Should I Wash My Cat?
Our cats are, frankly, obsessed with washing. The average adult cat spends a whopping 7 – 12 hours a day grooming and cleaning themselves, which leaves our own daily bathing schedules firmly in the shade!
Given that they seem so obsessed with staying clean, is there anything we can do to help? Would an occasional wash – you know, the sort that involves cat shampoo and clean water instead of spit and a sandpaper tongue – do them good?! Or have they got this cleaning thing covered without us?
The short answer is that most of the time a cat’s usual washing routine is perfectly able to keep them clean, and there is no need to regularly bathe your cat.
But if you’re the sort of person who enjoys the exceptions to the rule (and who isn’t!) – here are the times when your kitty may benefit from a bathe:
1. If they are a hairless cat
A cat’s skin produces natural oils that are normally absorbed by their hair, but on a hairless cat such as a Sphynx, these can accumulate on the skin. As a result, they require weekly bathing to help remove the oily build-up on their skin. They also need regular ear cleaning, because their ears can accumulate debris due to their lack of filtering hairs.
Fortunately, most responsible hairless cat breeders will train kittens to be accustomed to regular bathing from an early age, so they will tolerate or even enjoy the experience. Check out this adorable little water baby!
2. If there are bits they can’t reach to wash
Pregnancy, obesity, injury or old age could all make it tricky for your cat to get to those hard-to-reach bits, so if you notice that there are areas of their fur that they are struggling to clean, you may want to give them a helping hand.
3. If the vet prescribes a wash-on treatment
Some topical medicines such as ringworm treatment come in a ‘medicated shampoo’ form. If your cat suffers from one of these skin conditions, and is prescribed a medicated shampoo by the vet, then they’ll need to be bathed so that you can apply the treatment.
4. If they are covered in something you don’t want them to lick off
Your cat’s natural method of cleaning will require them to ingest whatever is on their fur, so you might want to intervene if there is something unpalatable or dangerous on their fur. For instance, if they come home with engine oil, sticky plant sap or anti-climbing grease on their fur then it will be much safer to bathe them (always using shampoo specially designed for cats) rather than leaving them to their own cleaning devices.
5. If they have a bathroom accident
If your cat has diarrhoea or a toileting accident, they may end up with soiled fur that they are either: (a) not well enough to clean up on their own, or (b) you don’t want them to trail through the house before they get round to cleaning it. A quick bathe will solve the problem in no time at all.
6. If you want to reduce allergen levels
The final reason that you might want to bathe your cat is to reduce the levels of allergens on their fur. Several studies have looked into whether this actually works, and the consensus seems to be that bathing does lead to a reduction of allergens but the effect doesn’t last long – a week later the levels are back to baseline. If you have a particularly allergic relative visiting, and your cat is amenable to baths you may want to bathe your cat, but be aware that the effect will be short-lasting. It will also not be able to remove allergens from your cat that have already become dispersed in the air or deposited around your home.
OK, great. I’m going to bathe my cat. How on earth do I do it?!
Even though some cats are OK with water, it’s one thing swiping a paw through a dripping tap, and quite another being fully bathed by a human! However, with a little technique, training and reassurance most cats can get to grips with bathing. Vet Dr Karen Becker has produced a really lovely video guiding you through every step of the process, which I highly recommend (click here to watch it on YouTube). I can’t independently vouch for the science behind the herbal extracts she uses to put the cats at ease, but as long as they aren’t harmful to a cat, then hey – every little helps!
Do you bathe your cats? Do they enjoy it? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Join in the conversation in the comments below, or over on Instagram or Facebook (both @supakitstore).
Cover Image Source: Jenny Ondioline via Flickr
1. Cote, E. Clinical Veterinary Advisor: Dogs and Cats. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2010, pp 655.
2. Englar, R. E. Performing The Small Animal Physical Examination. John Wiley & Sons, 2017, pp 30.
3. Avner, D. B. et al. (1997) Evaluation of Different Techniques for Washing Cats: Quantitation of Allergen Removed From The Cat and The Effect on Airborne Fel d1. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 100(3):307-12.