Some people who prefer to keep low-maintenance pets pick the cats as their first plausible choice. And who wouldn’t, really? Cats are very much independent－they can look for their own food, find a tiny animal or plaything they can chase around, and more importantly, groom themselves.
Self-grooming is an endearing feature of most felines. Unlike dogs, cats are equipped with tongues that are covered with a barb-like structure called papillae. They can brush off dirt, sebum, stray hairs and other substances that cats caught on their fur.
Their sandpaper tongues are the main reason why bathing your cat seems more like a preference than a necessity. Unfortunately, not everything can be removed by their tongues.
The Uncovered Truth Bomb
So the question remains: do cats need baths? Yes…and no. Confused? Bear with us as we explain.
There are moments wherein your cat needs them. But most of the time, it is not necessary. How do you decide, then, if your furry kitty needs one? Here are some qualifications:
Give your kitty a bath if…
1. Your cat is a hairless breed or has a long coat.
Hairless cat breeds like the Sphynx need to be bathed once a week. Because they have no fur coat, natural oils and sebum secreted by their skin stays there.
If not cleaned, these oils can cause feline acne, a skin problem characterized by blackheads on the face which, if left untreated, can turn into pimples that rupture when your cat used its sharp claws to scratch them.
If you have experienced them during your teenage years, you know how annoying and uncomfortable they are on the face. To avoid your hairless feline suffering the same thing, you must subject it to a cat bath weekly. During the days when its bath is not scheduled, clean its skin using wipes to remove excess oil.
Cats with long fur (yes, that includes your Persian cat) may need to be given a bath once or twice a week to remove the natural oils they most likely missed while self-grooming. Their sandpaper tongue can only handle so many hairballs.
2. Your cat has a skin or fur problem.
Aside from fleas, ringworm, and other skin disorders, cats that are used to going outdoors are more subjected to dirt and filth acquired by their outside activities. Some adventurous outdoor kitties love to roll around in the grass, slide under bushes, and rub their fur on less than clean surfaces.
While self-grooming can pick up most of the dirt, giving your outdoor kitty a bath ensures that everything is removed. It can also become a preventive measure from fleas, bacteria, and other less savory things he can pick up outside.
Also, if you allow your cat to sleep with you on the bed or take a nap on any of your furniture, bathing her every once in a while is a good idea to help keep your furniture clean.
3. Your cat cannot groom its own fur.
There are special cases where cats are not able to groom themselves. Examples of these include illnesses like arthritis and obesity.
While having a chubby Garfield-like cat may seem endearing and cute, being overweight is not healthy for your feline friend. Aside from the fact that he may not be able to groom those paws because his huge belly is in the way, the added weight can become way too stressful on the legs which can lead to bone and joint problems, like arthritis.
A senior cat may also find it difficult and exhausting to self-clean her fur. As her owner, she might turn to you for help. This can include wiping her frequently using a damp cloth every day and giving her a bath every two or three weeks.
Signs that your cat is having difficulty grooming herself include a coat that feels greasy or coarse, a matted coat with knots of hair, or dandruff. Sometimes, decreased grooming behavior can be a sign of an underlying medical problem your cat is experiencing. If your kitty used to be very prompt and fastidious with grooming and suddenly seems less interested in taking care of herself, make sure to have your vet examine her.
4. You or a family member has cat fur allergies.
The joy of having a feline must not only be confined to those who are not allergic to them. Some breeds like the Balinese and Bengal are considered hypoallergenic which means that they can be friendly even to allergen sufferers.
If you are suffering from cat allergies yet still want to have a cat at home, giving your future kitty a bath can lessen the chances of you sneezing your heart out. Bathing is also recommended if you have an upcoming guest who has cat allergies as well.
5. The weather is hot.
Dogs pant to keep themselves cool. Cats, on the other hand, lick themselves clean. The leftover saliva in their fur after grooming evaporates after a while which gives a cooling effect.
Unfortunately, due to warmer temperatures during summer seasons－and climate scientists say that they would continue to increase as years go by－saliva evaporation may not be enough to keep your cat cool.
Giving them a cat bath can help alleviate the problem. It may even prevent heat stroke for extra active felines.
Some cats tolerate baths very well, while others want no part of it. Avoid filling up your tub and dunking your cat in, as this method is less likely to be successful. Start with your kitty in an empty tub, fill up a pitcher with warm water, and see how she adjusts to getting wet a little at a time. Gradually, if you have a detachable shower head, you may be able to get your cat to adjust to using that instead.
Always make sure to use a shampoo made for cats and never use human shampoo. Dawn dish detergent also works well and is safe in a pinch if your kitty has lots of dirt or mud to get out of his fur.
If you plan on giving your cat baths on a somewhat regular basis, make sure to start early, when he’s a kitten. It’s always easier to acclimate pets to new experiences before they reach six months of age. Always try to make it a positive experience and provide treat rewards before, during, and after.
If you feel that giving your cat a bath is akin to waging a war in the bathtub, you really need to decide if the stress is worth it for both of you. Under no circumstances should you subject yourself to being bitten and scratched to give your kitty a weekly bath. If there is a specific reason why you think your cat needs a bath, consider taking her to your veterinarian. Many vet offices can provide options for cat baths and grooming under sedation.