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How to Bathe a Cat: 5 Easy Steps (With Video)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

bathing cat

Cats are naturally clean animals. They take a lot of pride in grooming themselves several times a day. They rarely need to be bathed by their owners. But occasionally, your cat might need some assistance with getting clean. While outside, they might have rolled or brushed against something pungent that clings to their fur. Maybe they need to be bathed with medicated shampoo for fleas. Regardless of what variables have caused your cat to need to be bathed, you want to make sure that it is not stressful either for the cat or yourself. This article goes over how to bathe a cat without getting scratched in 5 easy steps.


The 5 Easy Steps For Bathing a Cat

1. Trim Your Cat’s Claws Before Bath Time

While this might be easier said than done, giving the claws a trim before bathing them is an important step. Like our fingernails, cats’ claws grow continuously, making it recommended that you trim your indoor cat’s claws every 2 weeks. Outdoor cats’ claws do not need to be trimmed as much because they use their claws on branches and tree trunks. Indoor cats need some assistance to prevent their claws from getting too long, as sharp and long claws can be uncomfortable for their pads.

trim cat nails
Image Credit: Yimmyphotography, Shutterstock

2. Prepare the Bathing Area Early

You want to have everything ready before you start putting your cat in the bath. If you need to let go of your cat to grab something you need, it might escape and cause chaos! Have plenty of towels on hand, a cup or pitcher for rinsing, and cat shampoo within reach. You can even have a few of their favorite treats to offer as an incentive to continue being bathed. Sometimes, it is okay to use bribery with your cat! If you are using a basin or plastic tub, have a rubber mat or towel underneath to prevent it from moving. If your cat tries to climb out, the mat or towel will help keep the tub in place.

3. Check the Water Level and Temperature

It is not a good idea to put your cat in more than 3 inches of water. A high water level will stress your cat out, and you will most likely get scratched! Instead, have the water level between 2-3 inches. This level is shallow enough for your cat to feel less stressed and enough water for you to use to get your cat clean. The water temperature should be lukewarm. Temperatures that are too hot or cold will upset your feline.

bathing sphynx cat
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

4. Begin to Bathe Your Cat Gently

Once you have your cat in the sink or tub, now comes the hard part: the actual bathing. It is recommended to use cat-specific shampoo and gently lather your cat from its neck to its tail. Don’t forget to scrub its belly gently and under its arms. Never try to shampoo your cat’s head and face. The shampoo can get into their eyes and ears. Also, trying to rinse the shampoo off the cat’s head can get water in their ears, causing discomfort. Instead, use a soft, damp cloth to clean your cat’s head and ears. Damp cotton balls will also work for your cat’s ears.

Bathing your pet can be challenging, but the right shampoo will make it a lot easier! We have two favorite shampoos for the job, both are safe, all-natural shampoos designed with your pets in mind. Our soothing shampoos are pH balanced, made in the USA, and free of glutens, dyes, sulfates, and phthalates. Here’s a quick guide to help you choose the right option for your pet’s next bath!

Hepper Oatmeal pet shampoo
Hepper Colloidal Oatmeal Pet Shampoo

Hepper Waterless No Rinse Pet Shampoo
Natural cucumber & aloe scent
Natural cucumber & aloe scent:
Natural cucumber & aloe scent:
Safe for cats & dogs
Safe for cats & dogs:
Safe for cats & dogs:
Rinsing required
Rinsing required:
Rinsing required:
Free of harsh chemicals & nasty ingredients
Free of harsh chemicals & nasty ingredients:
Free of harsh chemicals & nasty ingredients:
Lathers easily
Lathers easily:
Lathers easily:


5. Dry Your Cat

Since cats do not like loud noises, avoid using a hairdryer after the bath. However, if you have a long-haired cat, a hairdryer might be necessary. Before bathing your cat, play around with your hair dryer’s setting to feel which one will be suitable for your cat. For short-haired cats, have 2-3 clean towels ready to dry them in. Start with one towel, and when that one is damp, switch to a new dry towel. Keeping your cat warm will make them less anxious. Reward them with a treat as well. They have certainly earned it!

Other Helpful Tips:
  • Wear rubber gloves. Rubber gloves (the ones you can buy for washing dishes) can prevent you from getting scratched on your hand or wrist, but they can also help you get a gentle grip on the cat.
  • Avoid having the faucet running. Having a quiet place to bathe your cat is ideal, so avoid having the faucet running. If you are using a spray nozzle, turn it on gently away from the cat’s face. The best thing to use when rinsing your cat is a cup and a small pitcher and pour some lukewarm water on them while avoiding the head and face.
  • Channel your inner spa manager. Make sure the place where you are bathing the cat has a calm ambiance. The lights should not be too bright. You can play some Mozart softly in the background. There are even calming diffusers that can be plugged into your wall before the bath to give the atmosphere that extra relaxed feeling.
  • Always use cat-specific shampoo. Shampoo for humans is very aromatic. They are also made with ingredients that could cause irritation. Stick with cat shampoos and conditioners.
  • Do not overly restrain your cat. Some cats do not like baths, no matter how calming you try to make the experience. If your cat tries to escape, let them go. You are much stronger than your cat. While you do not have any intention of hurting them, restraining them when they are overly stressed could harm them physically. Remember, it is only a bath.


For the most part, you might never need to bathe your indoor cat. Cats love to clean themselves without the need for assistance. But there are some situations where bathing is a healthy and hygienic thing to do for your cat. Fleas can be treated using cat-specific medicated shampoo. Maybe your overly curious cat met with something oily, sticky, or smelly outside. You might have a senior cat with arthritis who is not as flexible to groom themselves adequately. These are all situations where you should bathe your cat. Make the bathing experience less scratchy and stressful for your cat and yourself by remembering this article’s steps and tips.

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