Can I Give My Cat a Bath to Help Soothe its Allergies?
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on April 7, 2018
Posted in Cat Allergies
Just like humans can suffer from allergies, so can our feline friends. In fact, one in five cats are diagnosed with some sort of allergy, and many pet owners will discover these allergies during the spring season, when common springtime allergens bother not only the humans in the household but also their cats.
Cats manifest allergic reactions in a number of ways, but one of the most common is through symptoms present on the skin. Skin allergies are the sixth most common reason for veterinary visits for cats. Your cat might be allergic or sensitive to fleas, common springtime allergens like tree, grass or flower pollen, food allergens and even some perfumes, lotions and cat litters.
If your cat is licking, scratching or nipping at sections of their skin, it may indicate they have allergies. Check for red or dry skin, bumps, scabs, rashes, bald spots or lesions that might be irritating your cat or causing itchiness. To help soothe your cat while it has allergies, you can try bathing it.
Bathing a cat suffering from allergy-related skin irritations can help control the symptoms of the allergy, but it’s important to note that baths alone will not cure the allergy. Baths can help remove some of the allergens from your cat’s skin and help reduce its itching, as well as decrease smells if they are present. It can also help soothe any irritations while other treatments are being used to address the allergy issue.
How to bathe your cat to soothe allergies
It’s common knowledge that many cats hate water, so the thought of giving your cat a bath might seem a little intimidating or even make you think bathing cats is wrong. It is perfectly okay to bathe cats—some cats even need regular bathing to clean their fur. In order to give your cat a successful bath and help soothe its allergy symptoms, you just need to be prepared.
- Before bathing your cat, try to brush its coat to loosen any tangles and remove mats. If you skip this step, mats can trap water and cause further skin irritations. While brushing, be careful to avoid the symptomatic sections of your cat’s body to avoid causing pain.
- Never use hot water when bathing your cat or kitten! Instead, use water that is between a lukewarm and cool temperature. To make washing your cat easier, fill up your kitchen or bathroom sink with the water. You can also put just a few inches of water at the bottom of your tub if your cat is too large for the sink.
- Next, gently place your cat into the water, working slowly to avoid scaring it. You may want to wear rubber gloves in case your cat tries to scratch or bite you. Let the cat sit in the water for a minute or two to get used to it before using a bowl, pitcher or gentle spray nozzle to dampen your cat’s body. Only apply water from the neck down, as cats are generally averse to getting their heads wet.
- Once the cat is wet, apply cat shampoo and lather gently. Then, rinse your cat thoroughly with fresh, lukewarm water. To wash its face and ear area, use a damp washcloth rather than using water directly.
- After your cat is clean, remove it from the water and pat it dry with a clean towel. It also might help to give your cat a treat after the bath to incentivize bath time and make the next bath easier.
When using baths to treat allergy symptoms, you’ll want to bathe your cat approximately once a week to help soothe the skin until the allergy has cleared up and your cat is no longer itching or scratching. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on irritated skin, to make sure bath time isn’t causing more irritation.
Important things to keep in mind when bathing cats
Bathing cats is not like bathing human beings. Cats have different sensitivities and skin types than humans, so you need to be cautious of the type of shampoo you’re using and how you handle the cat in the bath.
- Don’t use human shampoo: You should never use shampoos designed for humans when bathing your cats. Human shampoos have sulfates, scents and additives that can dry out your cat’s skin and even be toxic to your pet. Buy shampoo designed specifically for cats!
- Choose specialty shampoos: There are a wide variety of cat shampoos that will target specific allergy symptoms, such as dry skin, fleas and more. Pay close attention to the symptoms your cat is showing and purchase a shampoo designed to soothe those symptoms for the best results.
Giving your cat a bath is an excellent way to help soothe its skin allergies. Remember to be prepared for bath time, use the right kind of shampoo and also use treatments to cure the allergy in addition to baths. If your cat could speak, it would be sure to thank you!
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan