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How to bathe a cat for fleas if she hates water

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Cats are great at keeping things clean, but sometimes they need extra help from humans. If your kitty has fleas, you should definitely go the extra step and give him a bath. But the prospect of giving your cat a bath can make you a little nervous. How to bathe a cat if she hates water? The best strategy is to slowly wean him into the bath using warm water while being patient and speaking in a reassuring tone.

Take it easy

The first step to keeping your cat calm is to stay calm yourself. Cats tend to pick up on their owner's energy. Staying calm doesn't guarantee your cat won't get scared when her paws touch the water, but it can help. You can also install a calming diffuser in the bathroom that mimics pheromones that help your cat know she is safe.

Help your cat get used to water

Some cats take time to understand that the bath water is not secretly trying to harm them. Let him gradually get used to the bath by simply getting his paws wet first. Or sit him in the tub with you while you take a bath so he gets used to the sound of running water.

Give him a treat when his paws get a little wet. You can even launch one of his toys into the water. This may pique his curiosity enough to dip his paw and help him realize that it's not that scary after all.

Some cats will gradually get used to the water, while others will still need that extra push and comfort during bath time.

Prepare everything before taking a bath

You don't want to start bathing your cat only to realize you forgot something, so prepare everything ahead of time. Trim your cat's nails a day or two before bathing to reduce scratching.

Have some towels ready. One should be on the bathroom floor to absorb any spilled water, and the other will be used to dry your kitty's fur after bathing him. Some people even place a towel or rubber mat in the bottom of the bathtub to make it easier for cats to hold on to when they stand.1

Brush your cat's fur before bathing it. Tangled fur is difficult to untangle once it gets wet and can cause damage when shampooing.2

Keep flea shampoo near the bathroom where you can easily reach it. Adams Flea and Tick Cleansing Shampoo is an excellent choice for cats. It kills fleas, ticks and lice by preventing new flea eggs from hatching for 30 days.

Use warm water and consider small baths.

Cats tend to be calmer if the water they are in is warm and comfortable. The water shouldn't be too hot, but it shouldn't be so cool that the cat might freeze.

Some people bathe their cats in a bathtub with a small amount of warm water, just enough to come up to the cat's chest. Others may install smaller plastic tubs in the sink or bathtub to keep their cats a little more contained. Fill one with soapy water and the other with clean water to rinse off all the flea treatment.

Whatever method you choose, your cat may be a little calmer if she is used to wearing a harness and wears it while bathing. But this only works if the harness is thinner and allows flea shampoo to be applied to his fur.

Be careful when bathing your kitten

Some cats don't like sudden movements and need you to go very slowly while they feel vulnerable in the bath. Wash your cat gently and calm her down.

Do not use a spray hose on your cat. Instead, dip your hand in warm water and gently pour the water onto the kitten. Scoop a little at a time until his fur is wet down to his skin. Be careful not to get water or soap into your cat's eyes, ears, or nose.

Flea shampoo will provide a good lather. Continue lathering the entire cat for three to five minutes, avoiding the eye area. (Your cat will love the massage!) Be sure to read the instructions carefully and do not leave the shampoo on longer than directed.

If the bathroom doors are closed and he has nowhere to hide, you can take these few minutes to get your cat out of the bath and change the old water. If you are using small baths, add a little warm water to the clean water to maintain a comfortable temperature. Keep a close eye on him and make sure he doesn't lick himself. Then rinse it all off and leave no soap behind.

After bathing, blot the wet coat with a dry towel to remove excess water. Then release it into a small, warm, draft-free room where it can air dry.

Alternatives if your cat just can't stand baths

Some cats just can't handle baths, no matter how hard you try. In such situations, there are other flea remedies that will do the job. Adams Plus Flea & Tick Spot On for cats is a product that you apply to the back of the neck every 30 days to kill adult fleas and their eggs before they hatch. The Adams Plus Flea and Tick Collar for Cats kills fleas and ticks for seven months.

Be sure to maintain your home to prevent fleas from hiding in your carpet. Try a carpet spray, carpet powder, or a spray bottle. If you've ever let cats outside, even on a harness, consider treating your yard with Adams Yard & Garden Spray.

The best time to teach your cat to take a bath is when she is a kitten. He will get used to it and understand that it is just part of life. But if you miss your kitten window, you can still successfully bathe your kitten if you have a little patience, plan ahead, and remain calm throughout the process.

1. Shojai, Amy. “How to bathe a kitten or an adult cat.” Spruce Pets, October 8, 2019,

2. Conklin, Lisa Marie. “How to bathe a cat without getting scratched.” Reader's Digest,

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