If you've ever watched your cat closely, you may have been fascinated by the amount of time it invests in licking itself. Self-care and personal hygiene? Cats have got these skills down-pat! And lucky them! Their bristled tongues make excellent grooming tools. Cats spend a considerable amount of time licking every reachable part of their body and even groom their fellow cats. But sometimes, cats need our help to stay clean and maintain healthy skin and coats.
Wait, aren't cats afraid of water?
In spite of what many TV programs and comics would have you believe, cats are not always water averse. Leave your faucet running, for example, to see how a cat will play with the stream, even putting their head and paws under it. Remember that tigers and lions love to splash around in water, too. You don't need to fear your cat's reaction to water, but take things slow in order to acclimate your cat.
Obese cats need grooming help
Cats that are overweight may have a hard time reaching certain areas on their body to clean and groom. These include the back half of the body, and around the tail and private regions. As a result, these areas tend to collect dirt and debris, and are prone to hair clumping or mats. The cat might begin to smell as well. Bathing can help break down these mats as well as remove dirt, excess hair and accumulating skin debris that the cat can't remove on its own.
Older cats may need help bathing
Older cats may be incapable of keeping up with grooming needs. If your senior cat can no longer reach to clean, or if he or she has arthritis, weakness, or other issues that prevent them from doing a good job, you may need to give it a bath. Using a general purpose pet grooming shampoo should be sufficient.
Cats with skin conditions need baths
Sometimes cats have skin issues that cause dry, flaky skin or even irritated, itchy skin. This can be an issue because as they lick and itch at their skin in an effort to provide relief, they may make the issue worse and compound the problem, opening the door to skin infections. Use a condition-specific shampoo to give your cat a bath so that they may find relief as well as stay clean. These types of shampoos typically include soothing and hydrating agents like omega-6 fatty acids and colloidal oatmeal that promote skin health.
If your cat has fleas or ticks, there are specific shampoos designed to remove and kill these biting pests on contact. These types of shampoos are effective because they cover most of the cat's body and really permeate into hair and down to the skin where the fleas and ticks hide. You may want to speak with your veterinarian about where the fleas or ticks came from and what you can do to help prevent them in the future.
If your cat needs a bath, don't be afraid. With some patience and care, bathing your cat doesn't need to be traumatic for either of you, and you'll both be happy with the results.