5 easy steps for bathing your cat

The idea that any part of bathing a cat is "easy" might strike you as funny.

After all, many cat lovers have borne their share of scratches from botched bath attempts. No wonder we usually let cats leave the cleaning to themselves. But with the right tips – and a little luck – you can make a cat bath a breeze. And a little soap and water can go a long way toward cleaning your cat in ways he or she can't take care of alone. Just follow these five steps to a cleaner cat.

1. Gather your supplies
If you're in the middle of giving your cat a bath and realize you've forgotten a key tool, get ready to start over from the beginning. Make sure everything you need is gathered and easy to reach before heading into the fray. Have on hand a few soft washcloths, a cup for pouring water and rinsing your pet, special cat shampoo and some cotton balls for cleaning your cat's outer ear.

2. Rinse your cat
Run the water until it's just a little warm. The right temperature – not cold but not hot – is important. It should soothe, not startle your cat. Holding your pet in the tub or sink, pour some of the water over his or her coat. Gradually soak down to the skin.

3. Shampoo
Take some of the specialized cat shampoo – never use any shampoo or conditioner made for humans – and gradually lather your cat from neck to tail. As you rub in the shampoo, massage your cat as you would if you were just hanging out on the couch. Be easy, but thorough.

4. Rinse your cat again
Pour water over your cat where you've shampooed him or her. Make sure you rinse all the soap away. If you want, consider using a special coat conditioner for your cat. This will require an extra round of rinsing, of course, but it's sure to make your pet's coat shine beautifully. It's a treatment especially recommended for longhaired breeds.

5. Clean the face
Carefully clean your cat's face with a damp cloth, but no shampoo. Steer clear of the eyes and you and your pet should come out of the whole cat bath ordeal in one piece and still the best of friends.