AAAAI

Cat Bath to Reduce Allergies

The average pet guardian will tell you that the term “cat bath” is anathema to her favorite feline. If someone in your family has allergies, however, bathing the cat may be necessary to control the amount of allergens–the cat’s proteins–that invoke an allergic response. These proteins can be found in the dead skin cells (dander) your cat sloughs, and in her saliva and urine. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) recommends bathing pets to control allergens, but the question for novices lingers: “Can I do this myself?”

Cat Bath: How Often?

As to frequency, the AAAAI recommends bathing your cat at least once a week with a shampoo formulated to neutralize allergens. You can purchase anti-allergen pet wipes at most pet supply stores and online specialty retailers, such as Doctors Foster and Smith, but these may be more helpful for purposes of maintenance because they don’t reach the surface of your cat’s skin or deep inside her fur, where dander resides. Bathing is a more comprehensive method of allergen control.

Cats are easily conditioned to accept baths–and even enjoy them–if they are exposed to bathing as kittens, but an adult cat may be more difficult to acclimate. The best option for those who shudder at the mere thought of placing a temperamental feline under running water may find it less of a hassle to make a standing weekly appointment with a professional groomer. (Your veterinarian’s office also may offer these services.) The do-it-yourself cat bath, however, saves money and ultimately can be less stressful on your pet.

Bathing Strategy

The secret to bathing your cat is to be prepared and always stay calm. The night before the bath, trim your cat’s nails; even the most non-aggressive cat may attempt to “latch” during the course of bathing. Start with a clean tub lined with a mat to prevent your pet from sliding around. If you haven’t purchased a pet bath sprayer that attaches to a faucet, do so. This tool considerably trims down bathing time. Have your pet shampoo nearby, as well as a stack of absorbent towels. You might find it helpful to dilute the shampoo with water (one part water to two parts shampoo) and put it in a clean squeeze tube in advance because undiluted shampoo tends to be more difficult to rinse out of a cat’s fur. A quiet environment also can greatly reduce your cat’s stress, particularly if this is her first bath or she is averse to bathing.

Stabilize your cat’s shoulders with one hand while you dampen the cat with the pet sprayer. Use water that is warm, never hot. Working quickly, scrub your pet down to the skin level using your fingertips, carefully avoiding her head. Rinse the shampoo out well; residual suds may cause your cat to get sick when she next grooms herself. Wrap your cat in a large towel, blotting out most of the moisture. Keep her in a warm, quiet room while her fur air dries. If you’re up for the expenditure, you may choose to purchase a cage with a diffuser-type drier.

Never shampoo your cat’s head, ears or face; a gentle wipe-down with a damp washcloth is sufficient.

Other Ways to Reduce Cat Dander

Bathing your cat is only one way to reduce pet dander. Other suggestions offered by the AAAAI include using an electrostatic or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaner, which picks up small airborne particles; covering upholstered furniture where your cat sleeps with plastic; and using a vacuum with a double or micro-filter bag when cleaning carpets and other soft furnishings. Cat dander is sticky stuff, clinging to hard surfaces, including blinds and drapery. Consider using cleaning products especially formulated to neutralize cat dander and other allergens.