Generally, cats do not need baths. After all, grooming themselves is something cats do often and well.
In addition, with their barbed tongues, they are usually capable of keeping their own coats clean without any help from their humans. That said, even indoors, your cat can encounter dirt or debris, whether from their litter box, food or drink spills and other messes.
So, if you find yourself asking, “Should I bathe my cat?” the answer is: it depends.
Reasons to Give a Cat a Bath
There are numerous reasons your cat might need a bath:
- External parasites, like fleas
- Stubborn dirt or substances like paint or sap
- Decreased ability to groom themselves due to age or weight
- Long-haired cats who pick up dirt more easily
- Hairless cats with no fur to absorb sebum (the oily substance produced by the body to protect and moisturize the skin)
If a member of your household is allergic to cats, you may be tempted to bathe your cat more often to reduce dander. Purina’s researchers have found that dander isn’t the cause of allergies, though.
A protein found in cats’ saliva is the primary cat allergen, which gets transferred to the fur and skin during grooming and is then shed into the environment. Human allergists may advise you to bathe your cat in order to decrease the allergen. Because a good percentage of cats might not tolerate that, you could consider feeding your cat LiveClear cat food, which has been shown to reduce the allergen.
How Often Should You Bathe a Cat?
There’s no set frequency for giving a cat a bath. Cats with long hair, like Persians, may need more frequent grooming to help keep their coats shiny, clean and free of tangles and mats.
Short-haired cats may only need weekly brushing and the occasional bath when they get dirty.
You can also consult your veterinarian or a professional cat groomer on how often to bathe your cat. They can tell you based on your cat’s breed, skin and coat health and other issues whether their own grooming is sufficient or if/when a bath is needed, and which cat shampoo is right for your cat.
When done properly, a bath can be beneficial for your cat’s skin and coat. Keep in mind, however, that most cats do not enjoy baths. Domesticated cats descended from African wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica), which often live in dry, desert-like regions; therefore, some cats may instinctually try to avoid being in water.
This may mean the introduction of a bathing routine is a bit undesirable for your cat. Start slowly with small introductions to water on their paws or dripped on their coat. Depending on your cat’s size, you may want to consider bathing her in the sink rather than the tub. Over time, build up to getting your cat more and more wet. Try to keep the bath quick to minimize stress and frustration for you both.
Of course, if bath time is causing a rift in your relationship with your cat, reach out to a professional cat groomer to help keep their coat shiny, soft and clean.