How To Bathe a Kitten

Nicole LaForest, LVT, BSc, MPH
By Nicole LaForest, LVT, BSc, MPH. Reviewed by Michael Kearley, DVM on Apr. 29, 2024
A kitten gets a bath.

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Like humans, kittens need to be clean to stay healthy. Despite the common misconception that cats are self-sufficient when it comes to cleanliness, they do require a bit of regular grooming. As a caring and responsible pet parent, bathing your kitten will be an important part of their routine care.

Let's look at everything you need to know about bathing your kitten—from addressing common misconceptions to providing a guide for a safe and effective bath-time experience.

Can You Give Your Kitten a Bath?

Many people think cats don't need baths since they are self-cleaning animals.

Even though cats are generally capable of grooming themselves, there are situations when bathing becomes necessary.

For instance, having a bath may be the only way to remove sticky or dirty substances from your kitten’s fur. It's also possible that some kittens have skin conditions or allergies that may require regular bathing to alleviate symptoms.

When done correctly, bathing your kitten is safe. Contrary to popular belief, cats are not afraid of water. Many even enjoy playing with it!

Bath time should, however, be introduced to your kitten gradually and be made a positive experience for them.

How you bathe your kitten depends on several factors—such as their breed, your lifestyle, and your kitten’s individual needs.

Unless they get themselves into messy situations or have specific health issues, kittens rarely need to be bathed frequently, and overbathing can actually lead to skin dryness or irritation.

When done correctly, bathing your kitten is safe. Contrary to popular belief, cats are not afraid of water. Many even enjoy playing with it!

The general rule of thumb is to bathe kittens every four to six weeks. 

However, it may be necessary to bathe your kitten more frequently if they have a skin condition or allergies. The frequency of your kitten’s bathing should be determined by your veterinarian.

What You Need to Bathe Your Kitten

To make bath time a smooth, safe, and comfortable experience for your kitten, gather all the necessary supplies before you start giving them a bath.

You will need:

Place your rubber mat or towel at the bottom of the sink or basin to provide a more comfortable and less slippery surface.

Water that is too hot or too cold can distress your kitten, so make sure the water temperature is lukewarm. As you bathe your kitten, keep all of your supplies close.

Be sure to use a shampoo that is specifically formulated for kittens. Shampoos designed for humans can be too harsh for their sensitive skin and cause dryness or irritation. Look for kitten-specific shampoos that are mild and gentle.

You should also consider any specific needs your kitten may have. Choosing a moisturizing shampoo may be beneficial if their skin is dry or itchy.

Consult your veterinarian if you are unsure which shampoo is best for your kitten. Cleaning the ears out afterward can help prevent ear infections, and bath time is also a good time to trim your kitten’s nails.

Getting Your Kitten Ready

To make bath time more enjoyable, it’s important to desensitize your kitten to the sound and feel of the water and to make the experience more positive. 

Start small and take your time.

Provide treats reserved just for this time so your kitten can start to make the association that bath time is a fun time—full of food and attention. 

Start by acclimating your kitten to the sound of running water.

Next, use a wet washcloth to get them acclimated to the feel of water. Then, gradually work up to the full bath experience.

How Do You Bathe a Kitten?

It's important to follow a step-by-step approach when bathing your kitten to ensure their comfort and safety.

Follow these steps:

  1. Fill the sink or basin up to the kitten’s elbows and ankles with lukewarm water.

  2. Place your kitten in the water gently, and allow them to explore and become comfortable at their own pace.

  3. Wash your kitten’s fur gently but thoroughly, avoiding their face and ears, using a cup or handheld shower head.

  4. Using a kitten-specific shampoo that you’ve diluted according to the instructions on the bottle, wash your kitten’s fur. Start at their neck and work your way down toward the tail. Go slowly and ensure they don't get shampoo in their eyes, ears, or mouth.

  5. Gently massage the shampoo into your kitten’s fur to create a lather. Take care not to pull or tug on their fur.

  6. Rinse your kitten’s fur thoroughly after shampooing, being sure to get all the shampoo out. You can use a cup to pour lukewarm water over their body again—avoiding their face and ears—to get a proper rinse.

  7. Gently pat your kitten dry with a soft towel. Don't rub vigorously, as this can cause discomfort and create tangles in their fur. Because kittens can become cold quickly, be sure your kitten is thoroughly dry and warm before letting them run off to play.

Safety Tips for Kitten Baths

Safety should be your top concern when bathing your kitten. Here are some tips for making bath time safe and less stressful for them:

  • To avoid accidents or injuries, always keep your kitten under your supervision while they’re being bathed.

  • Always use lukewarm water. If it’s too hot or too cold, the extreme temperatures can injure or distress your kitten.

  • Handle your kitten gently, avoiding pulling or tugging on their fur. While applying shampoo and rinsing, use gentle, massaging motions.

  • Keep your kitten’s ears and eyes from getting wet, as this can lead to discomfort and infection. If you note any eye squinting, discharge, redness, or pawing at the face, have your kitten examined right away. It’s possible that her eyes may have become infected or irritated from the shampoo.

  • Minimize stress on your kitten by keeping bath time short. Prepare your supplies and bathing area ahead of time to ensure the bathing process is quick and timely.


Nicole LaForest, LVT, BSc, MPH

WRITTEN BY

Nicole LaForest, LVT, BSc, MPH

Veterinarian Technician


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