Homepage At-Home Pet Care How to Acclimate Pets to Taking a Bath

How to Acclimate Pets to Taking a Bath

When it’s time to bathe your ten-pound kitty or 12-pound pooch, they may suddenly seem like a 400-pound tiger or a 150-pound timber wolf. In this battle of wills, you may end up the loser — and have the scratches and bites to prove it. Here are some helpful hints for getting your pet acclimated to taking a bath.

1. Start early.

As with toothbrushing, pets should begin learning to tolerate grooming and bathing at an early age, when they are smaller and easier to handle. Working with a squirming puppy is much easier than working with a resistant 80-pound dog.

2. Choose the right location.

You can use sinks for small pets, the tub for medium and large pets, and the outside water hose for extra-large dogs. Adjustable-pressure water hoses work best for rinsing.

If the spray is too loud or hard, it will scare your pet, so start with low pressure and gradually increase as your pet acclimates to the feel and sound. Speak to your pet in a low, soothing voice to further relax them. Yelling will only make them more nervous.

3. Keeping your pet still.

To restrain your pet in the sink or tub, tie their leash to a stationary object (pet stores sell suction leash attachments specifically for this purpose). For outside washing, you can stand on the leash to keep your hands free.

4. Don’t drag it out.

For reluctant kitties (i.e., all of them), the key is to do it quickly. One way to accomplish this is by using dunking sinks: Fill one side with soapy water and the other with clean water to rinse. You will still need to rinse with some running water to get rid of all the shampoo in medium- to long-haired cats.

If your cat becomes bad-tempered, scruffing may help to reduce some anxiety. This is done by pinching the skin over the neck area. When done correctly, scruffing releases endorphins that help your cat relax.

Remember, most cats are quite fastidious and don’t need complete bathing, just a quick cleaning of any accumulated, er, material on the rear end. Extremely matted, dirty, or aggressive cats may require sedation to be shaved down — talk to your vet about this.

In all cases, be prepared to get wet. Try to make it fun for your pet so they will hopefully learn to better tolerate — or even enjoy — a bath.

This copyrighted article first appeared in the Residences section of The Palm Beach Post. It may have been updated since its original publication.