Otherwise known as a "fun fur-flying free-for-all freak show"
We can only imagine what thoughts are going through your mind - "BATHE MY CAT! Are you crazy? I'd rather ride a bull for eight seconds!" Trust us, we don't encourage doing this any more often than is necessary. It can be extremely stressful to your cat, not to mention the pain and suffering that you might endure.
Seriously, there are times when your cat should be bathed, whether they have a flea infestation or they've had the pleasure of meeting the neighborhood skunk. Overdoing it though could cause more harm than good, such as drying out their skin or over-medicating them with a certain shampoo.
As shampoos for bathing your cat come in a wide variety, you'll need to do some research. The first thing to check is that the shampoo is labeled as being safe to use on cats. Many are not. Avoid using heavily scented products, as they can be irritating to your cat's skin. While most cat shampoos are low lathering and/or tearless, avoid using too much or getting any in your cat's eyes, ears, or mouth.
Decide what your cat's specific shampoo needs are and choose one of the following shampoos to serve best such needs.
"All Natural" or Herbal Shampoos - many contain oatmeal, tea tree oil, cedar, or citrus compounds (which can actually irritate some cats)
Allergen-reducing shampoos - remove dander and saliva allergens that many people are allergic to
Coat color-enhancing shampoos - often for cats with white coats
Medicated shampoo - including those for flea control, flea itch relief, other skin conditions, or antibacterial shampoos that contain such medications as nolvasan or iodine
Odor Control Shampoos - whether for general body odors or encounters with skunks
Sensitive skin shampoos - often labeled as hypoallergenic
On the day of the big event, here are a few other pointers that we recommend prior to tackling this delicate job.
Groom your cat prior to bathing if possible. The end-results will be better.
Organize your work area before you give your cat any indication about what's going to happen.
Plan on having a second person available at all times to assist you as necessary. Besides, there's safety in numbers.
Plan to complete this "project" quickly. Move slowly but efficiently.
Any shampoo that you plan on using should be pre-mixed in an application bottle or fill the tub or sink and add the shampoo into the slightly warm water that you'll sponge over the cat.
If you have access to a hand-held water sprayer, plan to use it, whether for the rinse cycle or as a water-firing weapon.
Have a towel warming while you're working. Your cat will appreciate this final touch when being buffed dry, as most cats don't appreciate a dryer being used on them.
Plan to wear a protective apron and protective gloves (they'll protect you from flying water, as well as flying fur).
Place a rubber mat or a wire-mesh screen in the bottom of the tub or sink for the cat to have a solid footing. It'll give him or her something to hold onto instead of the flesh on your arm.
If you need to restrain your cat, have one of the following items ready for use: a pet tether/restraint lead that attaches to your tub or sink, a mesh bag that encompasses your cat's body and limbs while allowing you to scrub and rinse, and/or a cat "sack" that confines your cat but allows water to penetrate and drain from an opening in the bottom of the bag. Do you like how we said "if," as if you had any choice?
When you finally bring your cat into the bathing area, close any escape doors and windows.
Throughout the entire bathing process, continue talking to your cat in a calm reassuring tone - even if they seem possessed or they're emitting howls loud enough to arouse the neighbor's suspicions.
There are a number of other cat cleaning products that don't require the use of water and that are extremely useful for the cat that simply can't be bathed in the "traditional" manner. We can hear you now. "Why didn't you mention these things first?" What can we say; we like to save the best for last. Such items include:
Allergen-reducing sprays and wipes
Antibacterial "mitt-style" hand-wipes
Coat-conditioning foams and sprays
Disposable odor control "mitt-style" hand-wipes
Towelettes - available without alcohol and unscented, medicated for treating skin conditions, and those that won't remove flea control topical applications
Waterless foams and hand-wipes
Other methods of "dry-cleaning" your cat involve a dusting with baby powder, baking soda, cornstarch, or warmed bran, followed with a thorough brushing.
Whatever bathing routine you attempt with your cat, we applaud your bravery and commitment to being a responsible cat owner. The bonding that you experience with your feline friend while locked behind those wet doors will truly be at a level that you never imagined possible.