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What to do when your cat needs a bath

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, indoor cats rarely need baths. That's because indoor cats use their tongues and teeth to stay relatively clean. While cats can benefit from routine brushing, which can reduce shedding and cut back on hairballs, the bath tub is a place cats need not visit regularly.

But sometimes cats find themselves in sticky situations that dirty their coats and give them a less than agreeable odor. In such instances, a bath may be the only way to clean up your cat. Cat owners concerned about bathing cats can consider the following tips, courtesy of the ASPCA.

• Trim the claws. Cats are unlikely to find a bathtub comfortable, so cat owners should expect them to resist. Owners can protect themselves from such resistance by trimming their cat's claws prior to bath time.

• Brush your cat's hair. Matted hair can be a nuisance come bath time, and that can translate into a lengthier bath that will try the patience of cat and owner alike. Just before bath time, brush your cat's hair to loosen any matted areas. Once hair has been brushed, gently insert some cotton into your cat's ears to prevent water from getting inside them.

• Choose the right time. Mellow or tired cats are less likely to resist a bath than well-rested cats with lots of energy, so choose a time of day when your cat is typically mellow to give the animal its bath. Allow the cat to play with some toys prior to bath time so he or she grows a little tired.

• Use a bath mat. Cats likely won't be comfortable in the tub or sink, and that comfort level is only further compromised if they are slipping around. Use a bath mat so your cat is not slipping and sliding.

• Use lukewarm water. When bathing your cat, use only lukewarm water. Get your frisky friend wet in three to four inches of water before gently massaging a solution that is one part cat shampoo and five parts water into his or her hair. Massage in the direction of the hair growth and do not use human shampoo, which can dry out cats' skin. When the time comes to rinse the soap, once again gently use lukewarm water, taking caution to avoid getting soap and water into your cat's eyes, ears and nose. Make sure there is no remaining shampoo residue, which can irritate the skin and attract more dirt.

• Dry your cat off. Long-hair cats may need their fur to be untangled with wide-toothed combs. Short-hairs can be dried in a warm place with a large towel wrapped around their bodies. Some cats may be comfortable if you use a hair dryer set on the lowest heat setting to dry them off, but don't push it if your cat is not responding well to the hair dryer.