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Can You Wash a Cat With Just Water? 7 Tips & FAQs

While it’s true that cats spend an excessive amount of time grooming, occasionally, your cat might get into something that its tongue won’t be able to handle. A senior cat won’t be able to clean itself as well as a younger cat, and the same can be said for overweight cats. Whatever the situation with your feline, if you need to clean them, you might be wondering whether you can wash a cat with just water (especially if you don’t have any vet-approved cat shampoo handy). It’s perfectly acceptable and 100% possible to clean your cat using only water and a soft sponge or washcloth.

Not only that, but in many cases, washing your cat using only water is preferable to a full-blown bath with shampoo. Now that you know you can wash a cat with water and a washcloth, you might have more questions about bathing your feline friend. Are cats clean without taking a bath, for example, and what can you do to make bathing your cat less stressful? To find out, read on! We have the answers, plus tips, hacks, and advice!

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How to Wash a Cat Using Only Water in 7 Steps

Washing your cat with water doesn’t mean you dunk them in a bathtub and let the water do the rest. It simply means that you won’t use soap or shampoo, which is great because it means you don’t need nearly as much water. Below are the steps to use if you want to wash your cat with only water using a washcloth.

1. Prepare the Washing Area

Prepare a table-top high area where you can safely wash your cat. They should be able to stand without any anxiety, like on a counter or table. You’ll need a sink or basin with water and a small washcloth.

bathroom sink and counter
Image Credit: Didecs, Shutterstock
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2. Place Your Cat in the Washing Area

Keep them calm, talk to them, and reassure your kitty that everything is OK.

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3. Dampen the Washcloth

Take the washcloth and dampen it. If your cat is curious, let them smell and touch the washcloth before you begin.

female hands washing the yellow cloth
Image Credit: LSaloni, Shutterstock
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4. Hold Your Cat Firmly but Comfortably

The more comfortable and safe they feel, the better. A cat that feels safe will let you do a lot more than a cat that freaks out.

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5. Softly Rub the Damp Washcloth Following the “Grain” of Your Cat’s Fur

Follow the way your cat’s fur flows, not against it. Also, don’t start on their face until they have been able to feel the washcloth on other parts of their body.

woman wiping the cat
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock
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6. Slowly but Surely Clean Your Cat

Use the washcloth to rub away the dirt and debris from your cat.

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7. Dry Your Cat if Necessary

Most cats will not enjoy a hairdryer, even if you use the low setting. Use a soft towel to dry your cat.

groomer wiping cat with towel
Image Credit: Standret, Shutterstock

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Can You Use Human Shampoo to Wash a Cat?

While using human shampoo on your cat won’t cause extreme pain, it can cause irritation, rashes, and hotspots on your poor cat’s skin. For that reason, vets highly recommend against using human shampoo to bathe your cat.

Should You Give a Cat a Proper Bath?

Yes, giving your cat a proper bath with cat shampoo is okay. Some cats, however, do not like baths, and some loathe them. If your cat is out of control in the bathtub, cleaning it with a washcloth with a little cat soap is a safe alternative. However, if your pet is incredibly dirty, you can visit a professional groomer for assistance.

cat getting wiped with dry towel
Image Credit: Vikentiy Elizarov, Shutterstock

How Often Should You Give Your Cat a Bath?

Experts recommend bathing your cat every 4 to 6 weeks if it is an outdoor cat. Elderly cats and obese cats may need to be cleaned more often since they can’t groom themselves as well.

What Are the Benefits of Using Only Water to Bathe a Cat?

One of the most significant benefits of using water and a washcloth to bathe your cat is fewer scratches all over your arms, face, and neck. Most cats like water about as much as most dogs like cats, which is not very much. Washing your cat using a washcloth and water could save money on Band-Aids and be much less stressful for your cat.

Another benefit of using water to bathe your cat is that you can bathe them more often, which is a better option for outdoor cats. You might be able to keep them perfectly clean using only water combined with their grooming skills.

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Final Thoughts

Washing with water is an easier, less stressful washing solution for most cats and will keep most cat owners from getting scratched and bitten by their angry, confused cats. Plus, with a washcloth and water, you can quickly wipe away anything that might have gotten on your cat’s face or body. Yes, occasional baths are a great idea, but if your cat needs help staying clean between bath times, using just water and a washcloth is a perfect solution.

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Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock