Do Cats Need Baths?

Cats love self-care so do they really need our help?

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We have all heard the stereotype that cats hate water, so it may feel a bit daunting to think about putting your own cat in a tub full of it. You may have even noticed that your cat spends a good portion of its day licking itself, which prompts the question: do cats really need a bath? Most of the time, bathing the cat is more to give the human peace of mind, rather than the cat, but there are reasons behind this other than just your pet’s hatred for being wet. But if you’re curious, learn more about why cats really hate water.

Do cats actually need to be bathed?

The short answer is no. “A healthy cat spends up to 40 percent of his day grooming himself,” said Dawn LaFontaine, owner of Cat in the Box. “This continuous attention to self-care means there is little need for a cat owner to help out with bathing.”

There are some special circumstances such as cats with arthritis who have lost the flexibility needed to groom, sick cats, overweight cats, and even depressed cats who may require a little more help. A long-haired cat may also need slightly extra assistance cleaning themselves and of course a cat who stumbles his way into something messy that you wouldn’t want them to ingest. You may also need to bathe a cat more often that has fleas.

How often should you bathe your cat?

Cats should not be bathed with cat shampoo and water too often according to Lily Dee, editor at The Pawsome World. “Bathing a cat too often strips their coat of bacteria, which they need to maintain their gut health (necessary to protect them against diseases, boost their immune system, aid in digestion, and more),” claimed Dee. “A cat that is ‘too clean’ may even play around in dirt just to replenish some of that bacteria on their coat.”

Only bathe cats when absolutely necessary. This does not apply to the treatment of specific medical conditions in which case a veterinarian should evaluate the individual case of your cat. Cat’s do love to be brushed so if you want to be part of the grooming process, they will never shy away from a good bushing. Learn how to bathe a cat without getting scratched.

How do cats clean themselves?

Cats are naturally very neat animals as they habitually clean themselves with their tongue. “Their tongue is comprised of hook-like, hollow scoops that are able to transfer their cleaning saliva effectively onto their fur and skin to more thoroughly groom their coats (research is actually being done to study cat tongues to improve technology for hairbrushes and carpet cleaners because they are so effective),” explained Dr. TimShu, founder and CEO of VETCBD.

Cats can also use their paws, which they moisten with their saliva so they can clean the parts they are unable to do with their tongues such as the face, neck, and ears. Most of the time, cats have trouble tolerating a formal bath unless they were conditioned at a young age, so make sure to clip those nails so you don’t get scratched! Next, check out what else your pet groomer wishes they could tell you.


Emma Taubenfeld
Emma Taubenfeld is a former assistant editor for Reader’s Digest who writes about digital lifestyle topics such as memes, social media captions, pickup lines and cute pets. When she’s not working, you can find Emma reading corny young adult novels, creating carefully curated playlists and figuring out how to spice up boxed mac and cheese.