How to Bathe Your Cat Without First Buying Your Burial Plot

Ever wonder how to bathe your cat without having your eyes scratched out of their eye-holes?

Like most cats, Rico’s biggest fear is water. ¬†Well, when you have a cat who sheds day-in/day-out who hasn’t had a bath in say, years, and he’s been staying up nights to meow you awake lately, it seems to me that indicates it’s bath time. ¬†And you know what? ¬†This cat of mine did surprisingly well, aside from the fact he’s been licking himself for an hour since. ¬†A vast improvement from the “nearly murdering me” experiences of every time before. ¬†As such, I decided to make this a learning experience for all.


  • Patience and a calm voice
  • Sleeves
  • Garden gloves or other protective thick gloves that won’t ruin with water
  • Pet-friendly shampoo
  • Two buckets or a double sink
  • Copious amounts of old (but clean) towels
  • Camera (wet cat pictures are hilarious)

We have a double-sink in our kitchen, but I’ve also read about using two buckets. ¬†Fill each one about half way with slightly warmer than room temperature water, one sink with soapy water, one with fresh for dipping and rinsing clean. ¬†At the bottom place a towel or other surface they can grip if they get scared. ¬†The less sliding around and flailing of kitty legs, the better.

bathing a cat,cat bath

Rico being bathed / Chupacabra in the laundry room

Warning: Don’t run the water while the cat is around, and especially not while you’re bathing him/her, as you might with a dog.

Cats are different in that running water will terrify them and you’re bound to lose their trust forever afterward.

Next, put on your personal protective equipment (PPE) for your own health and safety.

This is the second most important thing I learned in business school, besides “I shouldn’t have gone to business school”. ¬†I recommend, for the kitty-bathing, a raincoat and garden gloves. ¬†Works like a charm. ¬†I didn’t get scratched once.

You also want to have two (2) spare towels nearby to dry kitty with if he doesn’t run off right away. ¬†I say two, because Rico flailed once and pulled a ‘drying’ towel into the sink with him. ¬†Luckily I had a helper named Miklos to grab me a second towel.

If you can close the room off and keep other pets away, all the better.

It’s all in the soft dip.

While supporting the cat’s bottom half, and sort of cradling his top half in the crook of your arm, dip him slowly into the soapy water. ¬†If the cat won’t let you dip him as much as you need to, you can lather him up with the soap while he is dipped.

Speak soothingly. ¬†Be calm. ¬†There were times when Rico flailed and wanted to kill me, but the towels at the bottom of the sink for him to grip subdued this a bit, as did the fact that I didn’t freak out along with him.

Again: Don’t turn on the tap.

When you switch the cat to the fresh water, cradle gently, speak quietly to kitty.  When you have successfully dipped into the clean water, slowly bring water up with your available hand (the one you lowered his/her bottom half in with) to rinse kitty off.  The cat may panic at this point.

Stay calm, try and resist the urge to let the cat jump out of your arms and run away. ¬†Your raincoat and gloves should protect you from this, and if using a sink, the fact that you’re not leering down at the poor soul from 4 feet above will help too. ¬†Once the cat is nicely rinsed, you can lift him out and onto a towel, wrapping him in it, and fluffing him up a bit before he darts with humiliation into the basement or closet.

Snap a great picture or two.  Leave your link for me in the comments.

Voila.  Clean kitty, too busy licking himself all night long to meow and wake you up, and smelling fresh as a daisy to boot.

If you’ve tried this method, were you successful? ¬†Don’t you find bathing a cat hilarious? ¬†Let me know in the comments.

About Nikki

I've been writing since I was in kindergarten where I Crayola-markered an epic tale of a tiger and a balloon on a stack of lined papers folded into a booklet and stapled along the edge (carefully, and by my teacher). I love DIY, sewing, folksy music, animals and getting out to look at and listen to nature.
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  1. haha, I love that you bathe your cat. I assume hes kept indoor exclusively? Out cat goes outside and kills small animals (brutally murders, actually) and I’m afraid if I try to bath him, I’m next :S Can’t I just run him through a cycle in the dishwasher? lol

    • Haha. If only it were that easy. I think I’ve bathed Rico a total of 3 times in the 8 and a half years I’ve had him. Each time before this one he was Hell on four scratchy paws. He’s kept indoors, although the few times he’s managed to escape were pretty hilarious. Once he got out at night without our knowing and Miklos found him unmoving, perched at the point of our 12-foot tall tool shed like a gargoyle at 6AM.

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