Dust storms and asthma season result in a lot of cats getting very sticky, dirty coats. They only have little tongues to clean themselves with, resulting in sore mouths and sneezing, so a lot of them will need some help with bathing. I’ve had to do several ’emergency bathings’ for my furry patients.
To choose the right cat shampoo, make sure you get one made for a cat (remember cat skin is different) and choose one based on your cat’s skin needs. You can add a cat-friendly conditioner if your cat has dry skin or a brittle coat; also consider a waterless alternative.
For the cats we groom, we recently started with Chubbs Bars Organic Pet Soap and it is fabulous – makes the coats even silkier. Otherwise, one of the cat-specific oatmeal or natural shampoos are good, such as Dermcare Aloveen Oatmeal Shampoo or Dermcare Natural Shampoo. We also use Fido’s Emu Oil Shampoo. The key is to use only about half what you would expect to, as they lather up richly and are then hard to get out of the coat.
In an emergency, if you do not have or cannot get some proper cat shampoo, then Baby Shampoo, Morning Fresh Detergent or Sunlight Soap (all Unscented and especially not lemon scented) will do. Unlike proper cat shampoos, those will take the oil out of the cat’s fur and make them take much longer to dry, but otherwise the cats will be fine.
There are 3 secrets to bathing cats.
Use VERY WARM (ie Hand Hot) water. I can wash a cat in cold water but you’ve got to be strong and quick to get away with it!. DO NOT RAIN on the cat – use a jug of water to dampen the coat or hold the shower spray CLOSE to their bodies, especially when rinsing.
You can ‘dunk’ a cat in a bucket of water if you lower it in back feet first, but it is harder to wash and rinse them.
If you have them in a bath or sink, DO NOT LET the water come over their feet – leave the plug out of the sink and put a rubber mat or towel in the basin for less slip.
I recommend washing with 2 people the first time – one to push the cat firmly DOWN on the shoulders (scruff) and bum (if they get up and onto their back legs, you’ve lost them).
Wash in two goes – the first to dampen the coat to get through the ‘glue’ or the water-repellent natural coat oils. It is helpful to have a little bit of shampoo in the jug to start. The second wash is to get the shampoo right down to the skin and remove the irritants.
You do not need much shampoo on a cat to get a good foam and clean. This is a very useful technique if owners are allergic to their cat as well – the feline allergen is actually water-soluble and rinses away.
Really itchy cats will go and sit in the bath by themselves after a few washes – they learn it feels good.
Last step is to rinse well.
Then you really only need a fairly rough towel dry – even if the day is a bit cool. If the cat is healthy, once it starts licking itself, their coat dries like magic (what is IN cat spit?).
Wiping the cat’s coat with a warm damp cloth daily works as maintenance between washes. In ‘sticky weather’, a wash every 4 – 6 weeks is probably OK.
And remember – cats rub their faces on everything to say ‘mine mine mine’, so that area is very prone to connecting with irritants. If your cat is not eating or is showing signs of baldness or other irritation, then obviously they need to see their vet. Otherwise, good Luck with REALLY BATHING A CAT. The obvious other alternative is to book your cat in for a professional groom.
‘The Cat Vet’ Dr Kim Kendall offers specialist cat grooming at The Chatswood Cat Palace in Sydney.
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