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Cat Bathing? How To Get Your Cat To Accept Being Bathed

Cat Bathing? How To Get Your Cat To Accept Being Bathed

Cat Bathing? How To Get Your Cat To Accept Being Bathed

Yes, cat bathing is a thing. Part of cat socialization is the process of developing trust in your cat and acclimating her to people and other Pets in the home environment, including bathing.

Most people assume that cats bathe themselves and don’t need humans to keep themselves clean. The fact is, even though cats groom themselves, they often still need baths if they are unable to keep themselves clean. Cat grooming is a delicate subject because cats are notoriously anxious around water.

As with most handling issues, getting a cat used to the bathing process should be approached with as much positive association as possible. While it is unlikely the cat will be happy about getting wet, learning how to enter the bathing area and making as little fuss as possible is always helpful.


  1. Make sure the cat is hungry and that you have treats at hand that your cat can’t resist.
  2. Lure the cat to the bathing location using a tasty treat and then deliver the treat and praise the moment the cat arrives at the location. Do not bathe, yet. Allow the cat to acknowledge that the sink/tub is a pleasant place, where nice rewards are given. Lots of repetition without bathing will achieve a comfort level with the location.
  3. Next, place a small amount of warm water in the base of the tub/sink. Lure the cat to the location with a treat. It is likely that once the cat feels the water, it will hesitate. Continue to lure her into the tub/sink until she places one paw within the location and immediately praise and treat. Repeat until the cat is comfortable dipping a paw.
  4. Gradually increase the criteria by requiring first one paw, then two and so on, until the cat is actually standing in the shallow water with all four paws. Do not restrain the cat at any time. Let this be the cat’s decision.
  5. Once the cat is comfortable with standing in quiet water, introduce running water. Begin with just a dribble and gradually increase the flow as her behavior threshold allows. Always offer lots of praise and treats with each small achievement in order to keep the entire process as positive as possible.
  6. The next step is to teach the cat to remain in the water by working on a stay. Gradually increase the amount of time she remains in the sink/tub prior to praising and treating the behavior. For example, request just a couple seconds at first, then 5 seconds, and so on until the cat remains for at least 30 seconds before continuing to progress with bathing.
  7. Repeat at this level until the cat readily steps into the shallow water without hesitation. When the cat is comfortable in the shallow water, raise the water level, slowly and gradually. Do so only with each successful repetition of the cat readily stepping into the water with all four paws.
  8. By this point your Pet should remain relaxed while in the cat bathing area, allowing you to bathe her. Throughout the process, offer treats and praise. Begin with a very short bath, where the cat merely gets wet. When it’s relaxed through this process, add the shampoo, and so on until a complete bath is tolerable for the cat.
  9. Most cats don’t appreciate their tails being scrubbed. When bathing. Use long strokes on the tail in the direction of hair growth. There’s no way around it when drying-you’ll have to wrap the cat in a towel and gently rub in the direction of hair growth. Continuing to offer praise and treats will make the experience as pleasant as possible for both of you.

Cat bathing doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes a full commitment on your part along with changing your way of thinking about cats, in general, to make it work. It can be done, however, regardless of the cat’s age or what some cat experts have said on the subject.

Still not comfortable bathing your cat, but your cat needs a good bath? No worries! Hannah groomers offer services for cats. Please give us a call at (503) 905-5200.