Tell me, dear cat parents, what do you picture when you imagine giving bath to a cat? Flailing limbs, indignant yowling, and lots of loving scratches and bites! However, if you know how to bathe a kitten, this process will actually be peaceful! I can imagine that your eyebrows have disappeared in your hairline at my cheeky claim.
Bathing a kitten can be a peaceful affair?! Yes, but only if you start bathing kittens when they’re young, and you go about it with ample preparation and care. Bathing a kitten isn’t like bathing a human, or even a human baby. Adult cats don’t really need bathing that much, but kittens are unable to keep themselves clean.
Therefore, they need the help of their human caretaker. But you should be careful with the kitten’s bath, otherwise the little ball of fur will catch a cold. A moment of inattention might also leave you with terrible scratches and bites. Today I’ll write in detail about how to make bath time peaceful for both you and your kitty.
Why Should You Bathe a Kitten?
Like I’ve already hinted, adult cats are capable of grooming themselves to such an extent, that they only need bathing about once a month. However, kittens who are separated from their mother aren’t capable of doing so, and they get dirty faster.
Since kittens cannot groom themselves, their fur gets matted with general dirt from playing around, excreta that sticks to their bum and tail, and food. Yes, food! Kittens are messy eaters and often step onto their feeding plate, or even stick their whole face in the bowl.
When this happens, you should spot-clean the kitten with a soft washcloth damp with lukewarm water and diluted shampoo. However, sometimes you just can’t avoid a full-body bath. Sometimes an inquisitive kitten might even get itself into trouble and end up with paint or oil splatters. In cases like these, it’s best to shave the affected fur.
Another reason why bathing is needed, is to get the kitten used to the idea of a bath. Start when they’re young, and the kitten wouldn’t fuss when it’s older and needs a bath. You may need to give the kitten a bath for medical reasons when it’s older, so it’s best to make sure the cat is used to the activity and isn’t spooked.
How Often to Bathe a Kitten
From my experience with rescuing and fostering dozens of kittens, I’d say bathing a kitten one every three days should suffice. If you’re worried about them catching a cold, or if they’re already vulnerable, stick to spot cleaning as much as possible.
When you have a kitten that’s incapable of controlling its bowel movements, you’ll need to massage its stomach with a warm, damp washcloth. Do it gently after each feeding, and this would prompt bowel movements. After this, you’ll have to clean their rear area. After each feeding, I’d also advise you to clean the kitten’s face, as things often get messy.
Despite spot cleaning, you will start to notice the kitten looking like it needs a bath after 3-4 days, that’s when you should give it a bath. A slightly older kitten who’s only learning to potty in the litter box might still have an accident, and you’d have to give it a bath. Lastly, let me remind you that long haired, or even medium haired cats tend to need baths more frequently.
How to Bathe Kittens
Now that we’ve gotten a couple necessary FAQ’s out of the way, let’s get to the main event, how to bathe a kitten! To bathe a kitten, no matter what the age, you’ll need the following tools:
- A good cat shampoo
- Lukewarm water
- A cup to pour water
- Several fluffy towels
- A basin, bathtub or container where the bathing will take place
- A floating toy to keep the kitten distracted
- Canned food or treats
- Someone to help you
- Lots of love and patience!
A word of precaution: Bathing a kitten starts from the night before! That’s when you should make sure to clip your cat’s nails. This will reduce the possibility of your arms getting shredded in case you end up scaring your kitten. Also, make sure to brush your kitten thoroughly so less hair is floating around when it’s time to bathe.
Kitten Bathing Steps
- On the day of bathing, make sure to offer plenty of playtime. Your kitten will be tired and more agreeable, also in a better mood and ready to accept a new activity.
- To bathe a kitten safely, never just dunk it in water, that’ll traumatize the innocent baby for life.
- Take the kitten into whatever room you’re giving it a bath. Make sure the room is warm and free of drafts, and the door and any windows are closed. I prefer using my spare bathroom. I run a hot shower beforehand to make sure the bathroom is comfortably warm.
- Pour about an inch of water in whatever container you chose to give the kitten a bath in. Float the toy in this water and coax your kitten to stand in this water. Be patient, and show the kitten that the water is nothing to be afraid of.
- Once your kitten stands in the water, start to rinse its body using the cup. You can dilute the shampoo in water and gently rub your kitten with it. Then rinse it off with more water.
- You can try using a hand-held spray, but make sure the water is slow and lukewarm. Also, don’t let the kitten see the spray. If it’s too loud, forgo the spray and just keep using the cup to rinse the kitten.
- Wet a washcloth in warm water and gently wipe the kitten’s face, around the eyes and ears. Never pour water directly into this area, using a spray is also a no-no.
- Lastly, bundle up your kitten in a fluffy towel and dry it properly. My Simba tends to get scared at the hum my hair dryer makes, so I don’t use it. You could try that if your kitten is braver.
How to Wash a Kitten That Needs Extra Care
From the steps I have mentioned, you’d think the process of bathing a kitten is easy-peasy. However, the process might not be as smooth going and your kitten might freak out at any point of the process. What to do when that happens?
I’d suggest you stop and use floating toys to play with the kitten. You can also offer your kitten a treat it cannot say no to. This will make the kitten associate bathtime with good things. If even after doing these two things the kitten isn’t warming up to the idea of bathtime, just try another day!
Bathing a Newborn Kitten
Aside from kittens who are at least able to walk and see, you may also need to bathe a newborn kitten. Since they’re very fragile, many people puzzle over how to bathe a newborn kitten, or even if it’s right to bathe one at all. I’ve rescued newborn kittens riddled with fleas, ticks, and sick with infections.
They absolutely do need to be bathed in cases like these. Bathe newborns kittens with gentle care. The setting should be similar to how you’d bathe an older kitten. First, cup the newborn kitten gently in the palm of one hand and gently rub warm water onto its tail and bottom area. Use diluted kitten shampoo if necessary.
Keep massaging to make sure the kitten isn’t feeling discomfort. After this, rinse off. You can wash the rest of the kitten’s torso like this. When you wash the face, be extra gentle and don’t use shampoo. Use a soft towel to dry the kitten, then use another to cradle the baby to your body and lend it some heat.
An additional step to properly bathe a kitten only a few days old, that I’d recommend is to sit with the kitten in sunlight. Just make sure the weather isn’t chilly or there isn’t a lot of wind, then let your kitten warm up in the sun.
Alternatives to Bathing a Kitten
You don’t need to bathe your kitten everytime it gets food smeared around the mouth, gets doused in flour or gets its paw stuck in a flower pot. In such cases, spot-cleaning or grooming works fine. You can use dedicated cat grooming brush, or even an unused soft toothbrush to groom your kitten. This will also help you bond with your fur baby.
For long haired or medium haired breeds, grooming is very important even besides bathing. You can spot-clean with a warm, damp washcloth, or even cat-specific wipes you’d find in cat stores. You should also wipe down your kitten’s whole body with a wet washcloth often if there’s someone allergic to cats in the house.
To make sure you don’t have to bathe your kitten often to get rid of fleas, invest in a flea collar. Lastly, you could also look into dry shampoo. But before using any chemicals, be it cat shampoo, wipes or dry shampoo, it’s best to consult a vet.
(Conclusion) Baby Steps
Now that you’ve read through how to bathe a kitten, I bet you’re feeling much less panic about the whole process, right? Remember, learning to bathe a kitten is essential in the process of raising it. Once your kitty gets used to regular baths, everyone involved would be much happier!