How Do You Bathe a Cat And Survive The Experience?

Sparrow Big Bath - Do Cats Need Baths?

How do you bathe a cat? Madness, you let them do it themselves…right? Cats spend 30-50% of their time grooming themselves, so they don’t need help from us in the bathroom department…right? Well, yes. Most of the time.

There are some cats who, despite this almost obsessive cleaning, are just plain slobs. Their personal hygiene isn’t great and they end up sticky or greasy and just plain gross. Elderly or overweight cats can’t reach all their bits and sick cats can’t be bothered, so they can also end up greasy or sticky and just plain gross. And then there are the special cases, like young Sparrow, who sometimes get themselves into dirty situations that they don’t want to put in their mouths and you don’t want in your home. Like this:


It’s a common myth that cats hate water, and this may be true for some, but it’s mostly a myth. However, even cats that like water may not necessarily love having a bath. Even if they smell bad. The same can be said for humans when faced with a smelly, sticky, gross cat, but you gotta do what you gotta do. So how do you bathe a cat and make it out alive? As a survivor I can tell you it is possible, you just have to be brave and prepared.


Warning! Warning! Warning!

As you probably know, when a cat gets angry or stressed painful things can happen. No matter how chill and loving kitty is, when faced with an uncomfortable situation he will claw and bite and thrash to get away. For this reason, I recommend having someone help you with your cat bathing mission, ideally a person the kitty likes, who can keep him calm and steady during the bathing process. One person holds and soothes the ferocious beast, while the other does the bathing. It’s also a good idea to prepare your cat by trimming his claws before bath time so that if things do get ugly the damage to you and your assistant will be minimal. A good brushing will get rid of any loose hair or dirt and make your job much easier.


Getting Prepared

The idea is to keep the process quick and stress-free for everybody involved, especially the cat. Have everything prepared before introducing kitty to the tub. For your own comfort and ergonomics, it might be best to bathe kitty in the kitchen sink, so you don’t have to kneel or bend down for the duration. Things to do in your preparation include:

  • Regulate the water temperature – it should be lukewarm, you don’t want to shock your cat with too hot or too cold. A tub or sink with a hose attachment is best so you don’t have to lower a scaredy cat into a pool of water.
  • Bathroom Cats - How Do You Bathe a Cat?Place something non-slip in the tub – this works to keep kitty stable and calm. A rubber mat or a wet towel should do the trick.
  • Choose a shampoo specifically for felines – something with no scent and no additives is best. Remember whatever you put on your cat is going to end up in your cat when he grooms. Look for a shampoo that is all-natural and organic, mild and very gentle.
  • Keep several dry towels within arms reach – you will need these as soon as you’re done with the water.
  • Calm your cat with a soothing flower essence such as Rescue Remedy. This can be given orally or applied to the tips of kitty’s ears with your fingers.
  • DO NOT attempt to bathe your cat when he’s jazzed up and ready to play. If kitty is bouncing off the walls, put bath time off until he’s a bit more mellow.


Time to Get Clean

Now that your cat and the tub are both prepared, it’s time for the grand introduction. If you’ve used Rescue Remedy or something similar your cat should be nice and calm but there’s every chance kitty could freak out and try to bolt when the water starts – if this happens, just let him go. A frightened cat is a dangerous creature and the name of this game is to keep your cat as stress-free as possible. If your cat bolts, let him go and try again later. If your cat absolutely will not co-operate and desperately needs a wash you might be best to take him to a professional groomer or even to the vet’s office to get this done.

Step-by-Step Cat Bath

  1. Have your helper gently lower the cat into the tub while talking and petting in a soothing manner. Praising kitty during the whole process will help to keep him calm.
  2. Using your hose or a plastic pitcher, begin wetting your cat from the back of the neck right down to the tail. Do not wet the face or head.
  3. Once your cat is thoroughly wet, apply your cat shampoo and massage gently all over. Be sure to wash armpits, belly, bottom and tail.
  4. Rinse thoroughly, making sure to get all those tricky areas; under the belly, armpits, bottom Bathroom Sparrow - Bathe Catand tail. Take care to rinse away all the shampoo, as any residue left behind can become a skin irritant.
  5. Wash kitty’s face with a damp washcloth. Do not use shampoo as this could get into his eyes and cause much anger.
  6. Wring out your cat by running your hands down his body, starting at the back of the neck to remove excess water.
  7. Immediately wrap your cat in a dry towel and hold and cuddle him in a warm room until he’s completely dry. Have a couple of extra dry towels on hand to help with this.
  8. Praise the life out of your cat for doing such a good job!



So now you have a clean, dry cat and you survived the process! Well done! Remember to lavish your cat with praise and treats and pour yourself a congratulatory drink. You both deserve it.


Are you a stinky kitty bathing survivor? Share your battle stories in the comments below…

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  1. Love this! The title of your site in itself gave me a good little laugh. I used to have a sweet little one who did not like her baths.. she was quite the ferocious lady when faced with bath-time! Lol, I could have used some pointers back then. Great website.

    1. Isn’t it amazing how cats can go from sweet little ball of fluff to nothing but teeth and claws in 0 seconds flat? Such strange creatures…thanks for the compliment, Jen.

  2. I love your post. I used to have 2 cats at home and I love them. I know it’s hard sometimes to give them bath. Cats are so chill and loving but when they are angry, painful things could happen. One time I was laying on my couch and my cat was on top of me. Someone opened my door, my cat got scared and ran away. However, her claws accidentally scratch me. It was painful. I still love them though. Cat is just a loving creature.

    1. I agree, cats are wonderfully unpredictable and loving animals. You just never know what you’re going to get! Thanks for reading!

  3. Lol, this was a great post and I really found the title to be funny. Petting the cat in a soft and slow manner is often overlooked isn’t it? Oftentimes you will see cat owners just throw their cat in the bath without a care in the world. This just results in a distressed cat that’s more than likely to scratch you. I think if you can make sure the cat is calm right from the get-go, it’s simply a breeze after that. What’s your experience with this? Cheers.

    1. Well…there was this one time, Sparrow had a been playing with a dead bird and came home absolutely REEKING of it. This is why he’s not allowed outside any more. Anyway, I didn’t have anybody to help me but he was still pretty small so we both came out of it uninjured. He didn’t exactly like the experience, but he took it pretty well, which means he yelled a lot but cause no harm. I wouldn’t try it alone again now that he’s fully grown.

  4. Excellent article for a first-time cat owner or a newbie to kitties. I’m so glad you’ve pointed out that it’s a myth that cats hate water. They just need to be introduced to it the right away and your step-by-step guide really helps. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Andrea. It’s true! Cats can be pretty good with just about anything if you introduce it the right way.

  5. I can’t bear to think about sick pets. How nice of you to post something like this. You have lots of pet love in your heart!

    1. I do, I do! My little Sparrow is often sick, so I do my best to make sure he’s happy and relaxed at all times. Thanks for your lovely comment, Eric!

  6. This is life saving tips to bathe cats. I remember the very first time I tried to bathe my cat, I had to go to doctor for the scratches I got. I was totally unprepared. Now I got some experience but still it’s a challenging job. After reading your post, I realized how to do it properly. Thanks a lot for sharing this!

    1. Sometimes you just have to learn the hard way…I hope your scratches have healed. Thanks for reading, Demi.

  7. What an awesome and amusing article! I can remember bathing my cats years ago and it was a two person job and usually done in the sink. We learned the hard way not to mess with kitty when kitty was irate! I liked your point about the shampoo, I had not thought of that. Good information for new cat owners to have.

  8. Hello there,

    I had a cat. She passed away 4 months ago and she was 20 years old.
    Most of the times it was very difficult to bath her because she didn’t like the water and for her it was a stressful experience.
    However I was always trying to calm her down and to use the best shampoos on the market in order to please her.
    She just didn’t like it. Moreover after the bath, she didn’t want to play with me for hours as a revenge.
    Cats are awesome animals. Thank you for the great tips!

  9. Hi Shirley,
    My daughter and I recently adopted an adorable kitty. We are always searching for good tips and this one has given us plenty to help us along. Rye kitty has the softest, cashmere-like fur and we would love to keep it that way. Any suggestions in the shampoo/conditioner department?

    By the way, Sparrow is so adorable! Love to see more pictures of Sparrow – have her only little picture section for our enjoyment!


    1. Hi Cindy, congratulations! Kittens are so much fun, aren’t they? I recommend a natural, feline specific shampoo such as this one, but you probably don’t need to worry too much about bathing unless Rye kitty gets into something sticky or smelly or gross. Regular brushing and a high quality diet will also work wonders for keeping that coat soft and silky smooth.

      Sparrow is an absolute poser, he loves the camera. Definitely thinking about making a Sparrow gallery (a Sparrelly?) here, will think harder now that you’ve mentioned it. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Wow, I feel like I want to be your cat, you really treat your cat well, I feel so pampered just by reading your post. Your pet must be one of the luckiest in the world!

    Great tips you have provided here, I am sure bathing time is quite a struggle for many people and after your post here, there will be more survivors 🙂

    1. Haha thanks Moon! He might not think I’m so great when I have to bath him again soon – poor little bugger has a bad case of dandruff at the moment. As if he didn’t have enough problems already!

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