While most cats do not require assistance with bathing, it does sometimes become necessary to bathe a cat. The experience can be traumatic for all parties if you do not plan ahead. Before embarking upon the endeavor, assess whether or not you really need to wash a cat. A cat may need a bath because it is suffering from an infestation, such as one caused by fleas or ticks. It may also be necessary if a cat has gotten extremely dirty, or it has been exposed to a smelly or potentially toxic substance. Some cats may need medicated baths for skin conditions, and some people bathe their cats to reduce allergy causing dander. The most important thing to remember is that a calm state of mind and a positive attitude while you bathe a cat will make the experience more enjoyable for all.
Before you wash the cat, assemble the tools you will need. A washing basin, sink, or bathtub will be required, along with a rubber mat to line it. Eye lubricant to protect the cat's eyes is extremely useful, although not required. If you have a hose attachment, this should be attached. Shampoo specifically formulated for pets is also important, as is a stack of clean, warm towels. Before you begin, brush your cat and trim its nails, offering a treat afterwards so that the cat has positive associations with the experience. Next, bring the cat into an enclosed area and run the water, testing it with your wrist to ensure that it is a neutral temperature.
An assistant is extremely useful at this stage. One of you should lower the cat into the shallow water quickly but gently, while both of you speak with reassuring voices. While the assistant holds the cat, the other person can bathe it, starting by wetting down the cat's coat with warm water. Next, a small amount of pet shampoo should be massaged in, and kept well away from the cat's face, eyes, and ears. Make sure to rinse thoroughly, despite any protests from the cat, using lukewarm water and keeping the flow of water well away from the cat's face. Afterwards, use the warm dry towels to pat the cat down, and make sure that the cat has a heated, dry area to rest in after his or her bath. Before releasing the cat, offer a treat as a reward.
There are a few tips which can help you bathe a cat more effectively. Many professional groomers use restraint systems to assist them while they work. A harness is the best type of restraint; a collar alone should never be used, as the cat may choke. Make sure that the harness is comfortable, and attach a lead to it to keep the cat stationary while you work. You can also bathe a cat in a mesh bag or pillowcase, keeping the cat's head out of the bag. This can be distressing for the cat, however, so it should be viewed as a last resort.
Ultimately, if a cat struggles too much or is obviously traumatized, you should call the proceedings off. You do not want to stress the animal. Try using a damp washcloth to bathe a cat under these circumstances, or seek the assistance of a professional groomer. You can also bathe a cat with specially designed wipes used by groomers for quick touchups.