How Do You Clean An Outdoor Cat?

Cats are known for cleaning themselves, but what happens when your moggy spends a lot of time outside, and a self-grooming session isn’t enough to get your feline looking, and smelling, fresh? While our quick-witted answer to ‘how do you clean your outdoor cat’ would be carefully, we understand you might need a little more guidance.

Carry on reading if you want to find out how often your cat should be cleaned, how to do it without a bath and what you need to do if bath-time is inevitable. We’re also looking at the different cat breeds that enjoy the water.

But first, let’s look at how often you need to clean your cat.

How Often Should You Clean Your Cat?

How often your cat’s going to need to to be bathed will depend on a few things.

Outdoorsy Cat vs Indoor Cat

If your cat spends a lot of time outside, it will need to be bathed more regularly than one that lives indoors.

Long-Hair vs Short-Hair

As you can imagine, long-haired breeds will need to be bathed more often than short-haired breeds.

Self-Grooming Cats vs Non-Self-Grooming Cats

Although cats are notorious self-cleaners, there may be situations where this isn’t possible. Some cats are just not that keen on keeping themselves groomed, or they may be too old, unwell or overweight. In instances like these, you may be required to step in and clean your kitty.

Active Cats vs Less Active Cats

A cat’s activity levels will determine how often it needs a bath. A cat that spends a lot of time outside is usually far more active than an indoor cat, which means it will require a bath more frequently.

Age and Health-Related Issues

Senior cats or those with health-related issues may be less inclined to clean themselves. If your cat suffers from skin irritations or is too old to clean itself, you will need to bathe it more regularly.

How To Clean Your Cat Without Water

For the most part, cats are very adept at cleaning themselves. They’re able to get themselves in all sorts of positions and can spend up to four hours a day grooming themselves. Their tongues are incredibly rough and can get rid of dirt in the unlikeliest of places. But they still need help cleaning their ears, eyes and mouth.

While an indoor cat won’t necessarily need a bath as often as one that’s outside, you can still keep your roaming feline clean without getting it wet.

1. Use a dry shampoo

Dry shampoo is always a good choice when your cat’s especially resistant to the idea of getting wet. This type of product doesn’t need rinsing, and more often than not, your kitty won’t even realise it’s getting bathed. However, you will need to brush your cat’s coat to get rid of knots and prevent hairballs. It’s worth investing in a suitable brush to help with the process.

2. Try baby wipes

If you find yourself needing to clean your kitty and don’t have a dry shampoo product close by, you could use baby wipes. These are gentle enough for your cat’s skin, and if done gently enough, emulate the sensation of a cat licking itself clean.

3. Cleaning your cat’s ears

No matter how meticulous your cat is when it comes to grooming itself, there may be times when you need to step in and help clean delicate areas, such as the ears. It’s best to use products that are gentle on your cat’s ears. If you’re unsure what to use and how best to do this, speak to your vet.

4.Cleaning your cat’s eyes

A rheumy discharge from your cat’s eyes can be cleaned with a damp cloth or gauze. We recommend not using baby wipes as this can cause an allergic reaction. However, if you notice an ongoing problem with the eyes, it could be a sign of an underlying illness. It’s best to make an appointment with your vet to rule out anything serious.

5. Cleaning your cat’s mouth

Cats, as smart as they are, are unable to clean their teeth. Feeding dry kibble, and providing them with chew toys can help to a degree. But to keep your cat’s teeth and gums as healthy as possible, you will need to brush them with a suitable toothbrush and toothpaste.

Tips For Bathing Your Cat

Outdoorsy cats come into contact with all sorts of dirt, as well as ticks and fleas, which is why they’ll need to be cleaned more often. And unfortunately for both of you, this could mean a bath… in water.

What you will need

To make this process as painless as possible, preparation is vital. Make sure you have everything ready so that your cat (and you) are as relaxed as possible. You will need:

  • A bucket or bath with a non-slip floor mat
  • A suitable cat shampoo that kills ticks and fleas. Never use your own shampoo on your cat as it has different PH levels
  • A good conditioner is essential, as well as a towel
  • Depending on your cat, you will need a brush or a grooming glove

How to bathe your cat

Now that you’ve got everything ready, it’s time to give your cat its bath. Our easy to follow tips will get you through this process with as little claw-lateral damage as possible.

1. Fill the bath

You must fill the bucket or bath with just the right amount of water. Too much, and your cat will be left feeling anxious and out of control. Make sure it’s just the right temperature, and gently lower your cat into the water.

2. Praise your cat

While bathing your cat, we suggest you constantly praise and reassure it throughout the entire process. And if need be, provide its favourite treats as a distraction.

3. Apply the shampoo and conditioner

Apply the shampoo and conditioner to your cat’s body, avoiding the face, eyes, ears and nose. Lather the shampoo around the tail, its neck and underside. If you’re using a medicated shampoo, you might find it easier to remove your cat from the bath to let the shampoo activate for a few minutes.

4. Rinse well

Make sure you rinse the shampoo and conditioner off your cat’s coat. Use the shower nozzle to do this or if you’re using a bucket, pour a jug of warm water over the fur. Take care not to get any in your cat’s ears or eyes. As soon as all the suds are washed off, it’s a good idea to let your kitty shake off the excess water.

5. Towel dry your cat

Unless your kitty is used to a hairdryer, we recommend using a towel to dry it off. Once you have removed all the excess water, it’s best to leave them in a warm room. As tempting as it might be, it’s not a good idea to let them go outside until they are completely dry. Not only does this stop them getting a cold, but it also keeps them clean that little bit longer.

Even indoor cats need to be bathed now and then, which is why we recommend you start getting your pet used to it from as young as possible. We can’t guarantee they’ll love the experience, but it’ll be a lot less cat-a-strophic.

Cat Breeds That Enjoy Getting Wet

Believe it or not, some cat breeds don’t mind water at all. If you’re the proud owner of any of these fabulous felines, you’ll have a more challenging time keeping them out of the water, rather than getting them in.

1. Turkish Angora

The Turkish Angora is not only extremely intelligent and loves climbing, but it also enjoys splashing in basins and sinks and will happily hijack your shower. If allowed, this breed will spend its days paddling in shallow streams or ponds.

2. Maine Coon

Come rain, shine and even snow, Maine Coon cats with their water-resistant coats love getting wet. Recognised as the largest cat breed, these exquisite creatures were once used as pest control on ships, which could explain their fascination with water. Many a Maine Coon pawrent has mentioned how their kitty turns on the taps, scoops water from the toilet bowl and dunks their toys in their drinking bowls.


Bengal cats love nothing more than dipping their paws into pools of water. They’re also particularly fond of scooping things out of the bath. Keeping a Bengal entertained isn’t difficult, according to their humans, as all it takes is filling the bath up with water and throwing in a few floating toys.

4. Turkish Van

The Turkish Van, with its water-repellent fur, powerful back legs and large paws is often referred to as ‘the swimming cat’. This breed loves paddling around in pools, and won’t need to be asked twice to get in the bath… with or without you.

5. Norwegian Forest

Another breed that enjoys getting wet is the Norwegian Forest Cat. Their water-resistant coats help keep them dry and warm, which means they’re up for a paddle all-year-round. They are particularly good hunters, and will happily try to catch fish from a stream, an aquarium or your fish’s bowl.

Have you found an easier way to bathe your cat? Or perhaps you have a breed that loves getting wet? We want to hear all about it in the comments below. Otherwise, send us a tweet or let us know via Facebook.


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2 Responses

  1. A long time ago I found this, which I think is a accurate version of how to clean a cat.

    Cat Bathing As A Martial Art

    A. Know that although the cat has the advantage of quickness and lack of concern for human life, you have the advantage of strength. Capitalise on that advantage by selecting the battlefield. Don’t try to bathe him in an open area where he can force you to chase him. Pick a very small bathroom. If your bathroom is more than four feet square, I recommend that you get in the tub with the cat and close the sliding-glass doors as if you were about to take a shower. (A simple shower curtain will not do. A berserk cat can shred a three-ply rubber shower curtain quicker than a politician can shift positions.)

    B. Know that a cat has claws and will not hesitate to remove all the skin from your body. Your advantage here is that you are smart and know how to dress to protect yourself. I recommend canvas overalls tucked into high-top construction boots, a pair of steel-mesh gloves, an army helmet, a hockey face-mask, and a long-sleeved flak jacket.

    C. Use the element of surprise. Pick up your cat nonchalantly, as if to simply carry him to his supper dish. (Cats will not usually notice your strange attire. They have little or no interest in fashion as a rule.)

    D. Once you are inside the bathroom, speed is essential to survival. In a single liquid motion, shut the bathroom door, step into the tub enclosure, slide the glass door shut, dip the cat in the water and squirt him with shampoo. You have begun one of the wildest 45 seconds of your life.

    E. Cats have no handles. Add the fact that he now has soapy fur, and the problem is radically compounded. Do not expect to hold on to him for more than two or three seconds at a time. When you have him, however, you must remember to give him another squirt of shampoo and rub like crazy. He’ll then spring free and fall back into the water, thereby rinsing himself off. (The national record for cats is three lathering’s, so don’t expect too much.)

    F. Next, the cat must be dried. Novice cat bathers always assume this part will be the most difficult, for humans generally are worn out at this point and the cat is just getting really determined. In fact, the drying is simple compared with what you have just been through. That’s because by now the cat is semi-permanently affixed to your right leg.

    You simply pop the drain plug with your foot, reach for your towel and wait. (Occasionally, however, the cat will end up clinging to the top of your army helmet. If this happens, the best thing you can do is to shake him loose and to encourage him toward your leg.) After all the water is drained from the tub, it is a simple matter to just reach down and dry the cat.

    In a few days, the cat will relax enough to be removed from your leg. He will usually have nothing to say for about three weeks and will spend a lot of time sitting with his back to you. He might even become psychoceramic and develop the fixed stare of a plaster figurine. You will be tempted to assume he is angry. This isn’t usually the case. As a rule he is simply plotting ways to get through your defences and injure you for life the next time you decide to give him a bath.
    But at least now he smells a lot better.

    Dr. Jeffery LaCroix is a veterinarian in Wilmington DE. He writes a column for the Morning Star called “From Paws to Tails.”

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