Most cats do not require a regular bath as they are exceptionally clean animals who as any cat owner would know, can happily spend hours a day grooming themselves. Unlike many breeds of dog, I have found that cats don't typically have much of an odour except for a warm fur smell, which is not unpleasant.
When is it necessary to bathe a cat?
Cats generally don't enjoy water, and they can be quite sensitive to the chemicals in shampoo, so it really is not necessary to bathe most cats. However, there may be times when you do need to give him a bath, for example if his coat has come into contact with a toxic substance or rolled in something he shouldn't have, or if it is medically necessary, for example if he has ringworm or skin conditions.
Even in old age, cats continue to groom, however arthritis can make joints sore and your cat may not be as efficient at grooming as he once was. In this case, a regular brush should do, but in some situations, your cat may not be cleaning the genital region properly and a bath may be necessary to keep the area clean.
Humans with allergies to cats can also benefit if the cat is bathed regularly. Studies have shown that the accumulation of of Fel d1 on the skin is restored within two days.
Hairless breeds of cat such as the Sphynx and the Peterbald can develop an oily skin and it is recommended that they be given a regular bath.
People exhibiting cats in cat shows will often give their cat a bath a few days before the show. Some breeders prefer to give their exhibit cats a bran bath. This can remove dirt and grease from the coat, and doesn't involve the use of water.
When giving a cat a bath, don't use human shampoo, it is way too harsh for your cat. Your veterinarian will be able to sell you a shampoo specifically designed for use on cats.
How to bathe a cat:
If you do think that you will be giving your cat a regular bath, it is a good idea to get him used to it from an early age. It is best to have two people to do this, one to hold the cat in the water (gently), and the other one to actually clean the cat. I would recommend trimming the claws a day or two before you give your cat a bath.
- Fill the bath or a large laundry tub with around 6 inches of water, making sure the water is warm, but not too hot.
- Carefully wet your cat, apply shampoo according to instructions and rinse thoroughly with clean water. Be careful not to get shampoo in your cat's eyes. It is better to wipe down the face with a damp wash cloth.
- Remove your cat from the bath, wrap him in a towel.
- Dry your cat in either a warm room, or if he will allow, use a hairdryer, being carefully not to get the heat too close to his skin.
- Do not let a freshly bathed and wet cat outside. Make sure he is thoroughly dry first.
Giving your cat a bran bath instead:
A less traumatic (to you and the cat) way to give your cat a bath is with bran. This removes oil and dirt from the coat without the use of water.
To give your cat a bran bath, warm 1/2 cup of bran in the microwave or the oven (low heat) until it is just warm (about body temperature). Place your cat in a large sink or bath and rub/massage the warm bran into his coat, going against the direction of the hair growth to make sure it gets under the coat. Leave the bran in the coat for 10-15 minutes and then brush out.