Aqueos - Do Cats Need Baths?

Aqueos - Do Cats Need Baths?

Everyone knows that most cats hate water! The thought of bathing your feline friend may fill you with dread. But do cats actually need baths? Cats are fastidiously clean creatures, so most of the time (thankfully!) you don’t need to bathe your cat. However, there are some circumstances where a bath is called for. Read on to find out how to tell if your cat needs a bath, and how to bathe your cat!

Should you bathe a cat?

Cats are naturally very clean creatures, who spend a lot of time grooming themselves. The papillae (bumps) on their tongue are like tiny bristles and are very effective at removing dirt. Cats will also nibble at their fur during grooming, to combat particularly dirty areas. You’ll be pleased to hear that this means most healthy cats don’t need a bath. In fact, bathing a cat unnecessarily will cause them stress and can strip the coat of its natural oils. However, there are some situations when a cat will need a bath.

Reasons you’d need to bathe your cat

There may be times when you will need to give your cat a bath. Some common examples include:

They’re covered in particularly stubborn dirt, such as oil or paint.

They’ve got something toxic on their fur, which would be harmful for them to lick off. If this is the case, you should cover the area to prevent access. You can also put a buster collar on your cat if you have one, and be sure to call your vet straight away.

Your cat is elderly or has reduced mobility and cannot clean themselves effectively.

Your cat is obese, so they cannot reach all the areas they need to for grooming.

Your cat is incontinent, so has trouble with urine or faecal staining around their back end.

Your cat has sickness or diarrhoea.

Your cat has a skin condition that requires a medicated antibacterial or antifungal shampoo.

Baths are not recommended to treat fleas. Flea shampoos are often ineffective and add unnecessary stress for your cat. Spot-on, tablet, and injectable flea treatments are much more effective and less stressful. Ask your vet for advice on the best flea treatment for your cat. If you aren’t sure whether your cat needs a bath, check with your veterinary team! They will be happy to advise.

How do I give my cat a bath?

Preparation, speed, and staying calm are key. Here are our top tips for bathing a cat:

Have everything ready. You’ll need a non-slip surface in your bath, sink, or tub. You’ll need a mild shampoo, formulated for cats (or the shampoo your vet has recommended). Have towels ready and most importantly, plenty of treats! Consider using a plug-in pheromone diffuser, or spray, to help calm your cat. It will be much easier if you have another pair of hands to help you too: one person to hold and one to do the bathing.

Prepare your cat, if possible. If you are able, it helps to accustom your cat to the bath ahead of time. You should start this well in advance of them needing a bath! Place them in your chosen bathing spot and give them treats, so they form a positive association. Once they are accepting this, dampen their fur with a wet hand and then treat them.

Only bathe the area you need to.

Hold your cat firmly but gently, or use a harness if they are already used to wearing one.

Only fill the bath, sink, or tub with a few centimetres of water, as cats won’t tolerate being submerged.

Make sure the water is lukewarm. If it is too hot or too cold, your cat is likely to panic.

You can use a small jug or a handheld showerhead on a very gentle setting to wet your cat. Some cats may not like the sound of the shower, while others may tolerate it better than a jug. It may feel more natural to them, like rain.

Gently lather a very small amount of shampoo onto the fur, always working in the direction the fur grows. Avoid their ears and eyes. If you are using a medicated shampoo, be sure to read the instructions. Some need to be left on for a period of time to be effective.

Rinse well, to avoid shampoo residues. Your cat won’t like the taste and may be put off grooming themselves. Cats also do not like strong smells, so use unscented shampoo if possible.

Dry your cat thoroughly, with a towel. Most cats won’t tolerate the noise from a hair drier, and many driers will be too hot. Leave your cat somewhere warm while they dry fully. Don’t let them straight back outside to get cold!


Giving your cat a bath can be stressful for you both! If you think there is a chance that you might get bitten or scratched, don’t attempt to bathe your cat at home, leave it to the professionals. Depending on the reason your cat needs a bath, you could ask a groomer or your vet practice to bathe your cat for you (for a fee of course!).

How often should I bathe my cat?

This will depend on the reason for the bath and there is no hard and fast rule. If your cat has a medical condition, your vet will advise you how often you should bathe them. Try to keep the frequency as low as possible; you should only bathe your cat when they definitely need it. If your cat is having trouble with dirt or soiling in a small area, you can always use cat-friendly wipes or a damp cloth to keep the area clean between baths.

Now you know when, and how, to bathe your cat! Cats can learn to tolerate baths well, with enough patience and high-value treats. However, if your cat becomes stressed or you are at risk of being injured, you should stop and seek professional advice from your vet team or groomer.

Sarah-Jane Molier