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Like everything else in your cat’s world, water is fine — as long as it’s on her own terms. Some cats are curious about water, playing with a leaky faucet and even venturing into the shower.
But try to submerge a cat in water, and you may experience your own version of the shower scene from the horror film Psycho.
No one really knows for sure. Some behaviorists think it’s because the domesticated cat’s early ancestors lived in dry regions of Africa, where they had relatively little exposure to water. In other words, today’s felines simply didn’t inherit behaviors associated with water.
And it has nothing to do with not being able to swim — they can doggie paddle just like their canine friends.
One rare breed of domesticated cat, the Turkish Van, has even been nicknamed the “Swimming Cat” because of the breed's affinity for water. In Turkey, where they originated, they would swim out to greet fishing boats coming to shore.
Cats are fastidious groomers. By some estimates, they can spend up to 40 percent of the day cleaning themselves. For this reason, you may not ever have to bathe your cat.
Sometimes, however, felines can’t groom themselves properly. Older, arthritic cats and overweight kitties may have a hard time reaching certain parts of their bodies. Cats who are sick or depressed may also spend less time grooming.
If your feline isn't grooming like she used to, visit your veterinarian to rule out a medical condition. In some cases, your vet may recommend a medicated shampoo to help treat certain conditions, such as allergic skin disease and bacterial or yeast infections.
Here are some tips and tricks that you can try to help your kitty ease into the idea of taking baths:
Start bathing her when she’s a kitten. The sooner you can get her used to the idea of water, the more likely she will tolerate it when she’s older.
Acclimate her to the sink or tub weeks before you bathe her. Place her in the space with toys, catnip or treats so that she makes positive associations with the location.
Allow her to play in the water. Once she’s comfortable with the idea of the sink or tub, fill it with an inch or two of water and float some toys on the surface. Encourage her to sit on the edge and play with the toys.
Give your cat something to sink her claws into. Place a towel on the bottom of the tub, so she can get her footing. A window screen, placed at a 45-degree angle, will also give her something to hold onto, while also allowing for water drainage. Just make sure it is secure so it doesn't slip.
Use minimal restraint. Have someone hold her gently while you shampoo and rinse.
Avoid unnecessary noises. Speak softly and calmly. If your spray attachment is noisy, rinse your cat with cups of water instead.
Be quick. Have towels, sponges and cat shampoo ready ahead of time, so that your cat doesn’t have to be wet longer than necessary.
Towel dry. Nubby towels may feel comforting to your cat. If you must use a blow dryer, choose a low setting that's quieter, and keep the temperature cool to help prevent burns.
If your cat still isn’t fond of bath time, ask your vet to recommend a waterless shampoo — or a professional groomer. You’ll end up with a clean cat without traumatizing her or yourself.
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