Does my cat need a bath? I know my mind on this subject. I’m quite clear on it. The default position is that cats do not need a bath and people should adhere to that advice. Jackson Galaxy concurs with me. I’d like to quote and refer to what he says to reinforce the point. I will then go over what some other authors have said. Reading various websites on the Internet I have received mixed messages on the subject. They should be clearer.
A Cat’s ID
An important point to make is that when cats groom themselves they cover themselves with their scent. Galaxy calls this a “Raw Cat staple”. What he means is that self-grooming is an innate desire of the domestic cat inherited from the wild cat ancestor (the ‘raw cat’ is the wildcat within). By bathing your cat regularly you erase her identity which is projected onto the world through her scent. This is obviously a bad idea.
Only on one occasion has it been necessary for me to bathe my cat. Going back many years, my then female cat, who I loved desperately, fell into some paint, on her side. I was painting the bathroom. She stepped off the edge of the bath into a block of white paint. I immediately grabbed her and put her under the tap in the bathroom sink, washed the paint off and then released her. The whole episode lasted about 5 minutes. She was obviously unhappy about the entire experience. Notably, what Jackson Galaxy says about a cat’s ID came true. Her brother no longer recognised her because her scent had been washed off. It took several hours for it to return (because she groomed herself assiduously) and her brother to stop hissing at her. I am sure many cat owners have had a similar experience.
Some people probably feel compelled to bathe their cat because they want to impart what they consider to be human standards of personal hygiene upon their domestic animal companion. This is a false argument. Indeed, there is an argument that humans bathe themselves too much, removing as it does natural oils which help protect the skin. Domestic cat self-grooming is highly efficient and is more than adequate to keep your cat clean. Cat owners should not apply what they consider to be human standards upon their cat.
Banfield Pet Hospital
Some websites simply get it wrong. For example, Banfield Pet Hospital (a very large chain of American animal Hospital is) write, ‘However, a bath is appropriate whenever you want your feline friend to be clean and smell fresh’. This is obviously incorrect. Domestic cats are clean and they smell beautifully fresh, all on their own, without our intervention provided they are healthy and have the capacity to groom themselves. My advice to Banfield is to rewrite the page asap.
Incidentally, it is disappointing to report that Google features the advice from Banfield Pet Hospital in search engine results on page one. This reinforces the old adage that the internet can be misleading.
Clearly there are occasions when domestic cats might through, obesity, old age, illness or for some other reason, be unable to groom themselves. Under these circumstances, Jackson Galaxy suggests that rather than bathing your cat you should wipe your cat down with a baby wipe. There are baby wipes available on the Internet which are as safe as pure water and alcohol and soap free.
Some people advocate a bath in a specialist insecticide shampoo for a bad cat flea infestation. Personally I don’t favour it but I see the argument.
Another website which in my opinion gets it slightly wrong is the well-respected The Dodo. They suggest that cats with long coats might need bathing because their coat may become dirty or matted. In principle this is correct but it must be through inappropriate selective breeding that a domestic cat has a coat which is too long to be cleaned by the cat himself. Nature would not, through evolution, place a cat into a situation where he was unable to keep himself clean. Therefore bathing a cat with very long hair is compensating for poor breeding. This point needs mentioning.
A website called pet-happy.com gets it completely wrong. They say that cats do not clean themselves to human standards of cleanliness. They advise bathing your cat to make him/her cleaner. This is obviously completely wrong and should be ignored. If the authors can write this sort of rubbish I’d ignore the entire website. Once again Google lets themselves down by featuring this advice in search engine results on page one. Beware of internet information as it can be misleading.
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