How to Bathe your Cat and Survive Scratch-Free

Cats are generally quite good at keeping themselves clean, and rarely do they need a bath. Those few times that they do, however, usually fill their owners with anxiety and dread... after all, those claws are pretty sharp! Read on to find out how you can safely bathe your feline friend.

Most cat owners fit into one of two categories:

  1. Those that have never bathed their cat
  2. And those that have the scars to prove they have

My first cat Sasha was a part of the family before I was born. Until she was 19 she had NEVER been bathed, but with age came some midnight accidents which left her a bit smelly…

The first bath was a battle. In an absolute novice attempt at bathing my cat, I put her in the laundry tub and turned the tap on… and the end result wasn’t pretty. Who knew a 4kg elderly cat could one-up a 58kg teenager!

So if simply putting your cat underneath the tap isn’t the way to go about it, what is a safe way to give her bath? Here’s the method I now use and recommend:

  1. Fill your tub or sink with warm (not hot!) water. You want enough water to cover roughly halfway up the cat’s body, but not so much that it covers her back
  2. Without making a fuss, place the cat in the water. You  may want to hold her gently by her scruff to keep her calm
  3. Use a small bucket or glass to gently pour water over your feline friend until she’s thoroughly wet
  4. Take her out of the water and place her on a towel to apply the shampoo. Avoid getting any in the eyes and inner ears – if this does happen, seek advice from your veterinarian
  5. Place the cat back in the bath to rinse off the shampoo
  6. Towel dry as much as possible (your cat will do the rest)

To make this a more pleasurable experience,  you can try offering your cat her favourite treats as a reward. For my Sasha, we gave her lots of warm barbeque chicken and fresh salmon strips, as well as plenty of reassurance. After a few baths it was a lot less stressful for the both of us, which was a good thing given she lived to the ripe old age of 23!

The best way to get your cat used to baths is by slowly introducing them to the idea when they’re still young:

  • Start by filling the tub with just enough water to get your cat’s legs wet
  • Gently place your furry friend in the tub
  • Instead of shampooing, give them a gentle brush or some slow pats
  • Reward their bravery with plenty of treats
  • Over a few baths increase the water level then introduce shampoo

If despite all this, your cat still isn’t a fan of baths, you can try a rinse-free cleansing alternative like Dermoscent Essential Mousse. This innovative soap-free mousse effectively removes dirt from your pet’s coat, whilst deodorising and moisturising it to keep your pet’s coat all nice and shiny.


This blog was written by Jess Fenyo, one of the lovely Experience Crew Members at our North Ryde Vet Clinic. Jess is the proud mum of a ferret named Shiloh, a fluffy black cat, an 11 year old rescue pooch, and a cheeky 2 year old Basenji mix.