Cats groom themselves for a number of reasons, from regulating their body temperature to keeping their coat smooth. Instagram and TikTok are heaven for cat-lovers who love scrolling through pictures of adorable kittens and cats doing funny things, including being bathed like a human. But do cats really need to be bathed? Here’s everything you need to know.

Cats are low maintenance, coming and going from your home as they please rather than needing to be walked… but there are some things they need help with.

Besides being fed and stroked, cats do need the occasional groom and regular vet check-up.

Does grooming your cat involve sticking them in the bath and hosing them down or will a simple brush and trim do the job?

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Brushing and grooming your cat is recommended because it lowers their chances of developing hairballs and prevents tangles.

While cats groom themselves by licking, brushing them and establishing a grooming routine will be a big help.

According to the RSPCA, grooming also “alerts you to ticks, wounds, lumps and skin problems in your cat, so you can monitor and maintain your cat’s health effectively”, so grooming is about more than aesthetics.

If your cat has long or particularly fluffy hair, you should brush them every other day (or at least once a week). Take advice from your vet, as every cat breed is different.

Do you NEED to bathe cats?

No, you don’t normally need to bathe your cat but in some instances, it could be necessary.

The RSPCA advice reads: “Cats have in-built grooming tools in the form of their tongue and teeth, and usually they are fussy about self-cleaning, so regular grooming by brushing is usually sufficient.

“However, there will be times when your feline friend needs a little extra help in the cleaning department – for example when he or she has come into contact with something sticky or smelly, or has become very dirty.

“Most cats hate bathing and will find the process stressful, so make sure you do it right – and only do it if necessary – and prepare by having the right tools and supplies ready.”

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How to properly bathe a cat

If you are going to bathe your cat, you need to have the right supplies.

Make sure you’ve set them up before bringing the cat into the bathroom – organisation helps make the process easier and keep the cat out of the water for as long as possible.

You will need:

  • cat shampoo (and cat conditioner if necessary – never use human products)
  • towels;
  • comb, or brush for longer haired cats;
  • jug or another container for rinsing, and;
  • rubber mat or towel, placed in the sink or tub to prevent slipping.

Start by brushing your cat and getting rid of as much dirt as possible from their fur and then check the temperature of the water before popping them into the tub.

If the cat won’t stay in the water, you can use food treats to entice them or get another person to hold the cat to make the process easier.

The RSPCA advice states: “If your cat is biting or scratching a lot during bathing, or appears to become distressed, stop bathing your cat and check with your vet for advice. You might be able to get someone else more experienced such as your vet or a groomer to bathe your cat without issues.”

If your cat is happy in the water, start by applying a small amount of cat shampoo and warm water to the dirty or stained area only.

The advice continues: “If you are washing the full-body, avoid the head area and only soap up the rest of the body. This includes your cat’s neck, underside, and tail.

“If you want to clean their face, use a damp towel to wipe it down. Never dunk their head into the water or splash water into their face. Only a damp towel should be used on your cat’s face and ears.

“To rinse your cat, fill the jug with some warm water and cover your cat’s eyes and ears as you gently rinse the rest of their body. Repeat with a conditioner if you are using a conditioner.”

It’s really important to rinse off any shampoo and conditioner thoroughly when you’re finished as you don’t want your cat to be swallowing any residue shampoo when they next groom themselves.

To finish, lay a cat towel on a flat surface or the floor and sit your cat down on it.

Let the cat shake off the excess water and then help them dry off with the towel.

Whatever you do, don’t use a hairdryer to dry them! The cat may be frightened by the noise.

Finally, set your cat on a towel and allow them to shake off excess water. Help them along with towel drying rather than a hairdryer, as the sound might frighten your cat.

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