Bathing Cats and Kittens

Crystal Creek Rescue > Bathing Cats and Kittens

At Crystal Creek Rescue, we see a lot of cats that are infested with fleas, so we have a tried and true method of making sure we eradicate the fleas and keep that cat or kitten healthy as possible. The method outlined below includes, cleaning ears, and worming.


  • 2 medium towels per cat, preferably white or of a light color
  • Old soft wash cloth
  • 1 old medium towel
  • Dawn dishwashing soap
  • Very small bowl of alcohol
  • Tiny bowl of mineral oil
  • Q-Tips
  • Cat nail clippers
  • Flea comb
  • Tweezers
  • Hair dryer
  • Pen and paper
  • Capstar –  2 to 25 lb dose cut in ½ or ¼.
  • Advantage-Multi (monthly topical – ear mites, fleas, hook and roundworms, heartworm)
  • Worming: Scale, syringe, Pyrantel or Panacur or Drontal

Give a kitten ¼ of a Capstar as soon as it is in your possession or ½ for an adult. It kills fleas up to 24 hours and starts to work in 4 hours. It’s safe for kittens over 2 weeks and nursing queens. 

We use a kitchen sink for bathing when possible because you can stand, which is much easier than bending over a tub when handling a cat. We always suggest that two people team up to bathe a cat, because it can make bathing go more quickly and safely.

Trim the cat’s nails. If you have never done this, you can place the cat on the old towel on your lap and extend each nail forward to trim, making sure not to get too close to the quick. If the cat isn’t cooperating, have one person scruff the cat while the other trims the nails.

Weigh your cat or kitten and note on paper with the date. This information will help you know how much worming medication to give your cat. 

Next turn on the water, making sure it is warm, but not hot. Place the old towel in the sink to give the cat something stable to stand on. One person handles the cat and the other person bathes. The bather puts soap and water in their hands and soaps a barrier around the cat’s neck. Fleas will run up the cat’s body to escape the water. Do not wash the cat’s head. You must protect the eyes, mouth, and nose. 

Next, place the cat in the sink wetting it from the neck down. Turn off the water.  Soap up the body, making sure to get between toes and under arms. Wrap the cat in a towel like a burrito. Set a timer for 12 minutes. This method kills fleas and larvae.

Take the flea comb and go through the head looking for fleas. They are the brown, fast-moving, tiny critters. Grab them quickly and carefully place them in the alcohol. Comb over and over until you believe there aren’t any more. You may also find flea dirt, which is a sure sign the cat has fleas. You don’t want fleas in your home and they can quickly infest a home if precautions are not followed.

Take a warm damp washcloth and clean their face gently.

Examine their ears. Clean with Q-Tips and mineral oil, wiping out and not down. Check for ear mites, which look like dark coffee grounds. If they are present, put a few drops of mineral oil in the ear, as this can drown the mites. Make a note you suspect ear mites and plan a trip to the vet. We can also provide meds for this.

If you find a tick, remove it very carefully and gently from the head and pull straight out, trying not to squeeze the tick. Place it in the alcohol bowl. This method helps to keep the tick from regurgitating into the cat and depositing any disease, like Bobcat Fever, Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Apply a little alcohol via a Q-Tip to the place where the tick was attached.

You can give kittens Pyrantel (Strongid) worming medication at 2 weeks, and repeat every 2 weeks for 3 to 4 rounds. It kills adult round and hookworms in cats. Dose .25 to .5 ml for kittens per pound.  We like to give a 3rd and sometimes a 4th round to be sure we kill any lurking larvae that have grown to adults.

For older kittens and cats, we use Panacur, a broad-spectrum wormer for Tape, Rounds, Hooks and some parasites like Giardia. The dose is weight X 23/100 = mL. Give dose once a day for 3 days. Then wait 14 days, weigh the cat or kitten again, recalculate the correct dose, and treat again, once a day for three days. Panacur kills adult worms, not larvae, hence the reason for re-dosing in 14 days, when larvae can grow to adults. 

If you have Drontal, use ½ pill for adults and ¼ pill for kittens over one month old and who weigh at least 1.5 lbs. Check weight dosing charts online for by weight dosage. Dontral kills hooks, round and hook worms, both adult and larvae with one dose.

When the timer goes off, make sure your water is warm at the tap, unwrap the cat and rinse well from the neck down. When finished, turn off the water, and with your hands try to squeegee off as much water as you can from the cat.

Take the other old towel, fold it in half and wrap up the cat to absorb the water. If your towel is white or of another light color, you will be able to see dead fleas on it, which is a great sign. Then, while seated, flip the towel over to the dry side and start to fluff the cat in your lap. The other person turns the hair dryer on low, keeping it at least 1.5 to 2 ft. away from the cat and always moving it, so as not to burn the cat. The person holding the cat can continuously fluff the cat until dry.

When the cat is dry, take the flea comb (wiped clean first) and check over the cat.  You may find several more dead fleas. Place them in alcohol. Look in between their toes to see if you find any seed ticks (blueish-gray, strawberry seed-looking parasites) and remove them. They can also be flesh colored and tiny.

Place your cat in a cleaned area with fresh bedding. Have a fresh litter box ready with non-clumping, throwaway litter. (You can find a $4.50, 25 lbs bag at Walmart)

If over 9 weeks old, you can treat the kitten with a monthly topical, like Advantage-Multi or Revolution for fleas, ear mites, Heart worm, Hook and Roundworms.

Cleaning up after bath

Look through the towels for fleas and ticks to be put in alcohol and wash the towels immediately in hot water with a little bit of clorox. Clean all instruments with hot water and soap, then wipe with alcohol. Throw the alcohol out in the trash or in a bag of dirty litter, never flush these parasites in a toilet. 

NOTE: While worming over the first 2 weeks, use inexpensive, non-clumping litter to repeatedly be thrown away each day. A freshly cleaned box with litter is to be used each day, sometimes twice a day, as needed. We find this reduces the chance of re-infection with worms that may be living in the litter.

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