Whether cats “need” to be routinely bathed or not is an open question, but because a bath may be medically necessary at some point in their lives, every cat should be accustomed to bathing. Here’s how I explained it to a reader asking about her new kitten.
Q: I just got a kitten, and she’s allowed on my furniture and bed. She stays indoors, but should I be bathing her regularly to help keep down fur and dander?
A: It depends on who you ask. Many veterinarians, including veterinary dermatologist Amelia White at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in Alabama, believe that cats do a fine job of grooming themselves. “As long as your cat is grooming a normal amount, and the haircoat is staying clean and not getting matted, and there’s no fecal material or urine in it, then the cat should not need to be bathed,” she says. Exceptions are hairless cats such as Sphynx, who require regular baths to remove excess oil from their skin, she adds.
I do think that it’s a good idea for cats to be familiar with being bathed, because at some point in their nine lives, they may need regular baths.
For instance, cats with skin conditions may require medicated baths. A bath is also important if a cat has been exposed to a toxic substance. Often, a bath is the most effective way to remove harmful chemicals from the coat. And cats who go outdoors may get into sticky stuff, such as chewing gum, tree sap or tar.
Senior cats may have put on some pounds over the years or developed arthritis, both of which can make it difficult for them to groom themselves thoroughly.
“If cats are not grooming themselves, that could indicate that they’re not feeling well, and they should be examined by a veterinarian,” Dr. White says.
I always recommend that people with new kittens accustom them to baths from the beginning. If you get them used to it at an early age, you’ll have a sweeter-smelling cat and a cleaner home.
There’s more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.