Do Cats Need Baths?

Cats don’t need baths, they are self-sufficient creatures.

They’re adept at cleaning themselves, so their owners don’t usually need to get involved. 

In this post, we’ll explore why you don’t need to bath your cat.

We’ll also explore some of the exceptions to this rule. 

Cats are Adept at Cleaning Themselves

Many people assume that cats, much like dogs, need help staying clean. This assumption is incorrect.

Cats are more fastidious about their hygiene than humans are. 

They’ll spend up to half of their time awake cleaning themselves. Their tongues are highly efficient grooming tools.

cat licking itself

If your cat’s ever groomed you, you’ll have noticed that tongue is rough, acting something like a scrubbing brush. 

The rough texture is due to the tongue having many small spines on it.

These spines, or papillae as they are correctly known, are hollow and shaped like a scoop.

They face backward, so when the cat licks themselves, it creates good friction. 

The papillae penetrate the fur, acting in much the same way a hairbrush does.

The structure of the papillae enables them to store saliva. As the spines detangle the fur and loosen dirt, they distribute saliva.

The moisture removes stubborn dirt. 

Interestingly enough, these spine-like structures are the same size on all species of cats.

cat self grooming

This design is the most effective for most fur types. 

The exception is the Persian cat.

With this species, the hair is too long for the papillae to penetrate effectively.

It’s for this reason that you should brush your Persian cat daily. 

The cat’s daily grooming routine also redistributes the oil from the skin along the length of the hair shafts.

The oil helps to condition the coat.

If you bathe your cat, you risk stripping away the natural oil and drying out the skin.

It’ll become flaky and prone to irritation. 

Why Bathing Your Cat Does More Harm Than Good

With such an effective cleaning system, cats don’t need to spend as much time cleaning themselves as they do.

They do so because grooming performs a secondary function. It redistributes the cat’s scent all over their coats. 

If you bathe your cat, you’re undoing all of their hard work.

cat in a bath with shampoo on head

In a multi-cat household, this may lead to spats as the cats don’t recognize each other’s scent. 

More importantly, bathing your unwilling cat damages your relationship.

Unless you wash them from a young age, immersion in water is stressful for cats.

It goes against their instincts as few of their wild ancestors swam. 

When you wash your cat, you cause them stress.

Each time you do so, they associate you with another negative experience.

Over time, they become less trusting of you, and your relationship suffers

Alternatives to Washing Your Cat

Try brushing your cat regularly to help them stay clean in a way that they like.

cat being brushed to keep it clean

They’ll love the attention, and you’ll help them by getting rid of loose fur and debris.

The upside is that there’ll be fewer hairballs with which to contend.  

You may take a damp, soft cloth and gently clean the inside of the ears.

Stick to cleaning the skin, and don’t push the cloth into the cat’s ear canal.

Cat’s cannot naturally reach this area, so they’ll normally allow you to do this.  

When Should You Bathe Your Cat? 

If your cat could talk, they’d say, “Never.” In the following cases, it’s unavoidable: 

  • They’ve rolled in something that they can’t clean off themselves
  • Their long fur is matted and dirty
  • They’ve got something toxic to ingest on their fur
  • If they’re old and unable to clean themselves
  • When there’s a bad flea infestation
  • If they have ringworm

When washing your cat is unavoidable, read our post on how to bathe your cat

What About Persians and Other Long-Haired Cats? 

If you brush them daily, you only need to bathe them once a month.

With all long-haired cats, it’s best to start grooming them when they’re about four to six weeks old.

That way, they’ll get used to it quickly. 

Final Notes

Bathing your cat is seldom necessary.

These fastidious creatures are just as independent here as in all other aspects of their lives.

Save yourself and your cat much stress, and allow them to clean themselves. 

Leave a Reply