Do you have questions? Prefer speaking to a human? Call one of our pet care insurance specialists today at (440) 671-3000.

How Often Should I Wash My Cat?

The short answer to this more-commonly-asked-than-you-might-guess question is simply, it depends. And even once you realize what it depends on, it could be less often than you might first think. Let’s get into the details to make this pet parent task easier and more intuitive for you.


Should I Wash My Cat?


Arguably, before we ask about frequency, we want to be sure that this is even a necessary task. As pet owners we might assume that our cats need our constant care to stay healthy, and while in many ways this is true, cats are remarkably self-sufficient when it comes to personal hygiene. Some petcare authorities recommend bathing your cat every 4-6 weeks, but this advice should be applied with some careful thought and based on your specific circumstances.


Unlike dogs, who might run through mud with glee and keep right on living their best lives, cats are quick to groom after becoming soiled (and even after an unsolicited pet!). They are generally fastidious when it comes to keeping their coats clean and free of debris and spend a large chunk of their waking hours grooming. Of course, there’s a limit to what that sandpaper tongue can remove, and we’ll get into that.


In general, we’d divide the reasons for needing to wash your cat into two main categories: 1) your cat is strictly indoor, and; 2) your cat spends some time outside. 


For indoor cats, the only real reasons that you might need to help them clean include things like the following:


  • They get into something that’s hard for them to remove on their own
  • Their long coat makes it hard for them to thoroughly clean, and causes matting
  • They are older and the task is getting hard for them
  • Your cat is a hairless breed, and therefore lacks the hair needed to naturally absorb and distribute oils
  • Obese cats, sick cats, injured cats and those that perhaps are just a bit more active (read: messier) by nature might need some help too


First off, if your cat is sick, obese, or injured, a veterinarian can help sort that out–why not give yours a call? And if your cat fits some of the other above criteria, then a bath might be necessary on an as-needed basis. As you brush them and interact with them each day, you will easily notice when fur seems greasy, full of dandruff, or matted. These are clear signs that a bath or trim might be in order. Since overwashing can cause dry skin, a dull coat, and can even lead to allergic reactions, it’s usually best to look for signs and not stick to a strict schedule. That said, if you’ve worked with your cat on a regular bathing schedule since it was a kitten, you might be able to squeeze in more washings than the average cat owner.


For indoor/outdoor or mainly outdoor cats, it’s pretty obvious that more frequent washing will be necessary. Cats that spend any time outdoors will encounter plenty of opportunities to drag in dirt, pollen, insects, burrs, and other unpleasant substances (think skunk spray!) on their coat. It’s also possible that they could get into harmful substances, like oil, paint, or other strong chemicals as they investigate their outdoor world. Clearly, any potentially toxic elements are best removed by a gloved human, and in some cases, carefully cutting out the fur is the best option. If your cat enjoys a robust chase or likes to start fights with other cats and critters, they might also need a good cleaning to inspect their skin for wounds, which are much more easily spotted when fur is wet.


How Do I Wash My Cat


Two words: very carefully. Not only do you risk personal injury, but a bath can traumatize a pet if not done with some forethought. Beginning with a cat that’s recently been brushed and had its nails trimmed is a good place to start. Using gloves protects your hands from defensive teeth and claws, and using a pet-safe cleansing product protects their skin and coat from harsh oil-stripping detergents and formulas with an off-balance pH. Many avoidable skin conditions result from improper choice of cleansing products. If your cat already has a skin condition, your veterinarian can suggest a good medicated cleansing option.


Wash neck to tail, and avoid getting water in their face, eyes, ears, or nose, as not only is this irritating to them, it can also lead to health concerns. Use a washcloth if cleaning the face is necessary, and adding a non-skid pad can make it easier to hold your cat steady. Of course you’ll want to opt for water that’s just right–neither too hot nor cold–and make sure to thoroughly towel dry your cat’s coat. Taking it slowly and rewarding their tolerance of the less-than-ideal situation are two more ways to make a necessary bath less of a trial for you and your beloved feline.


Keep in mind that if a soiled area is small, a full bath might not be warranted. In that case you can often do some spot cleaning and kitty will take care of the rest. And if your cat simply will not tolerate a bath, a lot of tangles or dirt can first be loosened gently, using a brush or comb. A light cleaning afterwards with a damp washcloth or wet wipe might be just enough to get the worst of the mess out of their coat. 


Now that you know everything to know about washing cats, proceed with confidence––your cat might just be able to pick up on your mood. And if you’re at all uneasy, it might be best to leave the cat-washing to a trained pet groomer.


For more timely tips and petcare must-knows, check this space. And for solid insurance coverage for your petcare business, reach out to speak with a Zinc Insurance expert today or get started with an online quote right meow.

This blog post does not provide insurance advice and is intended for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional insurance advice from a licensed representative. Never ignore professional insurance advice because of something you have read in this blog post. Contact your licensed representative if you have any questions about your insurance policy.