Do you need to bathe your cat?

There is probably something wrong with the world when someone proposes brushing a cat’s teeth or bathing a cat, right? But we are not at all crazy, and similar questions sometimes pop up. Like, do you really, really need to bathe a cat? And if you do, is it necessary once a week, every day, or how often? Let’s find out!

kitten warped in a towel after bath
Do you bathe your cat? It’s not that bad an idea, and it’s good to start at an early age. Photo by kaelin, cc.

The short and quick answer is, yes, you do need to bathe a cat. It’s not like it is an absolute necessity, like giving food to your cat, but there are certain benefits from doing so.

First things first. If your cat has gotten into something dirty, like a chimney or oil, then you must wash your cat immediately. Otherwise, bathing a cat is not an everyday task. Indeed, it’s not even an every-week task.

For most cats, it’s even completely okay never to bathe them, though as mentioned, bathing a cat does provide several benefits:

  • Bathing a cat will make him cleaner. The fact that cats already wash themselves is true, but this fact is somewhat misunderstood. It’s actually not like they “wash”-wash themselves, at least not in the sense in which humans understand it. Licking its own fur helps a cat to get rid of dead hair, dirt, parasites and food leftovers, which helps a lot with survival in the wild. But this does not make the cat human-standard clean. When it comes to having the cat sleeping on your white pillow, then occasionally bathing your cat will give you an obvious advantage.
  • Bathing a cat will reduce shedding. Having to live, sleep, eat and pray with a cat’s fur everywhere is a common complaint from cat owners, especially if their cats have long or soft coats. Showering your cat will rinse the dead hair away, so there will be less to shed on your mattress. Shedding can also be greatly reduced by brushing your cat. Find out about more tips to limit your cat’s shedding here. Note: As a cat is being bathed, she is likely to undergo a serious amount of stress, which initially may make her shed more. This will stop as soon as the stress declines.
  • Bathing a cat will make its coat shinier and healthier. And if you use a shampoo and coat conditioner of natural origin, it will also make your cat’s coat and skin healthier. Dandruff will be reduced, and if washing is accompanied by regular brushing, your cat’s coat will also be mat-free.
  • Bathing a cat will help to stop fleas as well as other skin parasites. If your cat already has fleas, it is highly recommended that you bathe her using a flea-control shampoo. You can find this in a veterinary clinic, where you will also be able to discuss other possibilities to get rid of those tiny pests.

There might also be other, albeit less important, benefits from bathing a cat, though there might be some drawbacks, too. For example, a cat can develop allergies to some ingredients in a shampoo. You might also have to keep a cat indoors for the night after washing in the winter. And some cats are quite difficult to handle while bathing. So the good news is that you don’t need to “enjoy” this activity very often.

How often should you bathe your cat?

In general, an average indoor pet cat can easily handle being bathed one or two times per year. But as mentioned above, it’s also not a big sin if you never wash your cat. Many people don’t, and cats are okay with it; they don’t need the super level of cleanliness that humans do.

Longhaired cats will require more frequent bathing as well as brushing. Also, if you have a show-quality purebred cat, then it goes without saying that you will wash it before every show.

Cat taking a shower in a bath.
Can I please get some privacy here? Photo by Mr.TinDC, cc.

Indoor cats also require different washing schedules when compared to outdoor ones. They do not get dirty as rapidly, but over time, their coats will accumulate dirt and oils that will make the coats look poor. This is nothing dangerous, but bathing your cat will provide a significant improvement.

Last, but not least, whether or not you bathe your cat also depends on the cat’s personality and level of aggression and how used to bathing your cat is (or will become).

If you wash your cat from kittenhood, she is likely to tolerate this procedure very well. But if your cat becomes hostile and hisses and spits even as you just read about washing her, you have a good reason to consider your priorities. Having a clean cat while resting in the hospital yourself is not that much of a gain.

So consider that bathing provides several benefits to you (and your cat), though it is not a mandatory procedure for most cats. In our next article, you will learn how exactly to bathe (and how exactly not to bathe) your cat.