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Do Cats Need Bathing? When to Bathe a Cat

When do cats need a bath? Do cats need bathing at all? We all like our beloved kitties to be as clean and hygienic as possible, but is bathing them a good option?

Sometimes cats get messy, smelly, or dirty for any number of reasons. So what happens when your cats need bathing?

In this article:

  • Do Cats Like Water?
  • How Do Cats Keep Themselves Clean?
  • When Do Cats Need a Bath?
  • How Do I Bathe My Cat
    • Alternatives?

Do Cats Like Water?

Common wisdom would suggest that cats are almost comically afraid of water. This means that for a lot of owners, bathing is a massive headache. But that’s not actually the case! Some cats don’t mind water at all; some even love it

But there are a number of reasons that, traditionally, cats don’t like water. They range from the chemicals that can be found in tap water, to their biological make up–cats don’t like losing body heat.

Do Cats Need Bathing? | Fluffy Kitty

Of course, all cats are different. When asking ‘do cats need bathing?’ you need to look at your particular pet and assess their personality.

How Do Cats Keep Themselves Clean?

For a long time, cats have done a good job of cleaning themselves. They maintain their own coats by licking themselves. Though we look at this as just a way for cats to stay clean, this is an oversimplification.

In fact, licking fulfills a number of functions. As well as maintaining their coat, it helps them cool down. It helps them remove foreign odors from their coats (something we know is important to them!). Like many animals, they also lick any wounds they may have.

This means while cats seem to be fastidious about their hygiene, they don’t have the same concerns about being ‘clean’ as we do.

When Do Cats Need A Bath?

Although cats generally groom themselves, sometimes human intervention is necessary. So when do cats need our help to get clean?

There are a number of factors as to why a human might need to give a cat a bath.


An older cat may have developed arthritis, or have similar mobility problems. That means it may be painful for them to reach areas on their body they could previously have. In the interest of keeping them clean, you may need to bathe them yourself.

Disabilities/Medical Issues

Larger, or overweight cats will similarly not be able to reach every area of its body. This can lead to a build-up of odors, or dirt in their more sensitive areas. Similarly, cats with injuries might need assistance with grooming.

Hygiene Issues

Some cats, particularly outdoors ones, may end up getting their paws mucky in any number of ways. A common example of this is a flea infestation. Despite their best efforts, they won’t be able to solve this themselves.

Breed Specifications

Believe it or not, some breed of cats requires regular baths. For example, the Peterbald breed and the Sphynx breed both tend to have very oily skin. Giving them a bath regularly helps to regulate their coat, keep it healthy, prevent flaking, infection, acne, or other.

Mud, Poop, Vomit, etc.

Even though some cats like to float through the world without touching anything, sometimes it is unavoidable. A cat’s fur may get covered in paint, or tree sap or anything else that can be spilled inside or outside the house! Whatever it is, it will be difficult to remove without bathing.

Our sweet Yoda has a particularly fluffy behind, which can get matted with a little piece of stinky poop every now and then. In the interest of not letting him lick it clean… We give him a bath. 🙂

How to Bathe A Cat?

Bathing a cat is not always a stressful occasion. There are a lot of great guides available on how to give your cat a bath. As long as you take your time, ease them into it, and have a lot of treats on hand you won’t have too much a problem.

You should also be firm while you do this as well, any uncertainty will be picked up upon. However it goes, you’ll probably get a little wet yourself in the process!

Do Cats Need Bathing? | Fluffy Kitty

While the technique can differ, here are a few key tips when it comes to bathing cats:

Don’t Use Human Shampoo

First thing first: do not use human shampoo. Human shampoo is not developed for use on pets, and can actually cause long-lasting damage.

As well as giving them unfamiliar odors to contend with (and will hate), shampoo designed for human hair can strip natural oils from a cat’s fur.

Use Cat Shampoo

Instead, you will need a specially developed cat shampoo. As well as this, you will need a suitable place to bathe them such as a tub or sink.  Once this is done, you can begin the process of bathing them.

It is also possible to create a suitable cat shampoo at home. Using natural ingredients, this will fulfill all the needs of a good shampoo. It also avoids any strange scents which will upset your cat.

Bathing Cats Without Water

It is also possible to bathe a cat without the use of water. Developed for cats who really don’t want to be near water, it is possible to get wet grooming wipes for cats.

Lacking the abrasiveness of typical wipes that humans use, these allow owners to confidently wipe harder to reach areas such as around ears and eyes, or in between gaps in paws.

Do Cats Need Bathing? | Fluffy Kitty

Do Cats Need Bathing? Final Thoughts

So, do cats need bathing? The answer is: it depends. It depends mostly on what you need to bathe your cat for.

Cleanliness is very important to felines, but for many different reasons. Sometimes they need help to fulfill basic hygiene functions. If your cat is particularly infirm, or unable to clean themselves temporarily, you will need to consider bathing them. If they are particularly dirty, or if they are suffering from fleas, they will also need a special scrubbing session!

This helps them maintain their coat and also aids them with their odor control. It will help their mental and physical health all around.

Before you bathe your cat, you need to be sure how they are going to react and approach it in a sensible way which will not upset them.