This article is from the General Cat Care FAQ, posted to rec.pets.cats newsgroup. Maintained by Cindy Tittle Moore with numerous contributions by others.
You should not ordinarily need to bath a cat. Cats are normally very good about cleaning themselves, and for most cats, that's all the bathing they will ever need. Reasons for giving them a bath are:
* The cat has got something poisonous on its fur,
* It doesn't take care of its coat as normal cats do,
* You are allergic and need to bathe it to keep allergens down,
* The cat is a show cat and about to be shown,
* You are giving it a flea, tick, or lice dip,
* It is unusually dirty for some reason (perhaps bad weather).
If you just trimmed your cat's claws, now is a good time. Having someone help you hold the cat definitely helps.
If your cat is long haired, groom it *before* bathing it. Water will just tighten any mats already in the coat.
* Get everything ready. Warm water, selected bathing place (you might consider the kitchen sink as being easier on your back and facilitating control of the cat). Having water already in the tub or sink reduces the potential terror to the cat at the sound and sight of the water coming out of the faucet. Put a towel or rubber mat on the bottom of the tub or sink to give your cat something to sink its claws into. If you have spray attachments, either to the sink or the tub, those will help you soak the cat efficiently. You want to use soap formulated for cat skin, as human-type soaps will remove all the essential oils and leave the cat's skin dried out and susceptible to flea infestations or skin breakouts. There are some soaps formulated for allergic pet owners. Use sparingly and rinse well after working through coat.
* The garden sprayer can also be used. Fill an ordinary pressurized garden sprayer (try a hand-pumped type that does *not* hiss) with warm soapy water, put cat and sprayer in empty bathtub, and use the trigger wand to soap the cat with one hand while hanging on to the scruff with the other. Put the sprayer wand down and work the soapy water into the fur, and finally follow with a bucket of water as a rinse. This procedure results in low moans from the cats, but no shrieks.
To dry the cat, towel dry first. You can try hair dryers on low settings depending on your cat's tolerance. Otherwise, keep them inside until they are fully dry. If your cat is longhaired, you will want to groom it as the coat dries. Give the cat a treat after the bath, this may help them tolerate the process.
If the problem is greasy skin, you may wish to try a dry cat shampoo instead.
If you are attempting to remove grease, oil, or other petroleum products from your cat's fur, try using Dawn brand detergent first to remove it, and follow up with a cat shampoo. Dawn is used by volunteers who clean up birds after oil spills. Also reported to be successful is Shout laundry stain remover.