The thought of giving a cat a bath can make even the most seasoned pet owner cringe, but young kittens often require help staying clean. We’ve got you covered with some pro tips on making bath time a little less stressful for your feline friend.
Kittens are notoriously messy eaters, especially as they make the transition from milk to wet food. Kittens will walk in their food or submerge their heads in their bowls. Some kittens also play in their litterboxes (what fun!), walk through their waste, or have accidents as they learn to go to the bathroom on their own. Without a mother cat to help clean those hard-to-reach places, the responsibility falls to a kitten’s human caregivers.
Keeping a kitten clean is important for overall health. Dirt, bacteria, and leftover food residue can cause skin infections in young kittens called pyoderma.
At Animal Humane Society, we recommend using fragrance-free, hypoallergenic wet wipes if they can get the job done. But when a full bath is required, be sure to follow these tips to keep your kitten warm and safe.
Kitten bath time tips
- Grab a friend to help. No one should have to bathe a kitten alone! Plus an extra set of hands can be helpful as you juggle shampoo bottles, towels, and of course, your kitten.
- Temperature is key! Kittens under eight weeks old can’t regulate their own body temperatures, so you must help them stay warm. Before bath time, run a hot shower to heat up the room. The bath water itself should be comfortably warm, but not hot.
- Only use fragrance-free shampoos. Baby shampoos are designed to be gentle for human babies and also work well for kittens. You can also use fragrance-free dish detergent. No matter what soap you use, avoid your kitten’s eyes and try to keep the inside of their ears dry.
- Provide gentle support with scruffing. Scruffing a cat is when you hold skin on the back of a cat's neck (called the scruff). In young kittens, gentle scruffing can immediately calm them, but be sure to support their bottom end with your other hand as you wash. Even with all your support, be ready for some squirming and maybe even a little howling.
- Wrap your kitten in a towel as soon as they are clean and rinsed. Then comes the best part — cuddle and dry them to ensure they stay warm.
After bath time you’ll have an adorable, clean ball of fluff — at least until their next meal.