VCA Animal Hospitals

Why Does My Cat... Hate to Take Baths?

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Like everything else in your cat’s world, water is fine — as long as it’s on her own terms. Some cats are curious about water, playing with a leaky faucet and even venturing into the shower.

But try to submerge a cat in water, and you may experience your own version of the shower scene from the horror film Psycho.

Why Don’t Cats Like Water?

No one really knows for sure. Some behaviorists think it’s because the domesticated cat’s early ancestors lived in dry regions of Africa, where they had relatively little exposure to water. In other words, today’s felines simply didn’t inherit behaviors associated with water.

And it has nothing to do with not being able to swim — they can doggie paddle just like their canine friends.

One rare breed of domesticated cat, the Turkish Van, has even been nicknamed the “Swimming Cat” because of the breed's affinity for water. In Turkey, where they originated, they would swim out to greet fishing boats coming to shore.

Do Cats Really Need Baths?

Cats are fastidious groomers. By some estimates, they can spend up to 40 percent of the day cleaning themselves. For this reason, you may not ever have to bathe your cat.

Sometimes, however, felines can’t groom themselves properly. Older, arthritic cats and overweight kitties may have a hard time reaching certain parts of their bodies. Cats who are sick or depressed may also spend less time grooming.

If your feline isn't grooming like she used to, visit your veterinarian to rule out a medical condition. In some cases, your vet may recommend a medicated shampoo to help treat certain conditions, such as allergic skin disease and bacterial or yeast infections.

How Can I Get My Cat to Like Baths?

Here are some tips and tricks that you can try to help your kitty ease into the idea of taking baths:

Start bathing her when she’s a kitten. The sooner you can get her used to the idea of water, the more likely she will tolerate it when she’s older.

Acclimate her to the sink or tub weeks before you bathe her. Place her in the space with toys, catnip or treats so that she makes positive associations with the location.

Allow her to play in the water. Once she’s comfortable with the idea of the sink or tub, fill it with an inch or two of water and float some toys on the surface. Encourage her to sit on the edge and play with the toys.

Give your cat something to sink her claws into. Place a towel on the bottom of the tub, so she can get her footing. A window screen, placed at a 45-degree angle, will also give her something to hold onto, while also allowing for water drainage. Just make sure it is secure so it doesn't slip.

Use minimal restraint. Have someone hold her gently while you shampoo and rinse.

Avoid unnecessary noises. Speak softly and calmly. If your spray attachment is noisy, rinse your cat with cups of water instead.

Be quick. Have towels, sponges and cat shampoo ready ahead of time, so that your cat doesn’t have to be wet longer than necessary.

Towel dry. Nubby towels may feel comforting to your cat. If you must use a blow dryer, choose a low setting that's quieter, and keep the temperature cool to help prevent burns.

If your cat still isn’t fond of bath time, ask your vet to recommend a waterless shampoo — or a professional groomer. You’ll end up with a clean cat without traumatizing her or yourself.


General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.