How Often To Bathe, Wash, Or Shower An Indoor Cat: Reasons For Cat Baths

So today’s question is how often do cats need a bath?

And the not-so-surprising answer, according to Cat Behaviorist and television personality Richard Kirschner, host of ‘The Cat from Hell’, is almost never!

Bathing or showering cats should never be a regular thing for your cat. It’s only required in very specific and unusual situations.

While cats can’t go too long without drinking water, they can go a lifetime without a bath.

Let’s find out when exactly you should do it, if ever.

When To Bathe A Cat

how often do you shower a cat

So why does ‘Mr. Catman’ not advocate bathing your cat, or to be more precise, giving your cat the full immersion treatment in the bathtub?

The first reason you should not shower or bathe your cat/s is that they are incredibly clean animals. They spend up to 50 percent of their time each and every day grooming themselves.

Cats can be clean to a fault and will even turn their attention to you – who else has a cat that licks them?

In the wild, all cats groom themselves for the principal reason that they need to remove or mask their scent from their prey.

For a tiger, masking its scent is essential if they want to stay alive. Otherwise, their prey will scatter, they won’t catch anything, and they’ll starve.

Domestic cats have retained this behavior, and they’ve also inherited the same amazing tongues.

Cats have backward-facing spines on their tongues, called filiform papillae. These spines act just like a comb and are fantastic at getting into the crevices of a cat’s fur.

The only part of a cat’s fur that they can’t reach is behind their neck around their shoulder blades. If you have two or more cats, you’ll notice they focus on grooming these parts of each other.

Cats Say No To Bath

There’s another major reason that bathing a cat can work against you.

Soaps and detergents can be very irritating to a cat’s delicate skin beneath its fur. These soaps strip the natural oils needed to keep a cat clean.

Another solid reason for avoiding bathing your cat is that they just don’t like it.

As a consequence, if you bathe your cat too often, your cat may develop behavioral problems. Everyone knows that when cats are upset they can be vindictive.

It’s one of the reasons Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, made his creation so grumpy.

What happens is that cats get stressed and as a result may come up with some crazy and baffling behaviors to relieve the stress. You could end up with more than a little cat love bite.

Your cat can even get so stressed that every time you pick him or her up, they think, ‘Uh oh, something bad is about to happen.’ A very social cat can become quite unsociable in a hurry.

Reasons To Bathe A Cat

The good news then is that generally most cats never need a bath.

There are exceptions, of course.

One of these is if you have a hairless breed of cat.

These cats have difficulty regulating the oils on their hairless skin, which can be clogged. So a gentle bath around once per week is appropriate. Some people even like to use cat bath wipes.

Another reason for a cat bath is if your cat is newly adopted.

These cats, particularly if they were previously homeless, may be covered in both dirt, motor oil, and fleas.

Two other common exceptions to the bath rule are:

  • Older cats
  • Obese cats

These poor animals may no longer have the ability to get to the fur on their backs, and the fur there can become extremely matted.

Baths for cats can also be situational. For example, if a cat has run into a wild skunk, only a bath will make that cat livable in the house.

Or perhaps you took your cat out on a boat and it fell in some toxic algae – then it would obviously need a bath.

Cat Bath Alternatives

how often should i bathe a cat

In general, while regular bathing should rarely occur, you will need to do proactive cleaning of your cat’s ears as well as trimming their nails.

Long-haired cats need to be brushed frequently.

Does your cat resist cleaning its ears, trimming its nails, or brushing?

Try to find a particular treat he loves such as peanut butter and then only give it to him when you are engaged in one of these activities.

How To Bathe A Cat

How often do cats need baths?

Not often, with few exceptions.

But if you must bathe your cat there are a few tips:

  • Have a partner – cat bathing by yourself is difficult
  • Put down a non-slip matt – if your cat resists, slipping will make the bathing experience much worse
  • Draw the water before you bring your cat in – many cats hate the sound of running water
  • Have a washcloth handy – using a wet washcloth on your cat’s head and face is much more preferable than pouring water over his head
  • Buy an unscented gentle cat shampoo – don’t use dishwashing soap
  • Have plenty of towels on hand- a minimum of 3 towels is a must
  • Go slow – trying to rush your cat through the bathing process only leads to more resistance

Most cats rarely need a bath, but when it does happen, make it as gentle and unstressful as possible for both you and your Molly (or Tom).

Perhaps even make sure you’ve got a good heated cat bed ready for when it’s over – or at least a place in the sun.

1 thought on “How Often To Bathe, Wash, Or Shower An Indoor Cat: Reasons For Cat Baths”

  1. Our long haired male black tomcat is looking “scruffy”. I told my husband one of us needs give Sam a bath. My husband laughed and told me he wasn’t in the mood for driving me to the hospital ER because that’s where I’d be going if I attempted to bathe Sam.


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