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How Often Should You Wash Your Cat

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Cats do not need frequent bathing due to their excellent grooming skills.
  • The National Cat Groomers Institute of America Inc recommends bathing your cat every 4-6 weeks.
  • Cats spend a lot of time grooming themselves and do a good job of keeping their fur clean.
  • The frequency of bathing may vary depending on factors such as coat length, activity level, and health.
  • Bathing is necessary in certain situations, such as when a cat is elderly, obese, has mobility issues, has skin parasites, or needs medication for skin illnesses.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Highly educated researcher and DVM with extensive experience in Clinical VetMedicine, Veterinary Nano Medicine, and Preventive Veterinary Medicine.
Published on
Monday 22 January 2024
Last updated on
Monday 30 October 2023
How Often Should You Wash Your Cat
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Bathing is part of maintaining good hygiene. When done regularly, it is beneficial not only to humans but to pets, too. While dogs are known to require frequent splashing and scrubbing, it’s quite different for cats. So, how often should you wash your cat? Let’s find out!

How Often Should You Bathe Your Cat?

Despite the importance of bathing, you’ll be surprised that your cat may not frequently need it. Whether you are a new cat owner or had one for a while, it’s quite common to ask how often a cat should be bathed. But, thanks to their excellent grooming skills, cats won’t need weekly bathing, unlike dogs. Cats aren’t fans of this cleansing process either, so, it’s quite a win-win for you both. 

You might have scoured the internet on how often should cats bathe or how often should you give your cat a bath. Well, the National Cat Groomers Institute of America Inc recommends bathing your kitty every 4-6 weeks. However, this frequency may vary depending on your cat’s coat length, activity level, and health. Are you supposed to bathe indoor cats? Well, you can adjust the recommended frequency depending if your cat stays mostly indoors or outdoors.

Cats spend a lot of time grooming themselves and licking their fur. In fact, they spend 2 to 5 hours a day which is 30 to 50% of their waking hours. Their tongues have spikes called papillae that remove dirt and wick saliva into their fur. That is why they don’t need constant bathing. They already do a good job of keeping their fur clean at all times.  

Grooming is also a social gesture in cats. If you have multiple cats at home, you might have noticed they groom each other too. Not only are they cleaning each other’s fur, but also exchange scents. They share scents to form a common colony smell to distinguish them as part of the family. Frequent bathing will remove this familiar scent, which is why it is not recommended. Plus, it will strip their skin of natural oils that keep their fur healthy. 

Should You Really Bathe Your Cat?

Yes, you should bathe your cat, but the frequency may vary. There may be instances when bathing your cat more frequently becomes necessary. So, you can adjust according to what applies to your kitty. For example, indoor cats may skip bathing for weeks because they aren’t exposed to a lot of dirt from the outside. 

On the other hand, outdoor cats may need more frequent baths. They may pick up some stubborn dirt or odor from staying too long outside. They may bring germs into your home from outside too. If they get caught up in some sticky substances, or worse, toxic ones, then they’ll need an immediate bath. 

If you have an elderly or obese cat with mobility issues, they may not be able to groom themselves properly. Due to limited movements, they may not be able to reach certain areas in their body. In this case, you’ll need to regularly bathe them.

Additionally, cats with skin parasites may need a special medicated bath. So, you’ll have to bathe them according to the vet’s recommended frequency. The same goes for cats suffering from certain skin illnesses that need medicated shampoos as treatments. 

Recently rescued cats would need immediate bathing to clean them up. Also, if your kitty is a hairless breed, you’ll need to bathe it regularly as its skin produces more oils than the furry breeds. Now you may ask, “how often should I bathe my kitten”, as long as it’s more than 8 weeks old, you may bathe it every 4 to 6 weeks as well. 

How to Properly Bathe a Cat 

Many new cat owners ask “can I give my cat a bath at home?”. Yes, you can bathe your kitty at home, although, it may not be as easy as you think. Many seasoned cat moms can attest to how challenging it can be to bathe cats who aren’t a fan of it. But don’t worry, we have listed some tips to make it less stressful for you and your kitty. 

Pick the Right Time

Gauge your cat’s mood before bathing them. Make sure your kitty is not too active, alert, or grumpy. It’s best to tire your kitty first. So, it’ll be more relaxed and mellow. The chances of fighting back will be low, making the bathing experience more likely to be positive. 

Cut Their Nails

Save yourself from possible scratches by trimming your cat’s nails before bathing it. Your kitty may still resist bathing especially when it gets startled by the water or the tub. It may try to scratch to fight back. Aside from prepping the nails, you also need to brush your cat’s coat beforehand to remove dead skin and shedding fur. 

Prepare All Necessary Materials

Gather the needed materials first before bathing your cat. Doing so will make a smoother process as everything will be within your reach. Aside from the cleansing tools and shampoo, you should also prepare some treats for positive association. Don’t forget to place a towel or rubber mat on the tub so your cat won’t slip. 

Use the Right Kind of Shampoo

Cats have a heightened olfactory system, so they can be sensitive to strong scents. It’s best to use fragrance-free shampoos intended for cats. Never use products for humans on your kitty. If you need to use a medicated shampoo, always follow the advice of your vet on its proper usage.

Use Warm Water

Most negative bathing experiences of cats stem from their sensitivity to sound. So, fill the tub first before bringing them in to avoid the sound of running water. Use warm water to not startle them with something cold. Relax and bathe your cat slowly.

Dry Your Cat Properly

Prepare enough towels to dry your cat thoroughly. You may use a blow dryer if your cat can tolerate it. But put it on the lowest setting. However, a nice and gentle rub of the towel can also do the job. Reward and praise your kitty after the good behavior during bathing time. 

Benefits of Bathing a Cat 

Now you’ve got some insights on how often should you wash your cats. Let’s tackle the benefits your cat can gain from bathing. 

  • Bathing thoroughly cleans your cat. Although a cat’s grooming habits are a good headstart at keeping them clean, it may not be enough. Their textured tongues may remove dirt successfully but it may not get rid of bacteria lurking in their fur. Their saliva may keep their coat smooth, but it may not be enough to make it smell good. An occasional bath deeply cleanses your cat’s fur freeing it from any lingering dust or grime. 
  • Bathing can reduce shedding. It gets rid of excess hair and dead skin, therefore, helps in lessening hair fall or shedding. Pair this with regular brushing to lessen the presence of your cat’s fur everywhere in your home.
  • Bathing helps maintain a healthy coat and skin. You’ll prevent the chances of dandruff in your kitty by bathing. Also, if you use a good shampoo and conditioner for your cat, it will help keep their coat smooth and healthy.  
  • Bathing keeps skin parasites at bay. No cat owner would want fleas on their pets. Not only are these pesky parasites a pain for your kitty, but also to other members of the family including you. A 2021 study in Italy revealed that parasites in cats are prevalent and may transfer diseases to humans.  Bathing your cat, especially with anti-flea shampoos recommended by your vet, will help get rid of and prevent fleas and other parasites. 

Aside from these benefits for your cat, bathing your pet will also be beneficial to you. If your cat loves to lie on your couch or bed, you’d want to have a clean cat beside you. So, you can kiss without worrying about germs or dirt. 

Other Tips to Make Cat Bathing Easier and Less Stressful 

Some cats may still get frightened with baths. Don’t worry if this is your struggle. You aren’t alone. Many cat owners experience this, too. So we’ve added more tips to ease the process and lessen the trouble for you and your kitty. 

Start them young

You can start bathing your kittens after 8 weeks. Training them early with baths will help them develop tolerance. So, when they become adult cats, they are less likely to resist bathing. It’d harder to train adult cats to be more accepting of baths compared to kittens.

Use a sprayer

The sound of the water from the shower head or the tap may terrify your cat. Even the tub full of water can frighten it, too. To be more gentle and less intimidating, you can use a  handheld sprayer when bathing your kitty. In this way, you can control the mist according to its tolerance level. It also slowly wets the fur unlike running water. 

Avoid water or soap on the head

Wipe your kitty’s head with a damp cloth or wet wipes instead of running water through the area. The same goes for soap. Your cat’s head and face area are sensitive, and using soap and water may give a negative experience. Before bathing your cat, clean the head area first by wiping it, especially around the eyes and ears. 

Head-to-Tail Process

After wiping your kitty’s face, proceed with bathing your cat using the head-to-tail process. It’s less startling to your cat and easier for you to do. 

Try other alternatives

If your cat hates baths and bathing it at home is nearly impossible, you can always run to your trusted professional groomer. However, it may be expensive to keep going to the pet shop for professional services every time. So, if you are trying to cut costs, you may also opt for the use of cat-friendly wet wipes, instead. 

Cats look clean and tidy almost always because they put a lot of time and effort into self-grooming. But this doesn’t mean they won’t need bathing anymore. They may not need it often, but cats would reap many benefits from a good bath either at home or at the groomer’s shop. 

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