Do cats rely on their human parents to keep them clean? The short answer is no. Generally, our kitties are quite good at bathing themselves. It’s not unusual for cats to spend between 30 and 50 percent of their waking hours meticulously grooming.
Anyone who regularly wakes up to their cat’s sandpaper kisses can see how their tongues make the perfect natural hairbrush. The grooming process helps shed loose fur to make room for new growth, removes dirt and debris, and distributes cats’ natural skin oils. Because they are so agile and flexible, cats typically have no issue grooming their entire bodies.
Under most circumstances, healthy kitties don’t need our help to keep their coats shiny and clean. There are, however, a few exceptions.
Although cats are self-cleaning, there are times when your kitty may need a little help with grooming.
Cats with very long hair, like Persians, may struggle to keep up with the work of self-grooming. Regular brushing can help prevent these cats’ fur from becoming matted, but they still may require the occasional dip.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, hairless breeds of cats need periodic baths to remove excess oils from their skin.
Joint pain and extra weight can limit cats’ range of motion and make it harder to clean themselves. If you notice that harder-to-reach areas of your kitty’s fur are becoming greasy, dirty, or matted, you may need to give your furry friend a helping hand.
Keep in mind, however, that grooming difficulties are a symptom of a larger problem. Visit your vet to seek treatment for arthritis or get help making a plan to manage your kitty’s weight.
Cats who are dealing with parasites like fleas, ticks, or ringworm may need to be washed with medicated shampoos to remove pests and soothe their skin. Reach out to your vet for advice on how often to bathe cats who are recovering from skin conditions.
If your kitty gets sprayed by a skunk, walks through mud, or sneaks into the trash, their normal grooming won’t be enough to remove odors and debris. This is especially true if they’ve come into contact with a toxic food or substance that isn’t safe for them to clean with their tongues.
Cats who have gotten dirty, sticky, or smelly will need a bath with pet-safe shampoo to get clean.
Cats aren’t known for enjoying bath time, but preparation can help the experience be as painless as possible:
Though cats generally only require baths on an as-needed basis, taking steps to streamline the process and following up with plenty of praise can prevent bath time from becoming a dreaded activity.
If you notice your cat is requiring an unusual amount of help with grooming, schedule a visit with your veterinarian to identify and treat any underlying conditions.