While cats don’t need baths often, when they do it can be quite the ordeal. We’ve all been scratched from elbow to wrist by a cat trying to get them into the water, and you may be thinking it’s pointless. Nancy Bailey, animal behaviorist and author of “My Best Cat: A Furry Murder Mystery,” has trained cats for film work and shows. She has given us ten tips to survive bath time with your cat.
#1 – Stay Calm
Any anxiety you might feel will immediately transfer to the cat. If you can’t be calm, find a professional who baths cats or get some help from a family member.
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#2 – Handling
Before ever attempting a bath, train your cat to tolerate handling. Remember when he struggles, do not let him go. Releasing him constitutes a reward. If he squirms, continue to hold him gently, carry him around and talk to him. The minute he stops squirming, put him down. Work up to longer and longer periods of quiet behavior by your cat. If you are consistent, you can raise a cat to tolerate holding, carrying and handling without a struggle. By the way, the younger the cat is when you start this training, the better. You can even begin with kittens before they are weaned.
#3 – Trim the Claws
Another important thing is to trim the claws back as far as you can, once every few weeks. The claws are transparent, so you won’t hit the quick, and they are easy to cut using human fingernail clippers. If you keep the claws blunt there is less damage to furniture, carpet, and you! You can train the cat to tolerate this the same way you teach #2 above. Hold the cat on his back, spread the toes and tap the claws lightly with clippers. If he tolerates it, let him go. Don’t try to cut them all the first time. If he struggles, just hold on to him and pet him until he stops struggling. Once he stops, release him and try again later.
#4 – Keep your Bathing Space Clear
Before bathing, make sure you remove everything within reach. Cats who are immersed in water will sometimes grab things in their panic to get out.
#5 – Keep a Towel Handy
Place a soft towel on the counter next to the sink so the cat has something to grab on to if he panics. It’s okay if he digs into the towel and even drags it into the water with him. If he is hanging on to the towel, it lessens the chance that he will be hanging on to you!
#6 – Use Warm Water
Make sure it’s not too cold or hot. You should be able to put your hand it in it without any discomfort. Then, holding the cat by the scruff of the neck, gently immerse him. A spray hose is handy. Start with his paws and back near the base of the tail, working up toward his head.
#7 – Start With Dishwashing Soap
A grease-cutting dishwashing soap is good as a starter to cut the oil found in the coats of many cats, especially at the base of the tail. Follow this with a good, non-toxic shampoo made especially for pets.
#8 – Rinse, Rinse, and Rinse Again
If you think you have rinsed too much, rinse him again. You don’t want to leave any residue shampoo, which will make your cat itchy and his fur yucky.
#9 – Dry Thoroughly
Use plenty of towels to get the kitty dry. Many cats have hair that retains water. Cats are especially susceptible to upper respiratory illness, so make sure the kitty doesn’t get chilled following the bath.
#10 – Reward
Be sure to reward the experience with a delicious treat! After the bath, give your kitty some of his favorite wet food, a piece of fish or chicken—something that lets him know that after a bath comes good things so that next time, he is a bit happier about the bath.