How to Bathe a Kitten: Step-By-Step Instructions

Dr. Karie Johnson, DVM
By Dr. Karie Johnson, DVM
Updated: 6/4/20242-4 minutes
young girl wrapping cat in a towel

Even as kittens learn to groom themselves, they may still require some assistance once in awhile. That’s why, as a pet owner, it’s good to know how to bathe a kitten.  

Adult cats are excellent at keeping themselves clean, but kittens’ skills have to develop over time. Whether they make a mess at mealtime, get dirty in the litter box, or develop a flea infestation, young cats may need a bath to maintain good hygiene. 

Read on to learn how to wash a kitten, including how often they need a bath, and instructions for bathing. 

Can You Bathe a Kitten?

Yes, you can bathe a kitten if they’re old enough. When necessary, washing them is a good way to remove dirt, debris and other messes, and can fortify their skin and coat 

At What Age Can You Bathe a Kitten?

When can you give a kitten a bath without causing them unnecessary stress? Kittens should be at least three months old before you bathe them. If they’re younger, they might get overheated or too cold during the bathing process. 

So if you’re wondering, “Can you give a 4-week-old kitten a bath?”, use a damp cloth to wipe them off instead. If a cloth is insufficient to handle the mess, contact your veterinarian. 

How Often Should You Bathe a Kitten?

If you’re curious about when to bathe a kitten, only wash them as needed. Bathing too often strips the skin of beneficial oils. 

That said, even if your kitten becomes a skilled groomer, it’s a good idea to introduce them to a bath at a young age. Ideally, this will acclimate them to water and set the stage for stress-free baths later in life.  

In addition to brushing and trimming nails, you can bathe them as part of their grooming routine 

Kitten Bath Supplies

If you want to bathe your cat but are wondering, “What can I wash my kitten with?”, here’s a list of supplies you’ll need: 

  • Cat or kitten shampoo (preferably odorless, as cats are sensitive to smells) 

  • Conditioner (optional) 

  • A plastic cup for scooping water 

  • A nonslip mat 

  • Towels 

  • Cat treats 

  • A helper, if possible 

Preparing to Bathe a Kitten

Typically, felines don’t love water, so before you submerge your kitten in suds, take steps to prepare them. 

  • Ensure your kitten is comfortable being held. If they don’t like being handled out of water, a bath will be especially difficult and stressful. 

  • Gradually acclimate them to water. Wipe them with a damp cloth and get them used to the sound of running water.  

  • Choose your bath spot. Sinks are usually a good choice for kitten baths.  

  • Do some pre-bath grooming. On the day of the bath, trim your kitten’s nails to protect you from scratches, and brush their hair to remove mats. 

How to Bathe a Kitten, Step-By-Step

Wondering how to bathe a kitten for the first time? Follow these instructions to help create a positive experience for your feline companion. 

  1. Add water to your sink or tub. The water level doesn’t need to be higher than your kitten’s knees. 

  2. Check the water temperature. Make sure the water is warm but not hot.  

  3. Lower your kitten into the water. Gently holding your kitten by the back of the neck, lower them into the water. By keeping their back to you, you’re less likely to get scratched. 

  4. Rinse your kitten. If your helper is present, have them hold your pet while you scoop water and slowly pour it over your pet’s back.  

  5. Wash them. Lather an appropriate amount of kitten-safe shampoo into their coat, but avoid getting soap on their face. Instead, use a damp cloth to wipe away excess dirt. 

  6. Give them a thorough rinse. Missed pockets of shampoo can dry out their coat and potentially irritate the skin. 

  7. Apply and rinse optional conditioner. 

  8. Dry your kitten. Towel-drying is effective after a kitten bath. If your cat tolerates it, you can also try using a hair dryer, as long as you keep it on the cool setting.   

Remember to give your kitten lots of love and treats throughout the bath to make them feel as comfortable as possible. 

Bathing a Kitten With Fleas

If your kitten gets fleas, have them seen by your veterinarian. There may be a variety of treatment options and, depending on your kitten’s age, they might recommend a medicated shampoo.  

If you’re curious about how to give a kitten a flea bath, check the bottle of flea shampoo to see if there are any special instructions. Otherwise, bathe your pet as you normally would. Make sure you keep the water warm, and lather and rinse them thoroughly.  

Don’t forget to use flea shampoo formulated specifically for cats. Products made for dogs could be toxic to felines. 

How to Bathe a Kitten Without Scaring It

When giving a kitten a bath, do your best to keep them calm, as the sound and sensation of water may scare them.  

Take steps to prepare your young cat for the bath, such as gradually introducing them to water. Also, talk to them in a soothing voice and offer treats to make them feel happy and relaxed during the experience. 

Don’t forget, if you don’t feel comfortable giving your kitten a bath, you can always take them to a professional groomer.  

Even if your feline companion has become an efficient self-groomer, knowing how to give a kitten a bath is helpful. In addition to keeping them clean, you can prepare them to be familiar with—and maybe even enjoy—water as they grow up. 

For more expert tips on kitten care, explore our other kitten health articles.

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