A cat rests beside some fresh, white towels.

Do Cats Need Baths

Your cat spends hours each day lavishly grooming herself in her own beauty routine, but every now and again you may find yourself wondering; does my cat need a bath? When you rinse the shampoo out of your hair while being stared down by your feline friend it can be easy to think that maybe you should just give you kitty a quick was too. While we don’t recommend showering with your cat, there are times when you may need to bathe your cat.

As previously mentioned, cats are pretty good about cleaning themselves, but every now and then something can happen that results in your cat needing a bath.

Common Reasons Why Cats Need Baths

Outside Cats Indoor Cats
  • Your cat got skunked
  • Your cat rolled in something smelly
  • Your cat walked through a prickly bush or a shrub of some kind that left a lot of piece in her hair
  • Your cat has developed a skin condition from something she picked up outside
  • Your cat has picked up external parasites
  • Your cat tipped something over on herself such as a liquid or potted plant
  • Your cat found a new hiding spot in a very dusty and neglected corner
  • Your cat has developed a skin condition from something she picked up inside
  • Your cat has come into contact with unsafe materials such as by walking through paint of cleaning supplies

The lists can go on and on but to summarize, while cats typically don’t need baths, there might be occasions when they will need to be bathed. The best option for these instances is to find a groomer of vet that will bathe your cat for you. But if that is not an option, for example over a holiday or if the need is immediate, here are some tips to keep in mind when bathing your cat yourself.

How To Give Your Cat A Bath

The most important phase of “Operation: Clean Cat” is the prep stage. In order for both you and kitty to get bath time over with as soon as possible, you’ll need to have everything ready ahead of time to ensure that you can bathe and dry your feline friend as quickly as possible.

The Supplies


Just like with human toiletries, there are a wide range of cat shampoos. Kitty shampoo should be on your list of items to acquire before you bring home your cat. You don’t want to be stuck with a messy cat on your hands and nothing to clean her with. When choosing shampoo for your cat, you’ll want to find a chemical-free formula.

It is important to use a chemical-free formula because there is a chance that you may leave some soap residue behind when washing your cat and then, in turn, you cat may lick that residue. Additionally, chemical-free shampoo shouldn’t irritate your cat’s skin before or after her bath. Take the time to find the right shampoo that’s best for your cat’s needs. If you’re bathing your cat due to a medical condition with a medicated shampoo or treatment make sure that you follow all the instructions on the bottle and ask your vet if you have any questions.


You’ll need to have dry towels ready for your kitty post bath so that you can dry her off without her getting cold. Using a hairdryer is not advised as this can dry out your cat’s skin and cause her irritation and potential discomfort. Opt instead for some warm towels.

Cup or Showerhead

This is where having a helper will come in handy. We recommend that one person hold the cat while the other performs the actual bathing. Use a standard plastic cup to get you cat wet and rinse your cat. Do not submerge your cat and keep water out of her eyes and ears. We recommend using a cup because you’ll be able to direct the flow of water better than if you are just using your hands. Alternatively, if you have a shower with a detachable head, you can use that to dampen and rinse your cat. If your cat seems to be frightened of the showerhead switch over to a cup.


When it comes to bathing the secret to success is to go slow and steady. If you rush in an attempt to get your cat’s bath over quicker, you may end up scaring your cat even more. Try to take your time while still being efficient. Talk to your cat while bathing her; keeping up a steady stream of dialogue can help to keep your kitty somewhat calm.

Bathing tips:

In all honesty, your cat is most likely to react adversely when introduced to water. Go slow but don’t draw out bath time any more than necessary. The person holding your cat during the bath may want to wear thick clothing that they don’t mind getting wet to protect their self from accidental scratches. Your cat probably isn’t going to like getting a bath, but it’s a necessary evil to keep your cat healthy. Unless you have a water loving cat, never give your cat a bath without cause. A bath should only be given to a cat who needs it to stay healthy. Cats are not like dogs in that they need a bath every couple of week. For the most part, your cat can take care of itself when it comes to bathing, but if something happens and you need to give your cat a bath now you have the tools you need to make the process as painless as possible.

Cat Grooming

Cat grooming can be difficult. From nail trimming and brushing to bathing, there’s a whole slew of kitty grooming tasks out there that you will need to perform for your cat one day.