How to Give Your Kitten a Bath

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kitten drying off in towel after bath

Historically, most cats don’t like water, so bathing one doesn’t immediately sound like a good idea. But kittens can get quite messy and may require a little help from you to get them cleaned up. The self-grooming skills of a kitten aren’t as developed as an adult cat, and since litter box messes are more common, and hungry baby felines tend to get food all over their faces, you should know how to safely give your kitten a bath.

Preparing to Bathe Your Kitten

Unless you have a specific breed of cat that is known to enjoy playing in water, such as a Bengal, you need to get your kitten comfortable with being wet before bath time. This is easiest to do with a very young kitten but can be done with any age of cat. Although, it may take longer to get an older kitten used to water than it would an eight-week-old feline. Follow these steps to get your kitten used to water:

  1. Start by taking a wet washcloth and gently wiping your kitten with it. If your kitten isn’t immediately accepting of this, try offering tasty treats or wet food while wiping it. Be sure to wipe not only its back but also its head and feet.
  2. If your kitten doesn’t mind the wet washcloth, fill a cookie sheet with water to create a shallow pan for your kitten to stand in. Coax your kitten to walk into the pan of water by offering treats or gently place your kitten in it while giving it treats. Repeat this as long as necessary until your kitten is comfortable in the standing water.
  3. Next, try combining the two methods: wipe your kitten with the wet washcloth while it also stands in the pan of water. Continue offering treats and employ the help of a friend if necessary. If your kitten seems scared or stressed, stop and try again later. Especially stressed or anxious kittens may benefit from the use of a behavioral supplement or pheromones designed for anxious cats.
  4. Once your kitten seems comfortable in a shallow pan of water, try drizzling water from your hand over its back and head. Slowly work your way up to using a small cup of water and gently pouring some water onto your kitten while petting it and continuing to give it treats if necessary. Your kitten is now ready for bath time!

What You Need

Now that your kitten is used to water and ready to get a bath, make sure you have all the supplies you need:

  • Bathing container: A sink, bathtub, or another container, such as a storage bin, should be used for bath time with your kitten.
  • Cup: You'll need a small cup to gently pour water over your kitten in order to wet it and rinse the shampoo off.
  • Kitten-safe shampoo: Ideally, you'll want to use a shampoo designed for kittens. It will be tearless and formulated especially for felines. If you don't have kitten shampoo on-hand, you can use baby shampoo or gentle dish soap.
  • Treats: Have treats or canned kitten food ready to distract your kitten if it starts to get anxious.
  • Towel: A dry, soft towel should be ready to dry your kitten off as soon as bath time is over.

Bathing Your Kitten

Once your kitten is used to water and you have all your bathing supplies ready, you can give your kitten a proper bath. Fill the bathing container with a couple of inches of warm, not hot, water. Make sure the water isn't too deep for your kitten. It should only be up to its knees.

Place your kitten gently in the water and start using the cup to pour water over your kitten to wet it, starting from its hind end and working up to its head. Take a dime- to nickel-sized dollop of shampoo and gently massage it all over your kitten. Then rinse your kitten using the cup. Once all the shampoo is rinsed off, take your towel and gently pick up your kitten and dry it off.

Your towel should do all the drying work but if you need to, you can use a hairdryer as long as it has a warm or cool setting. Do not use a hairdryer if it only has a hot setting as this could dangerously overheat your kitten.

Preventing Problems With Your Kitten During Bath Time

Avoid submerging or putting your kitten under running water during bath time, as this may scare it. If it starts to get scared, try giving it treats or take a break and remove the kitten from the water and wrap it in a towel. Work as quickly as possible, without stressing out your kitten, to avoid your kitten from getting too cold.

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