How to give your cat a bath

May 15, 2012 at 7:52 p.m. ET

Sweet-natured and independent at heart, it seems nothing can break the cool, calm and collected essence of our feline friends. When it comes to kitties and bath-time, though, nothing brings out the claws quicker.

Angry cat in bathtub

Cat owners can attest: choosing to give your cat a bath may seem like nothing short of a death wish. Luckily, our furry friends are naturally equipped with the necessary tools for self-grooming excellence. For those days when kitty really needs a bath, follow the tips below to enjoy a scratch-free soak session.

Start from scratch

Avoid the risk of getting scratched by an unhappy or scared kitty by taking care of sharp claws. Clipping your cat's nails can be easily done at home with the proper tools. If you’re unsure about at-home trimming, consult with your veterinarian or a professional groomer. If a manicure is not an option for Fluffy, kitty caps can provide a temporary alternative to keep sharp claws under control. To be extra-safe, make sure to wear long-sleeve clothing as an added scratch preventative.

Schedule a play session before bath time. Feather teasers, toy mice or lasers -- just grab a variety of your cats’ favorite toys and play away. By exhausting as much energy as possible, your kitty will be less apt to lash out or make a fuss.

catTake it easy

Don’t rush straight to the tub -- make sure your pet is carefully combed and free of knots and mats. If your kitty is a long-haired breed, skipping this step can create a hairy situation. A brushing session can also help calm your pet even more after a play session and makes for quality bonding time.

Create a calm environment

If the sound of running water frightens your cat, make sure you fill the tub and rinse buckets or cups with water prior to placing your kitty in the tub. Only fill the tub with enough water to bathe your cat, ensuring that Fluffy is not submerged in water. Place a rubber mat or towel at the bottom of the tub. This will help ensure stability for your four-legged friend, helping her feel more at ease. Always remember to bring plenty of treats with you to reward your kitty for staying still.

Use a feline-friendly shampoo

To avoid irritation, steer clear of human shampoo and body wash, as it can be toxic, and harmful to your pet's health and skin. Massage a lather into your cat's coat using soothing motions. Rinse shampoo off using a washcloth or by pouring small amounts of water on your pet to rinse the coat. Avoid sudden spurts of water and steer clear of splashing eyes and ears. Using a damp washcloth to clean your pet's face helps ensure harmful irritants don’t get into their eyes or ears. Making sure your pet has a pleasant bathing experience is the key for a future of peaceful bath times.

More on cat care

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Trimming cat claws
Cat scratch fever