How To Bathe Your Cat, + Best Conditioning Shampoo Ratings & Reviews

Cat Spraying No More

catspray, cat

Every cat owner dreads the idea of dousing their feline in the sink.

Cats hate water. The few exceptions to this rule show off their water-loving cats on YouTube.

These cats seem to exist purely to make the owners of ordinary cats jealous.

Don’t worry. Bathing a cat is not as tricky as it seems.

As long as you have the right tools and the know-how, bathing your cat is easy.

Here are some tips for a painless bath experience and how to find the perfect shampoo for your favorite kitty.

Click here to jump down the page to read our ratings of the best shampoos!

Do Cats Need Baths?

Cats are


equipped to keep themselves meticulously clean. Their tongue and teeth are designed to handle the rigors of feline hair care. Their flexibility enables them to reach almost every inch of their bodies. Cats usually take care of all of their grooming needs – but sometimes they require your assistance.

Occasionally circumstances outside of your cat’s control make it impossible for her to get clean. Cats’ tendency to rub against every available object results in the occasional sticky disaster.

You do not want your cat trying to lick a potentially

dangerous household product

off of herself. This can be anything, like:

  • Wet paint,

  • glue,

  • honey,

  • home construction materials that cling to the fur,

  • plants toxic to cats,
  • oil,
  • and more.

Cats that go outside can track all sorts of unpleasant material inside on their fur. Mud, pine sap, and all kinds of unpleasant surprises await the unsuspecting kitty out of doors.



, overweight cats and cats with health conditions often have trouble keeping themselves clean. Complete baths are not always a good idea for these cats. Partial baths are less stressful than a full soak. Sometimes the best solution is a

cat wipe

. These wipes remove dandruff, urine stains and oil without the need for water.

Long-haired cats and cat breeds like


require more bathing than their short-haired cousins. All that fur is hard to maintain. These cats require regular brushing and the occasional bath to help keep their coats healthy. Silky fur quickly grows greasy and matted without such care.

But remember…

You can bathe your cat too much.

Cats and dogs have natural oils (just like us humans!) that keep their coats shiny and healthy. Excessive bathing strips the coat of these oils and can result in skin irritation for your pet.

A good rule of thumb for long-haired cats is to bathe no more than once a week. Short-haired cats can go months without a bath and may never need one unless they get into something unpleasant.

How To Bathe Your Cat

Baths are stressful for cats! It is your job to keep them as comfortable as possible.

Begin bathing your cat periodically when they are a kitten. This gets them used to the process and prevents misunderstandings and bloodshed down the road.

Did you adopt an older cat? Older cats that have never been bathed take some convincing about bath time. Watch the video below, to get an idea of how to bathe a cat to ensure a positive, safe experience for you and your cat.

Time your bath

. Observe your cat to see if there is time of day your cat is more mellow than others. Don’t bathe your cat in the middle of her hunting hour. She will not appreciate the interruption. Choose a time when she is relaxed and receptive.

Clip those claws.

Some cats hate bath time. Clip you cat’s nails to prevent scratching during the bathing process. Another idea for arm and hand protection is investing in

cat nail caps

. These vinyl caps slide over your cat’s nails and protect you and your furniture from kitty claws. The downside of these products is that they do not allow your cat’s nails to retract.

Assemble your materials

. The best way to ensure bath time goes smoothly is to assemble your materials ahead of time. You need a towel, brush, a non-slip mat for your feet, a non-slip mat or towel for your cat and a cup or gentle spray hose for bathing. Ask a friend or family member to help if possible.

Begin with a brush.

Brushing your cat out prior to bathing removes mats, dead hair, and debris. Mats shrink and thicken when wet. This shrinking makes them harder to remove from your cat’s coat. Brush your cat out as best you can.

Apply warm water.

The bathtub and the sink are good places to bathe cats. Bathrooms have the advantage of small spaces with a closed door should your cat make a run for it. Sinks are appropriate for small cats and kittens. Bathtubs are better suited for larger cats. Adjust the water so that it is warm. Don’t use very cold or very hot water. Gentle spray hoses are a great tool if your bath or sink comes equipped with one. A plastic cup or pitcher is a good alternative. Be sure to use plastic. Shattered glass can harm you and your pet and is sure to leave an unpleasant impression on your kitty.

Go slowly

. Cats respond well to gentle applications. Dousing your cat all at once is a recipe for disaster. Speak soothingly to your cat during this process.

Add shampoo.

Pour a little


into your hand and begin lathering your cat. Start from her neck and work your way to her tail. Be sure to work in the direction of hair growth. Avoid getting water on her face and ears. Stopping her ears with cotton balls is an easy way to avoid ear infections. Is your cat’s face messy? Wipe it with a warm cloth. Even gentle pet shampoo can irritate her eyes and get in her nose and mouth. Dilute the shampoo to one part shampoo and five parts water if you have to use shampoo on her face.


. Rinse with more warm water until all the shampoo is gone. Go slowly. Some cats lose patience at this step which is why a helper is useful. Make sure all the shampoo is gone (this is important!!) so that your cat does not lick it off of herself later.

Pat dry

. Dry your kitty thoroughly. This is especially important during the winter when it is cold. Gently rub and pat your cat with a towel. Some cats tolerate hair dryers. Make sure the setting is on the lowest heat and try to avoid blowing directly in her face. This dries out her eyes and other mucous membranes like her nose. Long-haired cats require additional brushing out with a wide tooth comb.


. Bath time is hard on cats. Reward your feline after her bath. Give her some of her favorite treats and plenty of affection – if she wants it. Hopefully, she will remember the treat next time she needs a scrub.

Choosing A Cat Shampoo

Human shampoos and conditioners dry out your cat’s skin and hair. You need a shampoo designed for cats for optimal bathing results. Look for shampoos that use mild ingredients like oatmeal. Need help finding the best cat shampoo? Here are a few products that receive good user reviews and are veterinarian approved.

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