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Bathing cats the right way

One of the main reasons people are drawn to cats as pets is the feline's self-sufficiency. In many respects, cats can take care of themselves and be very content with minimal pampering from their owners.

Many cats do not require bathing as a dog would. They are very capable of grooming themselves and keeping clean. In the rare instance a cat gets very dirty or gets a substance stuck in its fur that it cannot remove, then the cat might need a bath.

Few have escaped the dramatic stories of attempting to bathe a cat, where the cat usually escapes, not before scratching or biting the person trying to do the bathing of the animal. Many cats are skittish around water, or anything like a bath is foreign to them.

But there are ways to minimize the stress of bathing a cat -- both to the animal and the person doing the bathing. Here are a few pointers.

* Brush the cat's fur before bathing to remove any tangles or matting.

* Place something that the cat can grip with its claws into the bottom of the bath or sink. An old piece of window screen or something similar could provide traction.

* Fill the sink or tub up with warm water before handling the cat to minimize skittishness.

* Place cotton in the cat's ears to prevent bath water from entering.

* Slowly lower the cat into the water and watch for his or her response. Soothing words and some petting could calm nerves.

* Wash the cat with a gentle shampoo designed for cats, starting at the neck and working backward. Thoroughly rinse all of the shampoo, otherwise it can cause skin irritation.

* Use a towel to pat the cat dry. Avoid vigorous rubbing or new matting may occur.

* Place the cat in a warm room until he or she is dry. Keep the cat away from other pet cats until the bathed cat is calm and once again ready for social interaction.