A Complete Guide on Flea Baths for Cats
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A Complete Guide on Flea Baths for Cats

Veterinarians.org Team

By

Medically reviewed by

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Is your cat suddenly restless? Spending every second on scratching and biting its fur? Does her skin look red and irritated? If you answered yes, your cat is infested with the most widespread external parasite – the common flea. According to a review published by the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, fleas are a “source of torment” for cats. Not to mention the number of pathogens they carry and the risks they pose. In this article, we will talk about flea baths as a way of managing flea infestations in cats. We will give tips on how to prepare and bathe your cat. We will also recommend additional ways of keeping your cat flea-free. 

Do Cats Need Flea Baths?

Flea baths are essentially regular baths with the difference of using anti-flea shampoos instead of regular shampoos. As for necessity, flea baths are not mandatory for cats with fleas as modern anti-flea treatments are pretty efficient in eliminating the flea problem. However, in cats with heavy flea infestations and cats with flea allergies or concurrent skin issues, baths can be an essential and beneficial component of the treatment plan. However, keep in mind that flea baths alone are not enough to eliminate fleas and must always be used in conjunction with other approaches. 

How to Prepare Your Cat for a Flea Bath?

It is no secret that cats are not big fans of water. So, how are you supposed to give a flea bath to someone that hates water? Well, luckily, there are some things you can do to prepare your feline friend for a watery experience.

Get Your Cat Used to Bathing

Teaching your cat to tolerate water is something you need to do long before she needs an actual flea bath. Ideally, it would be best if you got your cat used to bathing while a kitten. To do this, put your cat in an empty sink or tub and let it play inside. To make the stay more pleasant, you can also throw a treat or two, pet your cat, and talk to her gently. Over time, you can use a damp cloth to moisten your cat and then even put some water to the bottom of the tub or sink.

Make the Tub/Sink a Safe Place

Once your cat starts associating the sink/tub with a positive experience, you need to ensure the feeling remains throughout the entire bathing process. There are three main aspects to this:

  • Use lukewarm water – warm water has a more relaxing effect on cats than cold water, however, do not overdo it as too hot water can cause burns
  • Consider small tubs – we recommend using the sink or a small plastic tub instead of the regular bathtub since cats are less likely to rebel when they feel confined
  • Place a non-slip mat – cats like to be in charge, and staying on a slippery floor can make them stressed, which is why you put a non-slip mat inside the sink or tub.

Maintain a Relaxed Environment

During flea baths, both you and your cat must be calm and relaxed. Feeling frustrated will only add to the tension and can make your cat more stressed.We recommend using a pheromone diffuser in the room where the flea bath will take place. There are different commercially available pheromone diffusers, but they all mimic the natural chemicals that keep cats and kittens happy and relaxed.

Use Calming Treats

Calming treats are small tidbits that are formulated specifically for cats and feature components with calming properties. Our top choice are the Honest Paws Calm Cat Soft Chews. They are made of carefully selected, high-quality ingredients like chamomile flower powder, passionflower, CBD oil, and silvervine. Each of these ingredients promotes relaxation, and when used together, they boost each other’s effects. 

How to Give Your Cat a Flea Bath?

The concept of flea baths is generally similar to the one of regular baths. However, there are some differences – for example, during flea baths you need to consider the creepy factor or, better said, the jumping fleas. To give your cat a proper flea bath, roll up your sleeves, forget how disgusting fleas are, and follow these steps.

Step Number 1

Gather all necessary bath items and place them within easy reach of the place you will be bathing your cat – you do not want to leave your cat unattended in the bath while you take the anti-flea shampoo from the other room.

Step Number 2

Try giving your cat a good brushing before bath. The brushing will remove some of the fleas and help with the tangles that, once moistened, can make the flea removal more difficult.

Step Number 3

Protect your cat’s eyes and ears. The fleas are your primary concern, but that does not mean you should neglect the basics of baths – put small cotton balls in the ears to prevent water from getting inside and Vaseline around the eyes to keep the shampoo away.

Step Number 4

Put the hose on and fill the bath or sink with lukewarm water. Cats are notorious for their love of heat and will feel more comfortable if the water is lukewarm. Also, try not to overfill – a few inches of water are just enough.

Step Number 5

Scruff your cat and gently put it inside the tub. Then you need to make her wet using your hand, the hose, or even a small cup. The hose is the most practical option, but some cats are not very fond of its sound.

Step Number 6 

Once you start rubbing the shampoo, the fleas will begin moving towards the head. To prevent this, first, use the shampoo to make a lather barrier around the cat’s neck.

Step Number 7

Start rubbing the anti-flea shampoo into your cat’s coat. Be gentle enough not to spook your cat but firm enough to ensure the shampoo has reached the deeper fur levels.

Step Number 8

Rinse the shampoo by directing the water flow from the head down the body. It is essential to be thorough and avoid leaving shampoo residues on your cat. Use the flat of your hand to scrub the excess water from fur, scruff your cat and take it out from the bath.

Step Number 9

Wrap the cat with a dry and cozy towel and use tweezers to remove the fleas from the face. Depending on your cat’s personality, this step is usually a two-person job. Then, use another towel to dry the cat’s face.

Step Number 10

Towel or hair-dry your cat and start removing the remaining fleas using a special flea comb. Make sure you do the combing on a large towel to prevent getting fleas all over the floor. With these ten simple steps, the flea bath will be a success, and you will not need to think about another bath for at least 30 days. This is because flea-shampoos kill adult fleas but cannot stop flea eggs from hatching. Therefore, unless your vet instructs otherwise, you will need to give your cat a flea bath once a month. 

How to Protect Your Cat from Fleas?

Protecting your cat from fleas is a complex issue and requires a multimodal approach. Here are the things you can do to keep your cat healthy and flea-free.

Use Topical Flea Preventives

Spot-on flea preventives are both safe for your cat and convenient for you. Plus, they are more efficient and definitely straightforward to use than sprays and powders. You should consult with your vet about the best flea treatment as there are many different brands offering products that protect not only against fleas but also ticks, lice, mites, mosquitoes, and flies. If your cat does not mind it, there are also collars infused with anti-flea chemicals that are perfectly safe for pets.

Use Oral Flea Preventives

Instead of topical preventives, you can opt for oral ones – anti-flea pills that are fast-acting and have residual effects for up to a month. By fast-acting, we mean they can kill the fleas in less than 30 minutes or basically before they have time to lay eggs.

Treat All Household Pets

If you are a multi-pet household, remember to treat all pets with flea preventives and keep them up-to-date.Treating only one pet and leaving the rest unprotected makes no sense, as the fleas will quickly go for the unprotected pet member.

Indoor Cats Need Protection

There is a popular misconception that strictly indoor cats do not need monthly anti-flea preventives. Just because a cat does not go does not mean that fleas cannot get inside. Your strictly indoor cat can easily become infested with fleas from another pet that leaves the house, fleas you accidentally brought on your clothes or flea eggs that were dormant in cracks of the wooden floor.

Keep the Environment Free from Fleas

Flea eggs can survive in carpets, cushioned furniture, and floor cracks and crevices for a long time. The best way to de-flea your home is to use the vacuum cleaner on suitable surfaces and have the fabrics and curtains machine washed with hot water.In extreme cases, you should take the problem to the next level and seek professional help. Contact a flea expert or exterminator and schedule a cleaning session. 

Our Final Thoughts

Do not be fooled by their diminutive size – fleas are dangerous and dealing with them is every pet owner’s worst nightmare. Luckily, there are various ways to get rid of these pesky tiny parasites and keep your cat flea-free. Flea baths, although not essential, are a powerful weapon in the war against fleas. When used correctly and regularly, they can provide relief for the flea-infested cat and keep your cat happy and healthy.