Washing Your Kitty: Not As Hard As You Might Think

Purchase an over-the-counter cat shampoo and note Step One. More often than not, the label will instruct you to 'wet cat thoroughly'. As if it were that simple! Now, washing a cat isn't exactly rocket science, but it does take finesse. And patience-- washing your pussycat is not a task to be rushed. As in many jobs worth doing, preparation is key. Gather the following items before gently luring (or carrying) kitty into the bathroom:

* 2 good-sized towels-- beach towels or bath sheets are perfect.
* Quick-working, tearless shampoo-- baby shampoo works just fine.
* Brush-- a pet brush or recycled hairbrush will do.
* Plastic cup with sturdy handle.

With the exception of tigers and Maine Coon Cats, no feline naturally enjoys being in water. A few simple steps can make bathing a cat fun for everyone involved. Try these: Before you bring kitty to the room, lay one towel on the bottom of the bathtub. Kitty can grab onto it while he's wet, rather than latching onto your bare arms. You can also use it to restrain pusskins gently as needed. Then, fill tub with about two to three inches of nice warm water. Temperature is vital here-- kitty will definitely freak out in cold water. If it's just a little warmer than room temperature, your cat may feel a bit more comfortable and not leap out at first touch.

Talk calmly to your cat the whole time, reassuring him that he will, indeed, survive the experience and be a better cat for it. Carry him into the bathroom and quietly close the door behind you. Be prepared to hear kitty produce vocal sounds you've never heard before as you carefully lower him feet-first into the warm water.

You may find it useful to lift a corner of the immersed towel and drape it around cat's shoulders. This will start getting him used to wetness and the weight feels comfortable to him, and not so exposed. Wrap towel around his front feet, too, especially if he's a climber/scratcher. And really, what wet cat isn't? Use the plastic cup to slowly pour warm water from the tub over kitty starting at his neck and moving, cup by slow cup, toward his tail. Don't pour water directly over his head; he simply will not tolerate that. Talk to your cat calmly while maintaining a firm grip on his shoulders. Push them gently downward if he starts trying to climb the side of the tub (or your arm).

Once kitty is wet except for his head, use one hand to open shampoo and pour a dollop about the size of a quarter on an uncovered part of his back. Baby shampoo is ideal for this; it's made to foam fast, clean quickly and rinse thoroughly in a snap. And, if a mistake happens, the suds won't burn your kitty's little eyes. It helps to have an assistant to help hold the cat, but you can do this by yourself. Take another wet corner of tub-towel and get a bit of shampoo foam on it. Use this to wipe top of cat's head, behind his ears, snout and jowls. If he hasn't chomped by now, you may try squeezing water from towel onto his head, behind his ears.

Once kitty's been good and lathered, slowly pour cups of warm water over him, again beginning at his shoulders and working toward his tail end. Speaking of which.. once everything else is sudd and well-rinsed, take another corner of the wet tub-towel, squeeze a dime-sized drop of shampoo on it and gently scrub the not-so-fun end of your cat well. Rinse well and -voila- a clean cat!

But still a very wet cat. This is where towel number two comes in. Folded in half it will be comforting to kitty, protective to your arms and big enough to wrap around him tightly. Really-- wrap kittycat firmly. It'll calm him plus he won't be able to take off and hide somewhere, shivering. Hug kitty and hold him close as you rub and buff him with the thick, cozy, absorbent towel. Patience again, as drying a cat tends to take time.

Blow-drying your cat is never a good idea, for several reasons. Not the least is that the noise will freak him out badly and you may never get him to agree to a bath again. Also, that water-plus-electricity thing; add a squirming cat and it just gets worse. Buff kitty as dry as you can, using a fluffy towel. Of course the bathroom was well warmed before the bath began, so go ahead and leave towel-dried kitty on the bathroom floor in his towel for a half-hour or so. He'll look fairly hilarious, but try not to laugh right at him. The feline ego is a weird thing indeed, and you want to make this experience one he'll agree to repeat someday, remember?

Use the word 'bath' often, before and during the experience, then once he's all clean, dry and fluffy again, tell him 'Oh, the BATH made you so nice to snuggle with", "that BATH was sooo goood for Mr Kitty" -or however you talk to your cat. The thing is, your cat will eventually connect the word/sound 'bath' with extra hugs, treats and a general good time. See? Washing a cat needn't be a frightful experience for anyone involved. If you begin bathing your cat at a young age, say around six months, he'll at least tolerate -and perhaps even learn to love- bathtime. And a clean kitty is a smoochable kitty indeed.

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