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How to Bathe a Cat

Sometimes it just needs to be done.  If your cat has gotten itself into some serious dirt, or if they’re a kitten who can get literally eaten alive by fleas, a cat sometimes needs more than a licking.  If you don’t want to get totally scratched to pieces, here’s some advice.

Kittens are going to be more receptive and easier to handle than adult cats.  If you have the fortune of getting ahold of cats when they are kittens, plan for the future, and get involved in their grooming.  Even if you don’t need to, offer to wipe them down with a damp washcloth and/or wet hands.  Most will enjoy this, especially in the summer.  Fleas don’t just jump on for the ride.  They lay eggs and drop feces.  Cats are very clean animals, so make some good use of petting time by brushing and wiping them down frequently.  Get them used to seeing water and getting wet.  Even some adult cats might go for it.

Use lukewarm water, not too warm and not too cold.  Their skin is very sensitive.

Usually you can get by with a wipe down.  In the rare case that you will need to put them in the water, the proceedure should be as follows:

  1. Get all your supplies ready.  You’ll need a wash tub or sink, a large towel, and a plastic detangling brush with balled bristles.  If you’re trying to wash off fleas, you will need a cat shampoo or a gentle fragrance free baby shampoo.  Also, wear protective clothing like a thick flannel long sleeved sweatshirt.  The cat will probably try to scratch or cling to you.
  2. Fill the tub or sink with no more than 2 cm. of water.  More than this, and the cat will panic and stay panicked.  They should be able to stand or lie down in the tub without the water reaching their chin.
  3. Try to keep the cat calm, and grab them gently but firmly by the scruff of their neck.
  4. Get them into the tub, and work quickly.  It may help to have one person doing the holding, and another doing the washing and rinsing.
  5. Afterwards, wrap them in the towel, and try to calm them down.  If they really want to escape, let them go, but some cats will accept the hugs and drying off.
  6. Let them free to lick themselves dry.  It helps if you put the towel someplace where they will come to it to dry themselves.
  7. Give them a very nice treat.

…and that’s about it.  It’s very simple, but just kind of dangerous.  Good luck!

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