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How to Bathe a Kitten: A Pain-Free Guide for Pet Owners
By: Brianna Gunter
All of our furry friends need a bath sometimes, and that goes for cats as well. Yet as many pet owners can attest, bathing a cat is often difficult work and can be traumatic for human and feline alike.
Fortunately, starting while cats are still kittens can help get them used to a lifetime of periodic baths. Most cats still naturally dislike being wet at any age, and kittens are more fragile than their adult counterparts. So, you’ll need to take some precautions first.
Do kittens need baths?Yes, kittens do require baths from time to time.
Although your kitten will become more adept at self-grooming as he gets older, it’s important for him to become comfortable or at least experience a bath early in life. Even if you’d like to rely on your kitty keeping himself clean, you may find that young cats need baths when least expected.
“A kitten who is sick or has diarrhea may need to be cleaned,” says Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Sarah Nold. “You may also need to groom your kitten because of parasites like fleas and ticks.”
It’s also worth noting that kittens who were separated from their mothers at an early age may not yet be able to groom themselves properly. A quick, gentle bath can help keep their delicate skin and fur free of dirt and harmful substances from the environment around them.
Bathing kittens: risks to consider
In addition to being a scary experience for many felines, baths can pose some unnecessary risks to your kitten if the right safety measures aren’t followed. For example, kitten skin is very sensitive and requires a gentle touch. It’s also a good idea to talk with your veterinarian beforehand about what pet soap to use.
One of the biggest risks actually comes from after the bath. Kittens lack the fat reserves necessary to keep their body temperatures regulated, which means they can quickly become cold while their fur is drying (or during the bath itself, if the water is too chilly). This can leave your pet more at risk of illness or infection, so you’ll want to take steps to keep them warm both during and after bath time.
In some cases, it may be better to use less intense options for cleaning your kitten. Use pet cleaning wipes for quick-fix grooming instead of a full-on bath.
“I find it easiest to clean with fragrance and alcohol-free wipes,” Nold says. “You can find cat-specific wipes at pet stores.”
How to bathe a kitten safely
Since cats in general have a naturally distaste for being in water, it’s perfectly understandable if your new kitten isn’t thrilled at bath time. That said, there are things you can do to keep the drama at a minimum and bathe kittens safely:
- Have a family member or friend assist and help hold your kitten
- Bathe your kitten in a sink or small wash tub (rather than the bath tub or shower, which can be big and scary for your kitten)
- Set down a towel or grip mat in the tub or sink, to prevent kitty from slipping
- Use lukewarm water (Always test with your hands first!)
- If possible, use a spray hose on a lower jet setting to gently rinse your kitten
- Avoid getting water in your kitten’s ears
- Rinse all soap out thoroughly
- Towel dry immediately after. Use more than one towel to fully dry your kitten’s coat
Your kitten’s first bath
The first time in the water will always be the scariest for your kitten, so take your time with the experience. If you need to stop things early, that’s okay too.
You may also want to practice first with a “dry” pet shampoo that doesn’t require water. This will help get your kitty used to your hand motions and having something put on his coat.
Consider a professional cat groomer
Sometimes, it may be more beneficial to call in a pro. Not only can a cat groomer make sure your kitten is bathed safely, but they may also be able to teach you a few tips and tricks of their own.
“Naturally, grooming is essential for your cat, but it may not be an easy task,” Nold says. “Consider talking to your veterinarian more about grooming tips for your cat and recommendations for a local pet groomer in your area. Overall, proper coat and claw maintenance are essential for your kitten’s health.”
Patience is key with bathing kittens
It may take a few tries to get to a point where both you and kitty are comfortable during bath time. Keep in mind that your pet may never actually learn to like being wet though, so go steadily and don’t drag the process out longer than necessary.
By reaching out to your veterinarian, following safety tips, and practicing patience with your furry friend, you will be able to get bath time down to a swift science—now, and long after your kitten reaches adulthood.
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While you’re browsing our pet blog, please note that the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Trupanion. Our articles are reviewed by veterinarians for accuracy, but they are not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Always consult with your own pet’s veterinarian for advice.