Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Cats > How To Give a Cat a Bath Without Water: 6 Simple Steps

How To Give a Cat a Bath Without Water: 6 Simple Steps

cat in the bathtub

Vet approved

Dr. Tabitha Henson Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Tabitha Henson

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Most cats may not be outdoors rolling in mud like dogs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get into dirty messes now and again. While cats are usually diligent self-groomers, they may start to neglect this task as they get older or if they’re not feeling well. In those circumstances, their owners will need to step in and help keep their cats clean.

Since most cats aren’t the biggest fans of water, you might be looking for alternative methods of bathing. In this article, we’ll teach you how to give a cat a bath without water in 6 simple steps. Read on to learn what materials you’ll need and what methods are most effective.

divider-cat

Before You Start

Before attempting any type of potentially stressful task, including bathing, make sure you and your cat are both in the right headspace. Ensure your cat is calm, relaxed, and not hungry or tired. Don’t try to bathe your cat if you’re stressed or hungry yourself because your cat may sense your mood and be less cooperative.

Preparation

When you’re ready to bathe your cat without water, here are the supplies you’ll need to gather:

Take your supplies and your cat into a quiet, familiar room, and make sure the kitty is relaxed before you get started.

A great dry shampoo will make keeping your pet clean and happy a breeze. We love Hepper's Cucumber & Aloe Dry Shampoo because it will freshen up your pet's skin and coat while reducing irritation. This no-rinse, pH-balanced formula is easy to use and has a soothing cucumber and aloe scent.

Hepper Waterless No Rinse Dry Shampoo for Dogs,...
  • Simply Brush - Waterless cat shampoo / dog shampoo means no rinsing required. Forget the bath!...
  • No Soap - This fresh-smelling dry shampoo for dogs and cats is free from soaps, glutens, dyes, DEA,...
  • Good for Nervous Pets - You don't want your pet to be afriad of getting clean, so this pet waterless...

At Pet Keen, we've admired Hepper for many years, and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool company!

divider-cat

How To Bathe Your Cat Without Water

1. Make Your Cat Comfortable

To make the bathing process as stress-free as possible, allow your cat to get comfortable first.

If your cat loves to sit in your lap, place a towel down and let your cat snuggle in, petting them until they seem calm. Other cats might be more comfortable sitting on the floor, on their bed, on a cat tree, or on a counter.

Wherever their safe space might be, let your cat get comfy before moving on to the next step.

Cat showing off clean paws
Image Credit: Darkmoon_Art, Pixabay

2. Bathe Your Cat With Cleaning Wipes

Pet-safe cleaning wipes are one of two types of commercial products that you can use to bathe your cat without water. Most cats dislike strong scents so try to pick a fragrance-free wipe for the best results.

Gently wipe your cat with your chosen product, paying particular attention to areas like the rear or belly that may be soiled with urine or feces. Move slowly as you wipe your cat, making it seem like you are petting or scratching them.

If your cat seems nervous or tries to move away, take a break for some reassuring treats or a chin rub.


3. Bathe Your Cat With Waterless Shampoo

Waterless shampoos are usually foam or spray products designed to clean your cat without needing to be rinsed out. Many different versions are available but again, try to find one without a strong scent.

If your cat is sensitive to noise, the sound of the spray or foam may make them nervous. Consider wetting a cloth ahead of time or squirting some foam into a bowl to use. Apply the waterless shampoo to your cat according to the directions on the product label.

Use your hands or a brush to work the waterless shampoo into your cat’s fur. Wipe off any extra product with a cloth.

Cute cat in the bathtub
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

4. Clean Your Cat’s Face Separately

Take extra care when cleaning your cat’s face, especially around their eyes and mouth. Use a clean wipe or cloth soaked in waterless shampoo for the process. Carefully wipe your cat’s face, avoiding contact with their eyes.

The area around your cat’s mouth, especially their chin, can get particularly grungy from eating wet food. Pay extra attention to these locations as you clean.

To help your cat tolerate this part of the bath, use your free hand to pet or scratch their face while cleaning with the other. This will distract your cat while at the same time helping hold their face steady for easier wiping.


5. Reward Your Cat For Their Cooperation

Once the waterless bath is complete, reward your cat with treats, catnip, or playtime to help them build positive associations with the process. Offering periodic treats during the bath is ideal as well and may help keep your cat calm and interested in their bath.

giving russian blue cat a treat
Image Credit: DSchmidtArt, Shutterstock

6. Bathe Your Cat Only When Necessary

Bathing your cat too frequently, even without water, could dry out their skin and coat. Many shampoos and wipes interfere with the natural oils your cat produces to keep their skin moisturized. Without them, your cat’s skin may become itchy, flaky, and uncomfortable.

Instead of frequent baths, keep your cat’s coat in good condition by brushing regularly, especially for long-haired breeds. You can also use wipes to spot clean your cat’s face or rear versus performing a full waterless bath.

divider-cat

What If My Cat Needs a Full Water Bath?

In some cases, you may have no choice but to give your cat a full water bath, for example, if they are suffering a skin condition such as ringworm.

If you do, many of the same principles apply that we discussed for bathing without water. Make sure you work slowly, stay calm, and reward your cat with treats to keep the experience as positive as possible.

Other tips that can make your cat’s bath go more smoothly include:

  • Trim their nails before the bath
  • Don’t let your cat get too cold: bathe in a warm room and dry thoroughly.
  • Use a bath mat or towel on the floor of the tub for traction
  • Don’t fully submerge your cat in water
  • Don’t pour water on your cat’s face or in their eyes

Having another person the cat knows and trusts on hand to assist you may also make the bathing process easier.

bathing a tabby cat with shampoo
Image Credit By: angnokever, Shutterstock

divider-cat

Conclusion

While it is possible to bathe a cat with water, especially if you introduce the concept early in a kitten’s life, the process can be stressful for both you and your kitty. Bathing your cat without water can help keep them clean and smelling sweet with (hopefully) less hassle. With patience and plenty of treats, a waterless bath can even turn into a favorite routine and an opportunity to bond with your cat.


Featured Image Credit: Irina Borodovskaya, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets