Ask a Cat Mom: “should I give my cat a bath?”

Q: Should I give my cat a bath?

A: The short answer — no. But let me explain why — as well as what to do if you genuinely feel like your cat is stinky and really needs one!

Cats do not need baths because they are “self-cleansing.” Surprisingly, dogs do not need baths either — unless they roll around in the mud or get themselves really dirty somehow. Cats, on the other hand, are super clean. Even outdoor cats still find a way to keep themselves tidy.

Cats have special tongues — unlike soft dog tongues, theirs are spiky. If you have ever been licked by a cat, you’ll notice a very prickly feeling. Some people say it even hurts (personally, I think it feels cool!) These special tongues are designed specifically to help them remove every inch of dirt and grease off of their fur. Cats spend more than half of their waking time cleaning themselves, some even claim up to 80% of their waking time is dedicated to it. That’s right, cats are the kings and queens of self-care!

The fact that all cats hate water is a myth — some of them enjoy splashing in puddles or dipping their toes in water dishes — however, I’d say about 99% of them despise baths. Of course, you will always find that rare cat who enjoys bath time. But chances are, the second you turn on your bathtub, before you even look at your cat — it’s racing away as fast as possible. Just the mere sound of running bath water makes them skittish. Even if you turn off the running water, and simply try to place your cat into a big tub of water, most likely your cat will scratch your face off and hide from you for the next several days.

Basically, it’s not worth the stress. Your cat will become very upset, you’ll become very upset, and it won’t be a happy time. In fact, it can actually be extremely dangerous to attempt giving your cat a bath. Aside from the fact that your arm and face will be all scratched up and bloody, your cat can become seriously injured as you try to hold it down. I have known several cats that faced extreme, life-threatening injuries all because their owner tried to give them a bath. Please — don’t do it.

Now you may be wondering “but what if my cat is really smelly and gross?” Yes, sometimes cats (especially young kittens) get themselves very, very dirty. Sometimes they roll around and play with their poop. Sometimes they pee on their cat bed and then proceed to sleep on it. Sometimes they escape the house on a rainy day and come inside drenched in mud.

In that case, I would recommend either paper towels (wet the towel, use a small amount of nontoxic soap or pet-store soap if necessary, then dry with another towel) OR you can buy “wet ones” specifically designed safe for cats at your local pet store. Do NOT use dish soap, detergent, or anything with toxic ingredients.

There are some rare cases when you find that your cat is really smelly — even after washing them with towels. Even so, do not attempt a bath. Instead, this is a sign that you should take your cat to the vet to figure out what’s going on. Again, cats are very clean animals, and healthy ones should be able to keep themselves clean and fresh. If you notice a constant odor with your cat, this could be a sign of an underlying health issue. In that case, go to the vet.

My expertise comes from my animal science bachelor’s degree, as well as a lifelong experience of mothering many cats. For serious and life-threatening issues, please refer to your local vet.


Do you have a question about cats? Please ask in the comments (or email at laura@lotuslaura.com) and I will write a post about it! Let me know if you would like to include your name (or blog) or if you prefer to remain anonymous!

6 thoughts on “Ask a Cat Mom: “should I give my cat a bath?”

  1. “dogs do not need baths either — unless they roll around in the mud or get themselves really dirty somehow.”

    Oh you’d be surprised – my dog rolls around in pond water, and poop. It’s gross and she smells so bad. She used to get baths on a weekly basis.

    As for my cat, he doesn’t ask for baths but my daughter insists on bathing him 🤷‍♀️ he gets a bath on a weekly basis because she insists 🤦‍♀️ I agree that cats don’t need baths. As for dogs, maybe they do, maybe they don’t – it really depends on the dog! Lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most dogs genuinely enjoy bath time, so I totally encourage it! Maybe your dog even purposely gets dirty just to assure she gets her bath time 😂 or she just gives no heck’s hahaha.

      If your cat enjoys bath time then I don’t see a problem! What becomes an issue is when an owner forces down a screaming and struggling cat in bath water just because they think it’s what they’re supposed to do. That’s actually pretty funny.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. The cat doesn’t like baths but tolerates them. He puts up with a lot of stuff. Very rarely does he hiss, although Becca does push his buttons sometimes. Sadly I have a few pics of my cat in the bathtub with my daughter. I feel sorry for the cat.

        Liked by 3 people

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