How Do Professional Groomers Bathe Cats?

"I'll get this close to the sink."
"I'll get this close to the sink." (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

The thought of bathing your cat may conjure an image of an angry wet feline causing grievous injury as she explodes into a fury of teeth and claws. Professional cat groomers have no such qualms and simply apply their skills to ensure the bath proceeds quickly and humanely. Their efforts end with a clean cat and no trauma. Whiskers or Taffy may even find the experience relaxing.

Efficiency is Key

Professional groomers do not delude themselves into thinking they can convince a cat to enjoy a bath. Instead they focus on a more realistic goal of a gentle and speedy process. Reassurance through petting and speaking soothingly most likely occurs, and groomers maintain a calm demeanor. The trick to a successful bath for a cat is to avoid overacting to feline anger or fear, and finish the job. Due to the feline temperament, the sooner the bath concludes, the better.


Professional groomers use recirculating bathing systems on cats. These systems include a hose and a stainless steel tub. The hose nozzle allows for a gentle stream of water that is not jarring but also thoroughly wets and rinses cats. Groomers favor these systems for their low water use and the little alarm they cause to animals.

Another technique that encourages calm in cats is keeping a screen or mesh at the bottom of the tub. The water can run through the screen and the cats naturally embed their claws into it. This keeps the cat still as she literally attaches herself to the bottom of the sink.

Cats have different sensitivities to dogs, and veterinarians emphasize the importance of only using shampoo made for cats. Shampoos containing selenium compounds and tar are helpful for dogs but they are dangerous to cats. Medicated cat shampoos instead contain sulfur, salicylic acid or benzyl peroxide, which are not dangerous to cats.


One drying system designed specifically for cats looks like a glass cage with one hose that vacuums hair out of the enclosed system and another that blows heated air to dry the cat. This device dries a cat quickly and prevents loose hair from cluttering a grooming area. Other groomers instead dry a cat with warm towels and then fluff dry them using a hand-held or table dryer. Dryers for cats do not need to be as warm as they are for humans, so temperature control is important. During fluff drying, professional groomers restrain the cat with a noose just as they do with dogs. While dogs stand through the drying process, the groomer will lower the noose so the cat can lie down and feel more relaxed.

Safety Considerations

Few cats require medical sedation while grooming. Many cats stay quiet throughout and endure grooming without injury to themselves or the groomer. Injuries from cat bites or scratches incur liability, so if a feline is just too agitated or aggressive, the groomer may decide to cancel the appointment. Groomers decide to cancel appointments infrequently, as cat grooming is a specialty and its practitioners are not intimidated by a cat’s fear or anger. Professional groomers recommend regular brushing by the cat’s owner to prepare the cat to endure professional grooming with less agitation.

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