Abandoned in a field near our home, Winni came to us covered in ringworm. She was subsisting on a diet of dirt, and was suffering from a respiratory infection. At an estimated four weeks of age, her young body was under attack by many forces. Our veterinarian gave a chuckle with a concerned warning that the odds were not in her favor, but he was convinced this sickly kitten had found the right home if she were to have a fighting chance at seeing her first birthday.
Among her treatments, Winni was given a medicated shampoo to bathe in every day. She became very accustomed to baths. Subsequently, as I contracted the worst case of adult ringworm seen by both our veterinarian and physician, I shared a similar protocol of care.
We’ve always handled baths in the same manner—with patience, understanding, and love.
Here are our tips for bathing your cat:
- Forget the clock – Bath time for your feline is no time to be hurried or desperate to meet an appointment on time. Give your cat your undivided attention and set aside a good thirty minutes for the bath. You may not need all of the allotted time, but at least you’ve started the job knowing that you have ample time to complete the task without experiencing or causing any unnecessary stress.
- Have It All At Hand – Mid-bath is not the time to start searching for bath time necessities. Prior to corralling your cat, gather everything you’ll need for the bath. All shampoos, towels, rinse cups, medications, etc… should be within an easy reach.
- A Little Privacy Please – Keep the door to the bathroom closed. Should you forget rule number two, you may not be able to avoid your cat jumping out of the tub, but you can certainly avoid her running down the hall or fleeing under the bed. The closed environment helps create a more quiet and calm setting for the bath.
- Stay Calm, Cool, and Collected – Your cat will look to you for visual and physiological cues as to how bath time is going for the two of you. The more calm you are, the more calm your cat will be during the bath. If you’ve had a bad bath experience in the past with her, you’ll just have to close your eyes, take a deep breath, push that memory to the outer edge of your mind, and believe that this bath, thanks to more time, understanding, and preparedness, will go smoothly.
- Avoid Ears and Face – Don’t get any soaps or water in the eyes or ears.
- Temperate Waters and Slow Movements – The water temperature should be nice and warm. Not too hot, and definitely not cold. Seeking a comfortable 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit is a good idea, as this will match your cat’s temperature and keep a chill at bay. When to fill the tub makes a difference too. If your cat isn’t frightened by the sound of running water you might be able to fill the tub or add water when she’s in the tub. Some cats will be intrigued by the falling and splashing water. First time bath? You may want to fill the tub first, and then go get your cat and bring her into the bathroom.
- Don’t Push – If you cat hates the sound a handheld sprayer makes, don’t use it. If your cat prefers a shallow bath, respect her limits. Bath time should be a simple time for you and your cat. There may be times where you can’t avoid a deeper water level (especially if the cat needs to soak), but for the most part, always take your cat’s desire to heart. You’ll note in the video we don’t force the cat to stay in the water or hold her down. She will try to get out. A calm reminder that escaping is not allowed, with a gentle lift underneath her paws while rotating her body back toward the bath to set her gently in the water is the best way to keep her in the tub.
- Praise and Reward – There can never be too much praise. Be generous with your kind words and bestow them upon your cat in abundance. Following up the bath with a favorite treat is sure to take the sting out of any unpleasant experience for your cat.
- Safety First – A full length safety mat placed in the bottom of your tub is a comfortable and safe surface for your cat to stand and walk on while in the bath.
- Gentle Touch – Be gentle during bath time. We like to have the tub filled with water before we place Winni into it. We always place her into the water with a soothing reassurance, never dropping or throwing her into the water. Set your cat down on all fours into the tub. No matter what items you may need to remove from their fur (dried feces, oily substances, etc…) use a gentle touch and never pull their fur.
Additionally, you’ll appreciate keeping your cat’s nails trimmed when an unexpected bath is needed.
We hope you enjoy the video of how we handle bath time for Winni. We’d love to hear how you handle bath time for your feline companion.