Tips on How to Wash a Cat That Hates Water [Step-By-Step Guide]

A cat having a bath inside a bathtub

Bathing a cat can be a daunting task, especially when faced with a feline friend who vehemently opposes water. While many cats are known for their aversion to getting wet, certain situations may necessitate a bath. With a strategic approach and a bit of patience, bathing your cat can become a more manageable and even stress-free experience for both you and your feline companion.

Here are our top tips on how to wash a cat that hates water!

What’s in This Guide?

1. Choose the Right Frequency of Bathing

As we covered in our article, Cat Care Routine: Tips for a Healthy, Happy, & Fabulous Cat, most cats only need a bath in the following situations:

2. Prepare in Advance

Before attempting to bathe a cat that hates water, it is important to be prepared for the task at hand. Ensure the room is warm, and close windows and doors to prevent escape attempts. In addition, make sure that all necessary supplies are within arm's reach. 

You'll need:

  • Cat-friendly shampoo
  • A tub or basin with a non-slip mat or towel
  • Warm water ( 102°F or 39°C)
  • A large pitcher or handheld showerhead:
  • A cat harness (optional) 
  • Several soft towels and/or a blow dryer for drying; and 
  • Treats (for positive reinforcement)

Note: Cat parents can also opt to use anti-scratch cat shoes if their furry friend is comfortable with them.

Preparing all the cat bath essentials, one of the tips on how to wash a cat that hates water

3. Choose the Right Cat-Friendly Shampoo

Opt for a cat-friendly shampoo with a mild formula. It is generally recommended to opt for gentle, moisturizing shampoos that will strengthen your cat’s coat and help prevent your cat’s fur from matting. Consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about the best shampoo for your cat's specific needs or skin conditions.

Note: Avoid using human shampoos, as they can be too harsh for a cat's sensitive skin. 

4. Trim Nails Before Bathing

It is important to ensure that a cat’s nails are trimmed before starting a bath. Trimming your cat's nails beforehand reduces the risk of cat scratches, as well as the possibility of getting cat scratch fever.

Nail trimming before a cat bath is helpful even if you opt to use anti-scratch cat shoes as there is no guarantee that these shoes will stay on. Furthermore, the anti-scratch shoes may need to be removed if the cat’s paws also need washing.

Note: When trimming your cat’s nails, make sure to use nail clippers (and/or grinders) intended for pets. In addition, take care not to cut too close to the quick, as this can be painful for your feline friend. 

5. Start with a Dry Run

Before introducing water, perform a "dry run" with your cat in the bath. Use treats and soothing words to create positive associations. Stroke your cat gently, allowing them to become accustomed to the environment.

6. Plan a Short Cat Bath

Keep the entire bathing process as short as possible. If a cat hates water, they are likely to find baths stressful to a degree (even with a pet parent’s best effort). Therefore, minimizing the duration of the cat bath helps prevent prolonged anxiety and possible increased aversion toward the next bath time.

Keeping the bath short, one of the tips on how to wash a cat that hates water

7. Prepare Your Cat’s Post-Bath Experience

When it comes to bathing cats that hate water, the post-bath experience is just as important as the bath itself. Try wrapping your cat in a soft towel and gently patting them dry. Offer treats and praise for positive reinforcement. Be mindful of your cat's body language, and if they seem distressed, allow them to retreat to a safe and quiet space once they are sufficiently dry.

8. Consider Professional Grooming

Though some cats may respond to the above tips on how to wash a cat that hates water, some may not. If bathing your cat at home is consistently challenging, consider seeking professional grooming services. Professional groomers are experienced in handling reluctant cats and can complete the process efficiently.

Final Thoughts on Bathing a Cat That Hates Water

We trust you found useful insights in these tips on how to wash a cat that hates water. If you have any specific questions about cat care, cat behaviors, nutrition, or overall cat health, we are here for you!

Sploot Veterinary Care is a primary & urgent veterinary clinic with multiple convenient locations and unparalleled clinic availability (extended clinic hours, 365 days a year.) Book an appointment online or through the Sploot Vets app. All Sploot locations also accept same-day appointments!

As always, we’re with you every pounce of the way!