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Kitty hygiene: Tips for bathing your cat

Contrary to their canine counterparts, veterinarians generally don’t recommend grooming cats. The fundamental reason for this is that cats are capable of self-grooming by frequently licking themselves to keep clean.  However, swallowing the hair poses a dangerous risk because hairballs (trichobezoars) can get trapped in the digestive tract.  In order to avoid this build-up, it’s important to regularly administer malt jelly to facilitate their passing.  For this reason, frequent brushing is recommended, ideally every day, in order to eliminate excess dead hair, and most importantly, to detangle long-haired cats. If not carefully and frequently groomed, these tangles can cause skin irritation, dermatitis, and painful wounds that can easily become infected.

A bath is recommended when a cat is no longer able to self-groom due to a wound or any type of injury that prevents them from doing so (such as trauma, for example). For obvious reasons, a bath is also recommended when they’re excessively dirty due to some kind of accident (for example, if they get stuck inside a car motor and get covered in oil, or fall into a mud puddle).  For certain dermatological diseases, parasites, or allergies, veterinarians prescribe therapeutic baths.

Only in these cases are baths necessary, and only using warm water and shampoo that’s specifically intended for cats or recommended by a veterinarian. It’s recommended that this be done by at least two people so that one person can gently hold the cat and while the other rinses it, starting from the back of its head to the tail. It’s not advisable to wet the entire head. After the bath, its important to dry them thoroughly with a towel, not a hairdryer.

You must handle the cat gently, being careful to avoid sudden movements or loud noises, as this will cause them stress. Some cats like water and will find the experience pleasant, but most will try to get away.  The more you try to fight them, the more stress you’ll cause them, making the process more difficult. If the cat is showing signs of stress (meowing, snorting, scratching, attempting to break away) it’s better to stop and not force them. If it’s absolutely necessary to bathe them—for example, if they’re covered in engine oil, which can cause irritation and toxicity—it’s important to consult your veterinarian. Baths can be done while the cat is sedated to minimise stress.

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