Who Is Mistral Dawn?

Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)) where she works as a hospital drudge and attends graduate school. Taken By The Huntsman is her first effort at writing fiction and if it is well received she has ideas for several more novels and short-stories in this series. Please feel free to visit her on FaceBook or drop her a line at mistralkdawn@gmail.com

Sunday, December 27, 2015

#HowTo #Bathe A #Cat

Hey Everyone!! :-)

I know, I know, that title is an opening for a whole book worth of jokes. ;-)  But, no, I'm serious.  This is part of my series on pet care tips and advice.  One of the questions I've been asked a lot over the years is how to give a cat a bath in a way that Kitty doesn't end up traumatized and Pet Parent doesn't end up needing stitches.  Here's the advice I've come up with. :-)

How To Bathe A Cat:
Before you get started, you should know that most cats don't need to be bathed that often.  The exceptions may be kitties who don't have fur, such as the Sphynx breed, kitties who have fleas, kitties who are exceptionally dirty from being in a filthy environment, kitties who have gotten into something, such as motor oil, that they can't or shouldn't clean off themselves, and kitties who due to age or infirmity cannot clean themselves.  It may also be necessary to bathe kitties who have a medical condition that requires medicated baths, but if that's the case you absolutely need to consult a veterinarian before proceeding and follow their instructions.  Now, if your kitty falls into one of the other categories, here's a list of instructions...

First, trim your kitty's claws.  Yes, you would think this would be obvious, but apparently it's not.  It's a simple step that will likely save you a whole lot of bloodshed.  How do you trim a cat's claws?  That's pretty easy.  Hold the kitty in your lap in a comfortable position.  When the kitty is relaxed, gently pick up their foot.  They may pull back on it, so you'll need to hold it gently, but firmly.  Gently press on your kitty's toes so that their claws extend.  Then, clip off the tips with a pair of nail clippers.

You can get clippers specially made for kitties, or you can use the clippers you use on your own nails.  The only thing you need to be careful of here is making sure you only clip the tips of their claws.  You don't want to clip too far, or you'll nick the quick and make them bleed.  You know how it feels when you break a nail too far down into your nail bed?  It hurts and bleeds, doesn't it?  You don't like it and neither will your kitty, so be careful and only clip the tips.  If you look at their claws, you should see where the nail turns pink inside.  Always make sure you clip well above where it starts to turn pink so that you don't quick them.

Okay, are all the claws trimmed on all four feet?  Good! Now you're ready to prepare your bathroom.  First, make sure the room is warm.  You don't like taking a bath in a cold room and neither will your kitty.  When the room is warm, go get several big, fluffy towels from wherever you store them and bring them into the bathroom.  Put them aside, but make sure they are handy.  Also, get the shampoo, conditioner (if any), combs, etc.  In short, any supplies you will need for the bath should be in the bathroom.

Whether or not you use the bathtub for the bath or the sink will depend on the size of both your kitty and the sink you have.  If you are bathing a small kitten, it would probably be a good idea to use the sink.  But most adult cats won't fit into most bathroom sinks well enough to bathe them there.  So, depending on your circumstances, choose where you will give them the bath.

When you know where you'll be bathing your kitty, plug the drain and fill that receptacle with a few inches of warm water.  The water should only come up to your kitty's belly if your kitty was laying in it.  Also, fill a clean bucket with warm water and set it beside your bathing spot.  It doesn't have to be a huge bucket, but a couple gallons would be good.  Put a large, clean, plastic cup in the bucket.

Once you have everything filled with the water you'll need, turn the tap off.  The sound of water running might frighten your kitty, so it's best if you don't need to run the tap.  Now, go find an old bathmat or thick towel, and put it on the bottom of the basin in which you'll be bathing your kitty.  Kitties don't like to feel like they're slipping and sliding, so it helps them feel more secure if you give them something to dig their claws into.  Bathmats work best because they usually have a rubber bottom that grips the tub or sink, but a towel will work too.

Now that everything is prepared, go find your kitty and bring them into the bathroom.  Make sure the door is closed firmly behind you.  Spend a minute giving your kitty some cuddles to reassure them, and then place them gently in the tub or sink.  They may try to jump out, so you'll want to keep a grip on them to keep them in place.  Hopefully, they'll settle down and hold onto the bathmat underneath them in a couple minutes.

While, you're holding them in the water, dip your hands in the water and then pet and scratch them in the way they like to be petted and scratched.  Don't, under any circumstances, try to force them deeper into the water.  If they want to stand, let them stand.  If they sit or lie down on their own, let them.  But don't try to get them to put more of their body under the water than they choose to.  One of the biggest reasons people get scratched and bitten while trying to bathe a kitty is because the kitty thinks they are trying to drown them.  Just use your hands to scoop water over them and massage it into their fur.

When your kitty is wet all over, take the soap you have chosen and work it into their fur.  It's best if you are able to pour the soap into your hand first, because it will probably be cold and could startle your kitty, but that might not be possible if your kitty doesn't relax enough to stay in the bath without being held.  Use your judgement on this, if you have to, you can apply the soap directly to your kitty's back.

Which soap should you use?  Well, that depends.  If your kitty has fleas, there are lots of medicated shampoos on the market designed specifically for killing fleas.  The best way to choose one of these is by consulting your veterinarian.  However, at the very least, make sure the product you use is labeled specifically for use on kitties, and not just on dogs.

Personally, I don't like any of the shampoos made for fleas.  My choice, when I can't use a product like Advantage or Frontline for some reason, for getting rid of fleas on cats is to bathe them with blue Dawn dish liquid and then dust them with diatomaceous earth.  Blue Dawn dish liquid also works well for degreasing a kitty who has spent too much time underneath cars.  Just remember, it has to be the blue Dawn dish liquid.  No, I don't know why, I just know it works best.  And it's the kind of dish liquid you would use in the sink, not what you'd use in a dishwashing machine.  But, I'm not a vet, so it really would be best to consult with your vet about this.

Once you have the soap worked into a lather, massage it all over your kitty's body.  Be careful around their face, you don't want to get soap in their eyes or up their nose.  They won't like that any more than you would.  If the instructions on the bottle of soap say to let it sit, then let it sit for the amount of time required.  Then, using your hand, cup the water in the tub over your kitty to rinse them off.  Again, be careful of their eyes and face.  When the majority of the soap is gone, then apply any conditioner you want to use and then rinse it off in the same manner.

Then, unplug the drain and let the water out of the basin.  The sound of the water draining may frighten your kitty; remember, their hearing is much sharper than yours.  So, before you pull the plug, take them out of the tub or sink and wrap them in one of the towels you have set aside.  Hold and cuddle them while the water drains, and then unwrap them and place them back in the tub or sink.  Make sure the bathmat or towel is still in place so they can hold on to it.

At this point, what you do will depend on what kind of fur your kitty has.  If you have a short-hair kitty, or a kitty wit long hair that rinses off easily, you should be able to clean off the rest of the soap using water scooped from the bucket with the plastic cup.  Just pour it over your kitty while you gently use your fingers to scrub the soap away.  If your kitty has thicker hair, especially if it's also long, you might need to use a spray nozzle to get rid of all the soap.

If it's necessary to use a spray nozzle, first rinse as much soap away with the bucket and cup as possible.  Then, take your kitty out of the tub or sink and wrap them up in a clean towel while you adjust the temperature and pressure of the water.  The water should be warm, but not too hot.  And the pressure should be as gentle as possible while still enough to get rid of the soap.  Harder pressure may frighten your kitty.  Only when you have the water just right should you put your kitty back in the bath and finish rinsing them.

Once all the soap is gone, wrap your kitty up in a clean towel and cuddle them.  If they seem calm, gently scrub them with the towel to help dry them.  If they are scared, just hold them and talk to them until they calm down.  When your kitty is as dry as you can get them with the towels, let them go and they'll finish drying themselves. Just make sure they are in a warm place until they are completely dry.

And that's it!  Some kitties enjoy baths and playing in the water.  Your kitty may be one of those kitties, or they may learn to enjoy bathtime if you are patient with them.  If your kitty gets to the point where baths don't scare them, you can see how they feel about standing under a water spray or being in the tub with the water running.  But if your kitty is nervous, then you can just try to be content with the fact that you've now managed to bathe a cat.  And, hopefully, no one has lost any blood or shed any tears. ;-)


  1. Great post about bathing cats! Our friends have thought we're crazy when we say we give our indoor boys baths every few months. You've included a few tips I hadn't thought of when I've bathed my kitties in the past, like the towel or bath mat in the tub. I'll do that next time.

    I have two kitties, and we lost one on March 6 this year to cancer. My last bath with Furby was after he came home from the vet and they had to tell us there was nothing they could do. I think he knew, and it was the calmest he'd ever been in the tub. He used to stomp in the water and splash himself even more:-) That last one, all through the bath, he sat next to me and I held him like a baby when we got out. He just stared up into my eyes and I fluffed him up and cried:'( That was sweet but extremely difficult emotionally.

    The most traumatic bath has been with our now 3-yr-old, Paws after he'd had a few baths with just me. My then 7-yr-old son wanted to be involved and I paid for that mistake when Paws dug his sharp little teeth into my right arm and didn't let go! I was just glad I didn't give in to the instinct to pull my arm away - it could have been much worse. I still have the four scars though.

    That is my story. Again, thank you for the post and I'll share it with my kitty-parent friends.
    Thanks;-D - J.E.DiPalo

    1. Thank you for your comment! I'm so sorry you lost your baby, that's really hard. I'm glad you got that chance to say goodbye, though. Yes, kitty bites can be serious, I'm glad you're okay. If you'd like, you might want to check out my Animal Rescuer's Guide To Staying (Relatively) Sane, as I have advice for several common issues people owned by cats might face in it. It's free from most online book retailers. Thanks again for stopping by! :-)