Do Indoor Cats Need Baths?

Indoor cats should never need to be bathed. If your cat is healthy and you take the right routine care of their fur, there really shouldn’t be any need for you to wash them. Even without this, cats are generally quite good at cleaning themselves with their tongues.

The only time we would consider cleaning any cat is if they have managed to get themselves extremely dirty with something that could make the house unsanitary or even harm your cat. This still comes with some caveats. Bathing a cat in some cases can be dangerous if not done properly. Read on to find out when and how you should clean your feline companion.  

Why don’t indoor cats need baths?

Cats are very clean creatures. On the whole, they probably pay more attention to themselves than some humans do. Cats will spend up to half of their waking hours grooming themselves. They mainly do this by licking themselves to clean and remove dirty fur. Their tongues have special barbs called papillae which help them comb through their fur. They reach areas like the back of the head by licking their paw and then rubbing it on the hard-to-reach area.  

All of this self-grooming means that a cat’s fur will normally be free from any dirt they pick up from lounging around the house. Although they will be covered in a small amount of their saliva, this has no real smell. In fact, a healthy cat shouldn’t smell at all. Its one of the features of cats that makes them excellent indoor pets. Seeing as they don’t smell there really isn’t any need for them to be bathed in normal circumstances.

You can help your cat with their routine hair care by brushing them to remove excess fur regularly. This is a good way for you to build trust with your cat and spend quality time together. This is especially true for shedding or long-hair varieties of cats as they will probably be shedding more fur than they can remove by themselves. Its not normal for your cat to smell bad by itself and we would recommend that you contact your vet if this is the case.  

When should I bathe my indoor cat?

Accidents do happen and your indoor cat can get into more of a mess than they can clean by themselves. Unfortunately, this mostly happens when your cat has diarrhea and accidentally steps on it in the litter tray. Senior cats may also have accidents with urinating. Aside from messes in the litter box, cats can get into trouble if they find their way into opened paints, spices, or oils about the house.

We would definitely clean a cat if they have become matted in any unsanitary substance that could pose a health risk to humans in the house. We would also clean our cat if they have become dirty by stepping in food that could be dangerous to them. A lot of sauces are cooked with onions and garlic which are poisonous for cats. Although there probably won’t be enough matted in their fur to cause serious harm, it may upset their tummy after cleaning them.

Indoor cats can get fleas and bathing them is one option that you have at removing them. However, there are many easier and more effective treatments available for your cat now that you should strongly consider using instead. Read our article on indoor cat flea treatment here.

Is bathing a cat cruel?

We don’t think that bathing a cat is cruel, especially if they need to be cleaned. Your cat almost certainly won’t like the process though and you may lose some trust with them after the bath so consider if they really need bathing before you proceed. Cats become stressed with new unpleasant experiences. Pay attention to your cat during a bath and make sure that you go at their pace.

Baths can be dangerous when your cat’s body temperature isn’t monitored. You should also make sure that you use lukewarm water and dry your cat off thoroughly. Cats will lose a lot of body heat through wet fur, even if they are inside of a house. This is especially dangerous for kittens and older cats who aren’t as good at maintaining their body. In extreme cases, cats can die after baths from hypothermia if they aren’t cared for properly.

How should I bathe my indoor cat?

If you decide that your cat has become dirty enough for them to be washed start by bringing them into the bathroom. Close off doors to stop them escaping as they will probably become quite stressed during the cleaning process. A wet cat running and hiding in the house can be quite destructive. You will need at least one dry towel on hand. If the mess is bad you may need some cat shampoos to clean your cat, human shampoos and soaps can be dangerous to your cat if they try to lick it off of their body. When cleaning your cat always use lukewarm water. You may prefer hot showers, but your cat may not be able to handle the heat as they can’t sweat to reduce body temperature.  

Start by placing your cat into a waterproof tub. The bathtub is ideal but a shower pan will also do if you don’t have a bathtub. Your cat may appreciate an extra towel or some newspapers on the floor to give them some traction so they feel more safe. Rinse your cat with lukewarm water, ideally by pouring it over from a large jug. Running water from a shower head may frighten your cat. Avoid splashing it onto their face or into their ears.

Use your fingers to work out the dirt. If this isn’t enough, add small amounts of soap to the fur and work it in with your fingers. Rinse off dirty soap with the water again and repeat until your cat is clean. Be sure to rinse off the soap completely before the end of the bath.

Be sure to dry your cat off completely with dry towels. Hair dryers on a low heat setting can speed up this process but most cats will find the noise of a hair dryer quite scary. Your cat will probably still be a bit damp after drying with towels. Keep them in a warm room until they are completely dry to avoid hypothermia.

Your cat might become aggressive through this process as they are frightened and stressed by the new experience. You can try to distract and calm them with some of their favorite treats. If this doesn’t work, we would recommend you wash them gently but as quick as possible so they can go back to what they are used to.

If your cat is only a little bit dirty or if the area that has become dirty is you may be able to just wipe your cat down with a damp but warm cloth. This is much easier to do and your cat will certainly prefer it over a full body bath.


Normally, cats will not need to be bathed as they are good at keeping themselves clean and don’t have any bad smell to themselves. You should help them out by giving them regular brushing, especially if they have linger hair. If your cat does smell bad by themselves you should bring your cat in for a visit at the vet as this is not normal for their body.

We would only consider washing our cat if they have become excessively dirty, which probably will happen at some point of an indoor cat’s life. Before a full bath, we would try to clean the mess with a damp wash cloth first. If this isn’t possible, make sure you prepare well and plan for the washing process. Make sure to use lukewarm water and dry your cat off completely after washing so they don’t get too warm or too cold.