Training your cat to enjoy a bath – Part 4

Water is to cats as kryptonite is to Superman – that is, as far as your cat knows. Your cat’s natural loathing of water is all that matters when you’re risking blood-loss in the bathroom, but what if you could change its mind?

If you want your cat to know the water won’t kill it, you’ll have to start young – three months of age, if possible – and make the entire process as enjoyable as you can. Don’t hold any tactic back. Getting a cat to enjoy a bath is a huge accomplishment, and you might have to put up with less, like the cat’s mere acceptance of impending doom.

You probably won’t need to bathe your cat, except in the case of an emergency spill or a flea infestation. If you don’t need to do it, it’s recommended that you don’t, though a few baths in early-kittenhood can help to train a cat to put up with water in case of emergency later in life.

Allow your cat to “hang out” with you when you use water, as pre-preparation. Invite it into the bathroom when you shower, wash your face, and brush your teeth. If it shows interest in the running faucet, or jumps into the tub right after you finish showering, let it investigate.

Before you get started, set up a game plan. Gather your materials: cat-friendly shampoo, a sponge, at least three towels, the cat (preferably sleepy), food treats, and a cup. Know what you plan to do, but also, be ready to let the cat “win” and run away if it protests too much. If possible, invite a human assistant for a pair of extra hands, at least until the cat has gotten used to bathing.

It’s important to make the cat deal with as little actual water as possible. It should be bathed in a sink rather than the bathtub, and it should not be made to stand or sit immersed in any water. If you have a shower stall, that could work too.

Brush the cat before bathing, not only because brushing is enjoyable and calming, but because you’ll remove excess hair, preventing it from clogging the drain.

Place a towel in the bottom of the sink to allow for traction – you don’t want your cat slipping and sliding and making a mess of you as it tries to stand on a slick, wet surface. If you feed your cat at intervals, rather than leaving food out, give it its meal while it sits in the sink, and run the water (lukewarm) while it eats. Don’t let it eat unless it’s sitting in the sink.

If the cat tries to leave, return it gently but firmly to its place, and don’t forget to talk to it! Make whatever comforting sounds it’s used to hearing from you. Soft

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