Washing Your Cat

Cats do a very good job of grooming themselves. They will lick themselves clean and the tiny barbs on their tongue will brush the fur into place too. This means that they don’t often need bathing and too much washing can actually strip the oils from their coat and make them dry and itchy.

However, cats with very long fur that they find difficult to keep clean, older or overweight cats that can’t reach all of themselves any more, or cats that have managed to get into something sticky, may need to be bathed.

Which Shampoo?

There are a variety of shampoos available – choose one that suits your cats needs. Shampoos with oatmeal can soothe itchy skin, whilst others will kill ticks and fleas. Make sure not to use human shampoo. It is too harsh for their sensitive skin and you can end up with an itchy, sore cat with a dry and brittle coat.

Before You Start

Make sure you have everything on hand. Most cats deeply dislike being soaked in water, so it will make the process easier if you are well prepared. You will need a shampoo, several towels, some cotton wool, brushes and combs and some tasty treats that you know your cat likes.

It is a good idea to trim their nails before you start. Place a non slip mat into the sink or bath to keep them calm and still, inside the tub.

Before wetting your cat, place the cotton wool into their ears. Do not push in it with your finger, just place it in far enough that it won’t fall out. This stops water getting into the ears and prevents discomfort or infections.

Brush First

Begin by brushing your cat’s coat. This removes lots of dead hair and dirt and will prevent tangles in long haired cats becoming even more matted, once they get wet. See our article ‘brushing your cat’ for tips on how to deal with tangles and matted fur. A good quality combination brush will help.


Next, soak your cat in warm water. Too hot and cats will find it uncomfortable, as well as it being bad for their skin. Use a small container to pour water over their coat, avoiding the head and eyes. Most cats will find this more tolerable than a shower nozzle, but use whatever works for you both. Remember, many cats will struggle more with excessive restraint, so hold them with just enough force to contain them.

Use your chosen shampoo to massage into the coat. Gently wash their bottom and genital areas. To wash their face, use a wash cloth or your hand to rub in small amounts of shampoo. Do it slowly and take extreme care not to get it in their eyes, ears or mouth.


Rinse your cat thoroughly with clean water. Leaving any shampoo in the coat can cause itchiness and bad skin, as well as making the coat look dull. Rinse until the water runs completely clear and then rinse again just to be sure. Use another clean wash cloth or cup your hand with water to rinse their face.


Once they are completely rinsed, remove the cotton wool and begin to dry them with a towel. Rub them gently, starting from the bottom of their back and working forward.

Don’t use a human hair dryer on your cat. Most will be frightened by the noise and the temperature is usually too high.

Finishing Off

Many cats will want to run away and hide after a bath, so keep them somewhere safe until they have recovered their dignity. Don’t let them outside until they have completely dried and calmed down.

Spot-on tick and flea prevention products, such as Frontline, are not effective if applied up to 48 hours before or after a bath.