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!