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How to Give a Cat a Flea Bath (Step-by-Step Guide)

applying flea treatment to cat

As the weather starts warming up, flea infestations can be a concern for cat owners everywhere. Even if your cat doesn’t venture outside, they can still get fleas. If you have a dog, they might bring fleas inside the home, as might people carry these hitch hikers. No matter how your cat got fleas, the important thing to do is get rid of them fast.

A flea bath is an effective way to kill as many fleas as possible at one time. In this article, we show you how to give your cat a flea bath step by step. We also look at ways that you can clean your home and prevent re infestations. Let’s get started.

divider-catBefore You Begin

First, you should gather everything that you’ll need so you won’t have to leave your cat unattended in the tub or sink to fetch supplies. You’ll want to have:

  • Flea shampoo (make sure the one that you choose is formulated for cats)
  • Several towels
  • A flea comb
  • Cotton balls
  • Cat treats or toys for distractions
  • Two cups or small bowls: one for rinsing and one for fleas
  • Another person for help, if necessary

Once your supplies are gathered, prepare the bath. Fill the sink or tub with a few inches of lukewarm water. Running the water with the cat in the room can make them anxious. Once the tub is filled, they have less time to anticipate what’s about to happen.

Trim your cat’s claws before the bath to prevent or reduce injury to yourself. You can do this the day before the bath to give your cat a break from the commotion. Before the bath, brush your cat’s coat to remove as much dead hair as you can.

close up fleas on cat

Giving Your Cat a Flea Bath

Once you’re ready to give your cat a flea bath, follow these steps to efficiently remove as many fleas as possible and make the bath easier for both of you.

  • Fill one cup or bowl with water and flea shampoo and mix, making a soapy liquid. Set this aside. Lay a towel down on the bathtub floor if desired, to stop your cat from slipping on the surface. Check that the tub has a few inches of lukewarm water.
  • When the tub is filled, collect your cat. Place cotton balls in your cat’s ears to prevent water from dripping down into their ear canals. Carefully put your cat in the water feet first, and let them get used to the feeling. The water should be warm to the touch, but not hot. Dip your hand or a cup into the water and slowly wet your cat’s coat. Repeat this until the coat is wet down to the skin, but avoid getting water on your cat’s face. Stop at the top of the head.
  • When your cat is completely wet, squeeze a line of flea shampoo down their back and around the neck. Fleas will try to run to the head for safety once the bath starts, and the ring of shampoo around the neck forms a barrier preventing this. Lather the shampoo gently, covering all areas of their body except the face. Pay special attention to the neck, backs of ears, belly, top of tail/rump and legs. Fleas like to hide in warm, dark places, so make sure to lather their hiding spots.
  • Once you start lathering, fleas will start running. Use the flea comb to comb them out of the hair and dip them into the dish filled with water and flea shampoo. Let them soak in there while you continue to comb and lather your cat.
  • If your cat is getting anxious or is trying to escape, use treats or toys to distract them. When they settle down, reward them with treats and talk to them in a soft, soothing voice to reassure them.
  • Rinse your cat thoroughly. This may require you to drain the tub and fill it again with clean water. If that’s too scary for your cat, you can run the faucet and use a cup to collect clean water and rinse them. Once you think that all the shampoo is rinsed from your cat, rinse them one more time to be sure.
  • Take your cat out of the tub and place them on a towel. Remove the cotton balls from their ears, and use another towel to dry them. Get them as dry as you can by blotting their coat and keep them in a warm place while they finish air-drying. You may be tempted to use a hairdryer to speed things up, but they are too hot and noisy for cats and can stress them out more.
  • Discard the bowl of dead fleas and clean the tub. Rinse it with hot water.
  • Reward your cat with treats, a special meal (like tuna or cooked chicken breast), playtime, and plenty of praise.

Things to Keep in Mind

Flea baths are effective at getting rid of fleas, and some shampoos even keep working after the bath to prevent reinfestation.

However, no shampoo can guard against fleas forever. There is a strong chance that fleas will wind up back on your cat if they are in your environment. Ask your vet about flea and tick prevention that can be applied once a month to your cat’s skin to combat fleas completely. This is a prescription medication, but it means you won’t have to give your cat another flea bath while your cat is taking it. It can take several months to get a flea problem under control and they need appropriate flea medication for this to work.

Cat with fleas
Image Credit: Maja Marjanovic, Shutterstock

Why Is It Important to Remove Fleas From Cats?

Fleas cause discomfort, itching, and sometimes pain for cats. If cats are repeatedly bitten by fleas, they can become allergic to the bites. Constant scratching can cause open wounds that then become infected.

Since fleas bite cats and feed on their blood, a large enough flea infestation can lead to anemia, which means a reduction of red blood cells. Anemia can cause health issues for your cat.

Additionally, fleas can carry tapeworm larva. If a cat eats an infected flea while grooming themselves, they will then have a tapeworm parasite. They can also carry other diseases such as Bartonella.

Cleaning Your Home

Getting the fleas off of your cat is important, but if the fleas are in your home, they can re-infest your cat. Fleas live in furniture and carpet fibers and seek out new hosts. They’ll find your cat, other animals in the home, and even people to bite and torment.

Once you give your cat a flea bath, it’s time to remove fleas from your home.

Vacuum all floors and carpets, paying special attention to cracks in the floorboards. Vacuum all furniture, including underneath and in between cushions. Remove any furniture covers, bedding, and curtains to wash them all in hot water.

If your pet’s bed is washable, wash that too. If it’s not, vacuum it as thoroughly as possible. You may also choose to replace it with a new one.

If you have access to a steam cleaner, use that on floors and carpets.

Wash all your cat’s food and water bowls, washable toys, and the litter box with hot, soapy water.

Once your home is flea-free, your cat is less likely to get them again.

divider-catFinal Thoughts

Cats aren’t known for liking baths, so having to give them a flea bath might not be a task that you’re looking forward to. Being prepared with the items that you need and a plan of action can make it easier for both you and your cat.

To stop flea baths from becoming a regular occurrence, speak to your vet about flea prevention. Keeping your cat flea-free can save them a great deal of discomfort and potential illnesses caused by the parasites. Your home, other pets, and members of your household will also be saved from these irritating insects.

We hope that you’ve learned tips and tricks from this article to help you if you need to give your cat a flea bath.


Featured Image Credit: Csaba Deli, Shutterstock

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