How Often Should I Bathe My Cat? (A Definitive Guide)

Bathing a cat once in 4-6 weeks is enough in most circumstances according to the NCGIA.

Cats have a reputation for being clean. However, they are also known to hate water, so it's understandable why some cat owners would be concerned about bathing their cats. What’s more, the frequent grooming episodes cats subject themselves to couldn’t possibly keep them 99.9% clean.

According to the NCGIA, cats should be bathed 4 to 6 weeks to maintain a healthy coat that isn't pelted or matted. To get a more precise answer it’s important to look at the factors determining a cat’s cleanliness first.

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Factors Determining How Clean Your Cat Is

  • Surrounding: Is your feline friend an outdoor cat, indoor cat, or both. Indoor cats will need fewer baths for obvious reasons. However, cats that spend time both indoors and outdoors or outdoors need to bath more often. Outdoor cats need the most baths because of the amount of germs and dirt they pick outdoors.

    Most cats fall under the indoor and outdoor category. In such cases, the kind of surrounding they are exposed to outdoors will determine the number of baths they need. For instance, if your cat is free to go anywhere in the neighborhood, they’ll need more regular baths than a cat restricted to a home and a backyard only.

  • Self-grooming behavior: While all cats self-groom, some cats will do it more efficiently than others. For instance, overweight cats have challenges reaching their entire bodies during self-grooming sessions. As a result, they’ll need more baths than their slimmer counterparts to avoid getting sticky or greasy coats.

  • Activity levels: This is another obvious factor to consider. Active cats will need more baths since their probability of getting dirty is higher compared to less active counterparts.

  • Coat type & length: Cats with long hair need more baths than cats with short hair. The same applies to hairless cat breeds. Their unique physiology makes them produce excess oils, increasing the need for baths i.e., once a week.

  • Pest problems: Cats with health-related problems like flea or tick infestations need more baths to get rid of such issues.

Why Should I Wash My Cat?

Some people may not see the need to wash cats or pets. While pets like cats don’t need as many baths as humans, there are some good reasons to bathe cats and dogs.

  • For cleanliness reasons: While cats appear clean, frequent baths are bound to make cats cleaner. The frequent self-grooming sessions can't possibly make a cat spotlessly clean. Your cat will need a serious bath if he/she steps on mud or other dirt that is hard to get rid of through self-grooming.

  • For a healthier coat: Frequent washes will also improve the health and appearance of your cat’s coat. Cat shampoos contain conditioner that softens the fur.

  • To fight fleas and parasites: Self-grooming episodes can’t possibly get rid of fleas and parasites. Your cat needs some proper cleaning if they are infested by fleas and parasites. Frequent baths using flea shampoo are critical for killing flea eggs, fleas, ticks, among other parasites bound to hide in your cat’s fur when he/she ventures outdoors and gets into contact with other pets and dirt.

  • For home benefits: Bathing your cat is also in your best interests. Bathing your cat reduces annoying tendencies like shedding. If you have allergies, frequent baths will control shedding. A clean cat will also boost your home’s cleanliness.
How Often Should I Bathe My Cat

When Is It A Must To Wash A Cat?

There are some instances where it’s inevitable to bathe your cat. For instance, if your cat has soiled himself/herself or rolled in indescribable dirt, he/she must be washed even if you washed him/her recently.

You should also wash a cat that has been recently rescued before he/she settles in their new home.

What Do You Wash A Cat With: How Do You Choose The Right Product (Cat Shampoo)

Now that you can tell how clean your cat is and the importance of bathing him/her, it’s time to get into the basics of cleaning your cat. Before the actual process, you need to choose a good cat shampoo. What considerations should you make?

I. Types Of Cat Shampoo 

There are several types of cat shampoo to consider. For instance, there are general-purpose shampoos ideal for most cat cleaning purposes. This kind of shampoo can be used to bath most cats.

If you have kittens, you’ll need kitten shampoo designed for kittens. The main difference between other cat shampoos and kitten shampoo is mildness.

If you need highly specialized cat shampoo for treating skin problems like dry skin, yeast infections, and itchy skin, consider hypoallergenic or medicated cat shampoo.

If you are bathing your cat to get rid of parasites, buy tick or flea cat shampoo that contains effective ingredients for killing parasites.

If your cat can’t stand water, you can consider buying a waterless cat shampoo.

There are other types of cat shampoo to consider for specific scenarios. Furthermore, you shouldn't attempt to use human shampoo since it's harsh. Pet shampoo should have a neutral PH (around 7, according to PetMD.

II. Ingredients

While the type of cat shampoo you consider will dictate the ingredients, you should check the ingredients just to be sure. You should consider shampoos with natural ingredients. Don't buy shampoos with artificial chemicals or additives like Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, petrochemicals, parabens, and artificial dyes.

III. Skin Type 

Medicated cat shampoos with ingredients like Aloe Vera and oat protein are recommendable for cats with sensitive skin or those with skin problems because they are mild. The shampoos also soothe the skin, eliminating problems like irritation. Cats with dry skin should be bathed using anti-itch shampoos that moisturize their skin, eliminating discomfort.

A general-purpose cat shampoo is ideal for cats with normal skin. If your cat's skin has a strong odor, he/she will benefit from a deodorizing cat shampoo.

IV. Coat

Cats with long thick coats will need a deep-cleansing cat shampoo to get a thorough wash. Deep-cleansing coats also help to maintain a healthy and neat coat appearance. If your cat's coat tangles easily, he/she needs shampoo with conditioning capabilities. If your cat has a white coat, you can consider whitening cat shampoos to whiten his/her coat. However, be careful about how you use such shampoos since they contain blue dyes and bleach.

V. Age

The type of cat shampoo you choose should also be dictated by the age of your cat. Kitten shampoo is very mild. The shampoo is designed to prevent skin and eye irritation. Adult cat shampoo doesn’t offer such benefits.

How Do I Wash My Cat: Steps To Consider When Bathing Your Cat

According to the ASPCA, cats are equipped to groom themselves most of the time. However, you need to step in and wash your cat when they become smelly or sticky. Here are the steps to consider when you want to bathe your cat.

Step 1: Select The Perfect Time

You should wash your cat when he/she is mellow. You can tire your cat out first by subjecting him/her to some vigorous play session. This step is important for ensuring control. It’s tiring trying to wash an energetic cat.

Step 2: Do Some Basic Grooming

You should also trim your cat’s nails and brush their coat first before bathing them.

Step 3: Use A Rubber Mat

Remember to use a rubber mat to stop your cat from slipping.

Step 4: Begin Bathing Your Cat

Start by wetting your cat's coat using a hand sprayer. Don't spray your cat's nose, eyes, or ears directly. Massage the cat shampoo and lukewarm water solution (1:5 ratio) from the tail to the hear, avoiding the ears, eyes, and face. 

Step 5: Rinse

Rinse your cat using lukewarm water until all soap residue is removed. Use a cloth to clean your cat's face, ears, and around the eyes. You can soak the cloth in diluted shampoo.

Step 6: Dry And Comb

Wrap your cat in a towel in a warm place. You can use a blow dryer to dry all the water. However, use the lowest setting. Finish by brushing your cat using a wide-tooth comb to untangle her fur.

Step 7: Reward Your Cat

You’ll need to give your cat a reward for completing the bathing session. A treat is critical for making a not-so-pleasant process bearable.

Conclusion

Once in 4-6 weeks is enough in most circumstances according to the NCGIA. You may be required to wash your cat more often than once in 4-6 weeks, depending on the factors discussed above. For instance, you shouldn't wait a month or more to wash your cat if he gets smelly two days after a bath. While cats have self-grooming routines which reduces the need for baths when compared to other pets, the above information is enough to help you decide when to wash your cat.

The importance of striking a balance can't be overlooked since too many baths can erase a cat's natural scent, which is critical for mating. What's more, your cat can start to dislike you when you subject him/her to too many baths. Remember, cats don't love water. If all your cat thinks of annoying baths when they see you, it will be challenging bonding with him/her.

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