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Do I Really Need to Give My Cat a Bath? Health & Hygiene Tips


Last Updated on: July 17, 2023 by Crystal Uys

wet cat in the bathtub having shower

Anybody who owns a dog will tell you that even the cleanest dogs need baths sometimes. In fact, most dogs need baths at least on a semi-regular basis. Baths can help maintain the health of a dog’s skin and coat, as well as reduce any unpleasant odors. It seems like it would make sense for your cat to need the same type of maintenance for their coat, right? Not exactly. Most cats do not need regular baths, though there are exceptions. Here’s what you need to know about giving your cat a bath.

Do Cats Need Baths?

If you’re one of the many people with a cat that hates water, you’re in luck! Cats are essentially self-cleaning creatures. When your cat grooms itself, they’re likely to be far more efficient in their cleaning than you realize. Cats have barbed tongues, which allow them to snag loose hair and anything stuck in their coat, removing most of what shouldn’t be there. It also allows them to distribute the natural oils from their skin across the coat and skin, keeping everything moisturized and healthy.

Even though most cats don’t need baths, there are exceptions to every rule. Some cats may struggle to effectively groom themselves, and there are many reasons that your cat may not be able to keep themselves clean. Overweight cats are often unable to reach their back end, while cats with arthritis and other medical conditions may be restricted from grooming due to pain or limited mobility. It’s also not uncommon for older or lazy cats to simply not groom themselves.

If your cat has trouble grooming themselves and they are getting dirty, collecting waste around their back end, getting tangled and matted, or simply smelling bad, then routine baths may be necessary.

If you have a cat that struggles to groom themselves, you may be able to get away with brushing and using products like waterless shampoo and pet wipes to keep them clean. There are some cases that your cat will absolutely need a bath, though.

Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

How Often Do Cats Need Baths?

If your cat is one of the few that does need a bath, it’s important to find a bathing routine that keeps your cat clean and hygienic without overbathing them. Bathing too frequently can strip the skin and coat of its natural oils, causing skin dryness and irritation, as well as a dry, damaged coat. Unless otherwise recommended by your cat’s vet, try to stick to giving a bath no more frequently than every 3–4 weeks. Keep in mind that topical flea and tick medications shouldn’t be applied within a few days before or after a bath, so make sure to follow the directions on the package to ensure efficacy.

Some cats may require medicated baths to address problems with the skin and coat, and medicated baths typically need to be repeated frequently, with some medications requiring multiple baths per week. Discuss the appropriate bathing schedule with the medicated shampoo if your vet prescribes this for your cat.

In Conclusion

Most cats do a wonderful job of keeping themselves clean, thanks to their instinct to groom and their tongue that is perfectly designed for thorough grooming. Some cats may need a little extra help staying clean, though, so it might be necessary to come up with a bathing routine if your cat struggles to properly groom themselves.

Featured Image Credit: Vladeep, Shutterstock

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