The question of how often you should bathe your indoor cat is a matter that’s keenly debated.
While The National Cat Groomers of America recommend a shampoo and blow-dry (!!!) every four to six weeks (they would, wouldn’t they?), many feline experts are of the opinion that giving a cat a bath is not only pointless but could lead to unwanted skin conditions such as rashes and dryness.
How often should you wash your indoor cat?
In theory, cats, whether indoor or outdoor, are perfectly capable of grooming themselves. But there are some exceptions. We’ll take a closer look at a controversial treatment many cats really don’t enjoy.
Is it necessary to bathe a cat?
Strictly speaking, no.
Cats are fantastic cleaning machines because they have barbed tongues which clean fur efficiently and remove dirt and dust. In fact, your cat has two layers of fur – the outer long or short hairs, and a downy underlayer which, like a duvet, helps to keep them warm.
As you’ve probably noticed, your cat spends a hell lot of time grooming itself. Dogs are happy to roll in muck and stink to high heaven, but cats are more discriminating and prefer to stay clean and odor-free.
Most are fastidious about cleaning and often groom after each meal.
The exceptions are if the cat is elderly and/or obese and can’t reach its rear end. Even then, a bath isn’t strictly necessary, as long as the cat is brushed regularly to remove loose fur, especially in spring and fall when they change their coat.
All that’s needed maybe just a wipe over the rear end with a damp cloth.
If a cat’s coat develops a dirty stain, dab it with a cloth dipped in diluted cat shampoo and rinse.
If your cat accidentally gets splashed by oil or paint, you wouldn’t risk using a solvent or let her lick the substance, so the easiest thing to do is to cut out the affected tuft of fur – and don’t worry, it will soon regrow.
In case of a longhaired cat, regular brushing is as important, if not more so, to prevent the build-up of matted fur which would need to be cut out.
Experts recommend brushing longhairs every day, but several times a week would be more easily achievable for most cat owners. Also, it’s a good idea to trim the fur around the back end under the tail to make that area easy to wipe clean.
Brushing is good for your cat because it massages her muscles, grooms the places she can’t reach such as the top of the head and the back of the neck and enables you to spend quality time with your cat which promotes bonding. Plus she’ll really enjoy it!
Grooming is also important in order to remove loose fur and prevent the formation of fur balls, compressed masses of fur which can clog up the intestines and cause constipation.
Or, as every cat owner just knows too well, lead to her throwing up delicious hairballs. A cat’s natural remedy: She will eat grass which loosens the ball and enables it to be vomited up more easily.
So, the more you groom, the less you clean.
Another exception is if a member of the family is allergic to cats. It’s usually a cat’s dander – loose skin cells similar to dandruff – which causes the allergy.
Once again, regular brushing and rubbing down with a damp cloth two or three times a week would greatly reduce the number of allergens.
One reason experts cite for not washing a cat is to prevent the loss of natural oils and good bacteria, which could otherwise result in rashes and skin infections.
Furless cats, on the other hand, need occasional washing or wiping to remove the oils which normally get absorbed into the fur.
Of course, under certain conditions, it might even be necessary to wash your furry friend, because she suffers from parasites like fleas, lice or mites.
If for whatever reason, you would like to bathe your cat, it’s best to start early, while she’s a kitten. Use the kitchen sink rather than a bathtub – you won’t have to bend over or kneel and your kitty will feel much safer in a smaller, more confined environment.
Place a rubber bath mat in the sink so she doesn’t slip, and some cotton wool in her ears to keep the water out. Pet your kitty and make a fuss of her so that she starts purring, then gently lower her into lukewarm water mixed with a little bit of cat shampoo.
Run enough water so that she can stand in the sink with the water up to the top of her legs. Use a flannel and wipe the fur in the direction it grows. If your kitty has fleas, use a flannel and a fine-tooth comb similar to the one used for head lice.
If your kitty becomes agitated, talk to her and gently reassure her. Then dry her thoroughly with a soft towel – cats can easily catch a chill.
If you manage to make the bathing time a pleasant and relaxing experience for your kitten, she will slowly gain trust in you and it shouldn’t be too difficult to make it a regular routine.
As you probably know, it’s much more difficult to bathe an adult cat for the first time in her life. Here an interesting fact though about their relatives with slightly bigger paws:
Big cats, lions and tigers, are good swimmers and unafraid of water, but perhaps they learn as cubs by example from their parents. Also in a hot climate, they dry off much quicker. But cats don’t necessarily dislike getting wet.
Our tomcat loves to play with water and when he comes in wet from the rain he simply licks himself dry.
But cats dislike getting saturated in a temperate climate as the underlayer will become cold and wet and feel really uncomfortable. And then they’ll run the risk of developing hypothermia.
Cats, like many animals, are creatures of habit and don’t take kindly to having new – possibly to them life-threatening – procedures imposed on them. That’s why they fight and struggle – the primeval instinct for survival in the face of an unknown threat.
So whatever you do, don’t make the bathing time a stressful and traumatic event which will send her down the panic lane every time she sees a sink or a bathtub.
The key is getting your cat used to being handled from an early age and taking routine treatments such as nail clipping, worm tablets and flea remedies in her stride.
And, finally, if all else fails and you simply must have your cat washed, consider a professional groomer. They have the knowledge and experience to do the job without turning her into a nervous wreck!