Do cats really need baths: If so, how often?

Cat being showered and washed

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Folks who are new to kitty guardianship often ask if bathing a cat is necessary, and if so, how often should they be bathed?

In this writer’s opinion, since cats come equipped with perfect grooming tools – teeth and a rough tongue – their instinctual drive to keep their coats clean and shiny, makes bathing a cat necessary only when they have gotten into something that’s really sticky or smelly.

This said there are a few feline breeds that require bathing on a regular basis. For example, the Sphynx lacks a sufficient hair coat to absorb the oils on their skin.

These kitties need to be bathed at least once a week to prevent their pores from being clogged which can lead to major skin irritations. And the oil on their skin attracts dirt. They can become smelly and sticky. The attraction of the hairless coat no longer appeals in quite the same way. They are relatively high maintenance cat companions.


Some feline experts recommend that Persians should be groomed daily, and should be bathed fairly regularly to keep them clean and sweet-smelling. Also, they need their faces cleaned regularly because of tear duct overflow fur to blocked tear ducks. This causes staining under the eye down the side of the nose on both sides. Additionally, to keep their coats in top condition, show cats are often bathed prior to competition.

In case the situation arises where a kitty is in need of a bath, what are some of the steps a feline guardian can take to make bath-time a lot easier and less stressful for both the kitty and for themselves?

Timing is everything: The best time to give a cat a bath is when the kitty is feeling relaxed and mellow. Some people recommend playing with their cats before bathing them to tire them. Purrsonally I disagree. Even though a cat can get off a lot of excess energy during an intense interactive play session, sometimes they can actually get over-stimulated; preferring to continue the game.

Trimming kitty’s nails before bathing them is extremely wise. Brushing their coat, thoroughly to remove any excessive hair or mats is also helpful. To prevent kitty from getting water into their sensitive ears (only if they willingly accept this step without becoming agitated) gently place a cotton ball into their ears.

To prevent kitty from slipping and to give her security and extra confidence, place a rubber mat in the bottom of the tub or sink where kitty will be bathed. Fill the tub or sink with only three or four inches of lukewarm water. Using a hand-held spray hose, or an unbreakable cup or plastic pitcher, gently and methodically wet the kitty down; taking extra care not to get water into the cat’s nose, ears or eyes.

Only use a shampoo made for cats since human shampoo may be too harsh, drying out kitty’s skin. Start gently massaging the soap into the fur, working down from the head to the tail – in the same direction that the hair is growing. Be very careful not to get any lather into the kitty’s nose, eyes and ears. To clean the cat’s face, gently use a washcloth dampened with clean lukewarm water. Be sure to gently wash kitty’s nail-beds to remove any greasy grime.

Using the hose spray, pitcher or cup, carefully rinse kitty off with lukewarm water. Be sure that any traces of shampoo are rinsed away. Have a soft, (preferably cotton) towel ready in which to wrap up the cat. Some cats struggle energetically to get out of the towel. Work gently but quickly to get kitty as dry as possible. Some cats may even tolerate being blown dry with a hairdryer set on the lowest heat setting. With long-haired kitties check for any matted fur. Use a wide-tooth comb to carefully untangle any knots.

Following the bath be sure to keep kitty in a warm, draft-free area until she is thoroughly dry. To make bathing a more pleasant experience, reward her with her favorite treat. Using positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to help turn something that some cats may initially consider a negative experience into something that is no big deal.

Some cats take to bathing like a fish takes to water. In the video uploaded to YouTube by RitaTheCornishRex, apparently after some minor protestations, Rita ultimately does get into the “swim” of things!

When do you give your cat a bath? How does your cat react to bathing? Tell us about it in a comment. Note: this article was first published on March 19, 2014, over 8 years ago. It has been upgraded and republished today (date of post).


Photo credit: Flickr User Finn Frode — Finn used to be a regular contributor to PoC. Come back Finn! This is one of his posts.

Below are some articles on bathing cats.

59 thoughts on “Do cats really need baths: If so, how often?”

  1. hi the only time i ever have to either wet them but would never give them a bath is when they need help cleaning esp with fluffy cats when their behind needs cleaning othwise i dont think its a good idea. They all hate water esp when its been raining. i do know ozzie esp loves drinking water out of the bath dont know if that is a new things or not. Hope everyone likes my new kitty avator. 🙂

  2. Some years ago, I adopted a kitten through a Pennysaver ad who lovedwater. She’d jump into the bathtub with me or the kitchen sink.I started researching the trait and soon realized that my long-haired little Roux was a Turkish cat. Now I’ve bathed cats due to them truly needing it and they always hated it. Roux loved being in water.

  3. Unless our cats have gotten into something they shouldn’t I leave the bathing to them. They are all mixed breed rescues and well capable of cleaning and grooming themselves. I do have one long haired rescue that gets spot washed sometimes. If she does not get her bottom shaved short she has problems and doesn’t smell nice so she occasionally gets a mini bath. My sister’s cats used to get bathed often. She raised Maine Coons and they went to shows. The cats were really mellow about bathing but you have to know that they started bathing the cats as tiny kittens. That makes a big difference.
    I enjoyed this article a lot. Keep them coming Jo.


    • Thanks Nancy. You make another good point in that sometimes cats for medical reasons require a bath. I have read many instances, on the Internet, when stray or feral cats that are on the road to domestication had been given a good bath at the outset. Thanks for the comment.

    • Nancy, this was exactly what I was going to add. A cat or kitten who is found in such a weak, sickly condition that doesn’t make it possible for them to groom any longer. And, in fact, are so ill from desperately trying to groom, ingesting the toxin, and cannot even attempt to groom any longer, due to the to the toxicity in that little tummy and other organs, and the blood. And, like you mentioned, those flea-infested kittens who are so weak that they are about to die. Bath, syringes of water and pureed food, and then a vet treatment for fleas ASAP! This should be obvious. A situation that is not so obvious is a chemical on the fur that has dried, yet is highly toxic.
      It is so good to hear that you were not only able to save the oil-coated fellow, but have him live out his life with you! 🙂

  5. Very interesting question? I had to corral one of my semi-feral cats, Momma Kitty, and have her taken in for a bath and removal of some really bad mats. It was a HUGE ordeal for me, the vet and Momma Kitty. She wouldn’t speak to me for three days!

    • LOL!
      It really is a huge undertaking, Tim. But, I’m sure all is forgiven now.
      In all of my years, I have only had to give a full bath once. She was domesticated but fought me tooth and nail.
      We had a year that was overrun with toads and frogs one late spring. She went into the middle of the road and rolled over and over on dead, flat frogs.
      She was so disgusting that I had to bathe her.
      I really hope that I never have to do it again.

  6. Of course there are those cats who LOVE being in water. Many years ago I had the pleasure of being owned by a Burmese kitten, named Frodo. Frodo would literally jump into MY bath and sit on my tummy. He loved being in water- and he would also somehow sneak into the shower, and just sit there under the warm water-enjoying it running over his body.

    But did you ever see a cat fall into a tub filled with an inch of water? We once had a cat that loved hanging out in the bathtub-dragged her toys into the tub and played with them there.

    But on that fateful day (for her) she didn’t notice that the tub had not quite emptied completely, and jumped into the water. I will never forget her startled facial expression or that she rose out of the water straight up like a helicopter and did a 45 degree turn in the air-running under the bed like the devil himself was chasing her.

    It took me almost 20 minutes to convince her to come out so I could thoroughly towel dry her. She was a tad more reluctuant to use the tub as a playground for several weeks.

    • It is certainly impossible to generalise about whether a domestic cat likes water or not. Some cats as you say do like water and some don’t. In general, they tend not to like water or jumping into a bath for example. The wild cat hybrids tend to like water because the wild cat likes water as there are animals to feed on in and around water.


Leave a Comment

follow it link and logo