Ah, the common cat. Fascinating yet elusive – full of just as much mystery as charm.
No matter how much we know about cats – and let’s be honest, even if you’ve never had a cat under your roof, you still likely know quite a bit about them! – cats always seem to have us on our toes, curious about even the most basic of questions.
Take for instance the topic of today’s discussion. Obviously: we all know cats groom themselves by licking to get themselves clean. Yet even with this knowledge, I feel it’s still quite common to ponder about the answers to slew of feline hygiene related questions: Do humans never need to bathe their cats? Should humans be bathing their whiskered friends, even if it’s not technically necessary? And if it’s beneficial to bathe a cat, how often should cat baths happen?
My guess is that those of you who have stumbled on over here are likely to fall into one of two camps. Either: 1. You’ve never had a cat before, you’re potentially interested in adopting one, and are wondering whether taking a cat under your roof is as low-maintenance as you’re expecting and hoping; or 2. You have a cat (or a few cats) of your own, you guys have been together for quite some time now, and you just happened to be wondering whether it’s normal that you’ve basically never bothered to give your feline(s) a single wash in all the time you’ve shared together.
No matter which angle you’re starting from – the answers to these questions are the same. I’ll be honest, they’re not likely to surprise you, but you can let me know in the comments down below if you learned anything new, or if something stated in this article didn’t align with what you originally thought!
Do Cats Typically Need Baths?
Domestic cats – whether they’re allowed to roam around outdoors or always kept inside – typically don’t need to be given baths.
Not daily, not weekly, not monthly, not even annually. For the most part, giving cats baths is entirely unnecessary.
There are a few circumstances where you should probably be bathing your cat, but these particular cases are few and far between, and we’ll get into them very soon so you’re aware of what they are.
But the basic takeaway if you were curious about what having a pet cat would look like: rest assured, there are very few cases you’d actually be engaging in giving your pet cat a bath. They do a ridiculously good job keeping themselves clean on their own, so besides those special situations I’m going to get into soon, you definitely don’t need to be on bath-giving duty.
If you stumbled over here curious about what other pet owners are doing with their felines, I can almost assure you, they aren’t giving their cats baths regularly either.
Though Cats Don’t Need Baths – Should I Bathe My Cat Anyway?
Should you be giving a cat a bath regularly, even though it’s unnecessary to do so?
I’m going to level with you here and now: in my opinion, the answer is an outright no.
Unless you have a specific reason you need to give a cat a bath (again – like those listed below), I really don’t think you should be giving your cat a bath.
Why? Because they take proper care of their own hygiene on their own, bath time is stressful for most cats, and you could be doing more harm than good since the soap and/or shampoo you use could end up giving your cat an allergic reaction and/or some other form of discomfort.
Don’t fix what ain’t broke – and a typical domesticated cat, whether he or she goes outside or not, ain’t unclean. So it’s my honest opinion that you shouldn’t go givin’ your cat baths willy-nilly.
Have a different take on this issue? Let me know why you think differently in the comments below. Always happy to change my opinion if there’s reason to!
Exceptions to the Rule: Cases When You Should Be Giving Cats Baths
As I’ve stated a few different times already: there are exceptions to the rule of thumb that you don’t need to, and probably shouldn’t be, giving your domestic cat a bath.
Give a hard pass to bathing a cat unless one or more of the following is true:
1. Your cat isn’t cleaning him or herself properly.
As a heads up, this isn’t a common problem. Most of the time cats will very fastidiously be taking care of their own personal grooming and hygiene, but at times a cat may develop issues grooming him or herself properly.
If this ever happens to your cat, you’ll want to figure out why he or she is having issues with grooming. Typically, the reason is one of the following: 1. Weight gain, 2. Being sick and/or injured, or 3. Aging/getting old.
Since injury and illness are potential reasons that could explain away grooming issues, you’ll want to make absolutely sure neither of these are the underlying problem behind your cat’s unhygienic behaviour. Pop over to the vet for a quick visit and get your cat checked out if you notice a hygiene problem developing to be sure it isn’t one of these. Your vet will likely ask you if there are any symptoms or behavioural changes your kitty’s exhibiting besides the lack of successful grooming. If there are, let him or her know.
If your cat is healthy and is simply finding it difficult to clean him or herself due to old age, at this point, it’s of course best for you to help him or her out with keeping clean. Give your cat a bath whenever he or she becomes visibly unclean or scruffy.
Make sure, if you do need to give your cat a bath, never to use human shampoo or conditioner. There are plenty of great cat shampoos and conditioners out there for you to choose from: some are even no-rinse/water-less, and others tackle specific problems like dandruff reduction shampoos.
If your cat is having issues cleaning due to weight gain, you should also be bathing your cat whenever he visibly looks like he needs it, while also making an effort to help your cat get back to a healthy weight. Need help with this? It’s actually a lot easier than you might think to get a cat to his or her optimal weight! Use this simple trick to preventing overfeeding, and you can even continue to feed your cat as often as you’d like – doling out as many meals and snacks as you want each and every day, while still guaranteeing weight loss for your cat in both a healthy and sustainable way.
2. Your cat has fleas.
If you suspect your cat has fleas, you’ll almost certainly want to give him or her a bath.
Though of course, you won’t be giving your cat any ordinary bath, but one using a specialized flea-control shampoo.
3. Your cat has gotten into something sticky, dirty, smelly, or dangerous.
There are plenty of circumstances that would fit into this category. Cat sprayed by a skunk? Yup, he or she would probably benefit from a bath.
Got some chocolate on his or her fur? Doesn’t matter if it’s dark, milk, or white, chocolate is toxic to cats, and getting it off with a bath ASAP is of utmost importance to make sure he or she doesn’t ingest any theobromine while grooming.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
For those who haven’t yet adopted cats who may be wondering how often a cat is likely to get into something sticky, dirty, smelly, or dangerous – I’ve had my cat five years and it’s never yet happened once. Cats are experts at keeping themselves clean – it’s an extreme rarity they ever manage to get dirty.
As an example: My cat, a stray we adopted as a kitten, used to rummage through garbage bins every so often – a behaviour strays and feral cats will typically engage in for a few months after being homed out of habit since the would’ve needed to scavenge to survive outdoors on their own. While our kitchen floor may have been covered in trash, Avery always walked away spotless. We would never have known just by looking at him how much trouble he’d been up to while we slept.
How Often Have Your Cats Needed Baths?
For those of you who have cats – how often have you had to give your cats baths over the years?
As stated, Avery’s never been into something sticky, smelly, dirty, or dangerous, and as a result, I haven’t had to give him one bath in our 5 years with him!
If you’ve ever given a cat of yours a bath, why did he or she need one? Did you ever have a cat who needed your help with regular baths or just the one-off bath to clear up fleas or due to your cat getting into something sticky?
Would love to know!
Cats don’t need baths unless it’s absolutely necessary. One of my cats has long fur that causes poop to get caught in it, and that is the only time I wash her, but not the entire body, just her back end. I haven’t had to do that for a long time because I instead just trim the fur around her butt and problem solved. I saw a comment here saying that bathing once a week doesn’t hurt your cat….yeah, you’re totally wrong. If you’re bathing your cat once a week, I feel sorry for them. That’s so much unnecessary stress being put on them. And how dirty can they possibly be that they need a bath so often? Dogs need a bath once a week, cats aren’t dogs. My cat would hate me if I bathed it that often. Don’t bathe your cats unless they need it. Brushing them regularly is the best way to keep dirt particles, dandruff and pelts out of long cat fur. Short hair cats on the other hand probably won’t ever need your help staying clean. And don’t shave an outdoor cat (e.g lions mane cut). Their fur is basically their armour. It’s much easier for another animal or another cat to injure a cats skin when its fur armour has been shaved off. Lastly, if you want to get rid of fleas, use a vet prescribed brand of topical ointment like Revolution. It’s safe without the potential for awful side effects like seizures, rashing and in many cases, death. Hartz brand is quite possibly the worst of them.
JOE MARTIN says
Just an article right before yours from The National Cat Groomers of America recommends cats get a bath and blown dry every 4-6 weeks to keep their coats from getting matted or pelted. So who’s right? Id say THEY ARE ,, Cats have dead skin like we do. I think anyone that DOESNT bath their cat at least 3 times a yr, should HAVE a cat. My cat is a long haired cat. I take her to the groomers every August to have her shaved down with a lions mane tail/ neck.. They shave her, bath her, do the nails, clean ears for $63.00. I have them bath her every 3/ 4 months. No,,, shaving a long haired cat ISNT CRUEL, Makes them feel better/ cooler, Matter of fact the VET suggested i get my cat shaved down, Vet said he gets his 2 long haired cats shaved and NO,, YOU CANT SEE BARE SKIN, They still have fur but not as much. Your cat will thank you as they will be cooler and no mare mats, easier to brush and see fleas if they have any. and easier for them to keep themselves clean and NO MORE FUR BALLS TO THROW UP,
Lori Evens says
I have 2 rescues that have 40% lung capacity, they will be 2 in March, when I fostered them ,Jax and Mia were the size of my palm left for dead. I am no longer fostering Im keeping my babies, I did give them a bath one time for my own feel of home but never again.They are totally upkeepers their self. I do brush occasionally they aren’t sure if they like it , but it helps and I have not seen 1 hair ball yet.
My cat ultimately died from cancer in the mouth. The vet said it might have been from ingesting toxic dust particles from her coat. Giving a cat a bath weekly has shown to prevent half these cancer deaths in the mouth. GO out and buy some cat shampoo. Use really warm water in the sink. Cats have a high body temperature of 110 so it won’t feel hot. Don’t use the bathtub it’s too big. They don’t mind the sink so much because it’s smaller and you don’t need to use a lot of water or have the cat standing in the water. Dust particles are toxic and unhealthy, a lot more than you think.
Elise Xavier says
I haven’t done research on this topic at all, but I have heard of cats dying and becoming really ill from toxic dust particles found in certain litters I think? Don’t take my word on it, but definitely something for me to look more into. If it’s about a toxin, however, I’d think it’s more important to locate the source of the toxin and remove it than to bathe your pet. Because cats lick off absolutely everything off them, and so no matter how often you bathe them, in my mind it won’t be enough to combat that kind of toxicity since they’ll still be ingesting it if it’s not removed. Definitely could be wrong, but something isn’t adding up for me – I just can’t see how a bath a week would be enough if toxins are the problem.
Hello! Me and my mom have cat allergies to our cat but we really want to keep him. we thought that mabye we can give him a bath every year just to reduce the dander. Is that okay?
Eastside Cats says
No baths for our kitties, except when Angel and Chuck were babies and covered in fleas. The Hubby and I cried when we witnessed the rinse water was pink; poor wee babies! We’ve had to spot-wash a cat or two that had some problems.
Elise Xavier says
Oh my goodness 🙁 Poor kitties – pink water, I think I would’ve cried, too!
I suggest everyone to be extremely careful when buying flea medication for their cat. Unfortunately, many products such as Hartz ( see hartvictims.org ) and Sentry have killed cats because they contain extremely toxic ingredients. I would ask the vet for a recommendation instead of using over the counter flea medications.
I agree that we shouldn’t bathe our cats unless absolutely necessary 🙂
Elise Xavier says
That makes a lot of sense about asking your vet for a recommendation for the flea medication. I’d say, at the very least, do due diligence and read through the negative reviews on the internet for most of the pet products you get, especially ones related to health and hygiene, to see if there have been cats who have had allergic reactions to them for instance. I’m glad the internet helps us expose bad and potentially dangerous products. So grateful for people who speak up about their experiences.
I had to take my kitty to the emergency vet because she had a bad raction to over the counter flea medicine. It’s a crime they are allowed to sell that stuff to unsuspecting pet owners. You are trying to do something good for your pet and wind up hurting them. Its heart breaking. You should only use flea medicine prescribed by the veterinarian. Its more costly, but worth it. Our kitties rely on us to do the right thing for them. Their fate is in our hands and we must do right by them.
The Swiss Cats says
We agree with you : unless for a specific reason, cats don’t need baths. The only cats who got baths were Angel Hercule and Angel Isis because they had fleas. Purrs
Elise Xavier says
I think that makes the most sense (not giving baths unless for a specific reason). It’s funny how rare it is they need baths in their lifetime, isn’t it?
Crystal and Daisy Mae says
I am glad cats don’t need bathed unless it’s necessary. When we took my one cat to the vet she went to the bathroom in her carrier and needed a bath when she got home. Dad got that job and he had scratches galore. May I have permission to post this article on my WordPress Sites? Please let me know. Great job on the article.
Elise Xavier says
Definitely not easy bathing most cats! I’m glad they don’t need to be bathed unless it’s necessary, too!
Yup! Feel free to share any article on KittyClysm to your WordPress Sites in part, with a link back to the full article.