Do cats need baths?
For the most part, cats are efficient groomers and do not need to be bathed, although their coats will be healthier and less subject to matting if they are brushed regularly. If the cat has been ill, however, especially with gastrointestinal distress, a bath is necessary. The same is true if the cat has been out in the elements and is really dirty, or has an infestation of fleas or ticks.
Please note that while a “flea” bath will remove live parasites from the coat and ease the cat’s distress, it won’t solve the greater problem of flea eggs deposited on bedding and around the house. If you’re bathing a cat just to get rid of fleas, be prepared to “bathe” your house as well.
A more compelling reason to bathe a cat has little to do with the cat and everything to do with the humans in the house. People who are mildly allergic to cats are actually not reacting to the cat’s fur, but to enzymes secreted in its saliva and deposited on the coat during grooming.
Washing a cat in clear, slightly warm water on a weekly basis can eliminate or greatly lessen this reaction in some people and allow them to acclimate to the cat’s presence. This does not work in all cases, but can be a solution in some households.
If you do bathe your cat, use only a veterinarian recommended shampoo and be careful around the cat’s. The shampoo can dangerously irritate the cat’s sensitive eyes and ears. Always rinse the coat thoroughly by pouring slightly warm, clear water over the hair until it is completely free of all shampoo residue.
Towel dry the cat and gently comb the fur. Wet hair mats more easily than dry. Also keep the cat warm — and don’t fuss if she spends an hour licking herself after her bath. Cats like to smell like themselves, not a bottle of shampoo.