a good thing for both of you, since cats really don't like being bathed. The only exception I can think of is show cats, who would be trained early on to at least tolerate a bath now and then, even if they don't actively enjoy it!

Outdoor cats, however, are another matter. The most common reason for bathing a cat is flea infestation. Another is cat fights. Males often come home covered in saliva, dirt, and blood. A gentle bathing will remove all these nasties, and clean any wounds as well. Wandering cats are also apt to get into all sorts of things that they shouldn't. Some of these are toxic, such as paint, motor oil, anti-freeze, fertilizers and pesticides. Cats can get these things on their paws just by checking out the neighborhood on their daily rounds. When they clean themselves, they can ingest these poisons and become ill. Always check your cat's paws when he comes in, and keep a moist washcloth to wipe his paws (this also will keep your floors cleaner!).

If the time comes when you need to give kitty a good scrubbing, here are a few tips. It will be easier on your back to use a double sink rather than the bathtub. Gently lift your pet into the sink, which you have already filled with a couple inches of warm water. Cooing constantly, use your hands to wet the cat's fur completely. If you know that your cat will tolerate the sprayer, you may use it; otherwise, it's probably best not to chance it! Use a gentle, low-fragrance shampoo. There is no need to use flea soap; fleas will drown in the soapy water anyway. Keep water and soap away from your cat's ears, mouth and eyes. I have read tips that suggest putting a bit of petroleum jelly in the corner of each eye to keep soap out, but cats really dislike this and will paw at their faces to try to remove it. Just be very careful to only bathe from the neck down, and you should be fine.

When it is time to rinse, use the standing water to remove as much soap as you can, squeegee the cat's fur with your hands, and lift kitty into the other sink. You should have a few inches of warm rinse water here already, to finish the job. I don't recommend draining the water until later, as this often frightens cats. Have a large, absorbent towel to wrap him in which will absorb most of the moisture. Take him into a warm room, perhaps pre-warmed with a space heater, and let him lick himself dry. This may take a while, so leave a litter box and drinking water in there with him. Most cats don't like hair dryers, but you can try using one on very low heat to speed the process a bit, if kitty doesn't mind.

Once you have experienced bathing a cat, chances are you won't want to repeat it. The best way to avoid going through this again? Keep your cat(s) indoors!
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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