Cat Bathing in Four Easy Steps

Today was Bath Day for the Smitten (aka Minou), so I thought I’d take this opportunity to offer a few words of advice to those daunted by the prospect for feline screams of indignation. (I promise you, that’s all they are. NO ANIMALS ARE HARMED DURING THIS PROCEDURE; however, they are likely to be offended–hence the screams.) In a few simple steps, here’s what I do.

Step 1: Disarm the Smitten.

I always trim Minou’s nails before bathing her. She has never tried to claw me, but there is, on occasion, a certain amount of flailing, and I find blunting her nails to be a wise precaution.

Step 2: Tell the Smitten to leave you alone.

I cannot emphasize this enough. Minou has an uncanny ability to distinguish between a bathtub I am preparing for myself and one I am preparing for her. No matter how nonchalant I try to be, she’s never fooled. However, if I tell Minou to GO AWAY, naturally, being a cat, she will continue to hover and make “inspections” of my work. By the time I’ve shut the bathroom door and she realizes her mistake, alas for her, it’s far too late.

You should have on hand:

a. pet shampoo

b. a cup (non-breakable!)

c. a dry towel

d. a hairdryer

NOTE: Get all your supplies together before closing yourself and kitty into the bathroom. If you realize you forgot the soap or the cup and have to open the door….

Step 3: Commence bathing the Smitten.

Here is my most important piece of advice: GET IN THE TUB WITH KITTY. If you try to reach over the side, you will have the squiriest of squirmers on your hands. I always get in the tub with Minou; in fact she spends a good part of her bath on my lap. Even though Minou is highly indignant about the whole process, she stills takes comfort from my closeness. It’s like holding her while she gets a shot or has her temperature taken. There may be some feelings of betrayal on her part, but there is reassurance also.

To wet the Smitten, I use a cup or small bowl, which I use to dip up water to pour over her. This, I promise, is much better than trying to submerge her (she will think you are drowning her) or using my hands. Be gentle but firm. Animals respond to confidence, and if you proceed with an attitude of “I know you’re offended, but I do think you’re making quite a fuss over nothing,” you will get the better results than if you say either, “Sorry, sorry, sorry!” or, worse yet, “Hold still!” (When have you ever known a cat to respond favorably to such a command?)

Step 4: Dry the Smitten.

I always gently squeeze the excess water from Minou before wrapping her in a towel. Think of her like a delicate wool sweater you’ve just hand-washed. You don’t want to wring her, but you want to press out as much water as you can. Once she’s no longer dripping, I wrap Minou is the dry towel (think of her as a burrito) and rub her down a bit. Next, I sit on the floor with her still wrapped and start exposing one area at a time for blow drying. If your kitty has never been blow dried, this will take a little desensitizing. Again, firm but gentle. You may need to even put the hair dryer aside, still blowing, while you hold kitty and tell her not to be so dramatic. Once she has accepted the sound of dryer, you can get back to business.

And that’s it!

People sometimes ask me why I bathe my cat. “Doesn’t she bathe herself?” they often ask. Well, of course she does, but Bath Day has greater significance. One, after she is bathed and dry, loose hair comes out more easily and I can give her a “real” brushing. Two, it makes her kitten-soft. Oh, it’s lovely. I always tell her she’s like a brand-new kitten. And three? Cats are like any other animal, be it dog, horse, cow, goat, etc. The more you handle them and expose them to different…challenges, the better. The more you do with your cat, the more you can do. Since this post has gotten quite long enough already, I’ll tell you more on that score next time when we tackle a new topic: CAT WALKING.

NOTE: Because it seemed rude to take an unflattering, post-bath picture of Minou and put it on the internet, here’s a cute baby pic instead. 🙂

Got it!


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