a tabby cat nonchalantly taking a shower in a sink one eye closed

How To Clean A Cat Without Water

Have you got a cat that doesn’t like water? Are they in a bit of a mess and need a cleanup? You probably want to know how to clean a cat without water

Most cats keep themselves pretty clean. However, if your cat has been off-color and has developed a bout of diarrhea, is elderly with perhaps dementia and incontinence, has come out of surgery and needs some help or if you just have a family member that suffers from cat allergies then you are probably going to have to give your cat a cleanup – whether they like water or not!

Most cats never need help with this – they are generally pretty self-contained at grooming but if you have a cat that needs some help and you just know that a water bath or shower is going to stress them out to the max then read on for the gentle solutions that can solve this mucky kitty problem without claws at dawn! 

a long haired grey cat being groomed with a comb

How To Clean A Cat Without Water

Check out some of these straightforward techniques for washing your cat without water:

Cat Wipes

You have heard about baby wipes but have you heard of cat wipes? They are a real thing and they are specially formulated for people who need to give their water-hating kitty a quick wipe down! They are great if you want to clean cat fur without water.

You can get them online from the usual massive retailers or from pet stores. They are specially formulated to be safe for your cat. 

Can I use baby wipes on my cat? It would be easy to just take a quick option and buy some baby wipes locally – but be careful! Not all baby wipes are safe for your cat or will be tolerated by your cat. 

A cat won’t tolerate scented wipes and some of the soaps and moisturizing oils found in baby or household wipes are perfectly safe for baby but not safe for your cat. 

Cats have different liver enzymes to humans and some chemicals, although naturally occurring, can be toxic for your cats (think phenols, chlorides, alcohol, etc all found in different household wipes).

Store-bought cat wipes are usually formulated to be non-toxic to cats and unscented. These are the safest options if you want to go down the wipe route! You’ll find many that introduce vitamin E and aloe vera and the like to stand out from the crowd but such additions are unnecessary.

Bear in mind that your cat is likely to groom at some point after their wipe down so avoid wipes that seem to be filled with chemicals and alcohol.

What about homemade cat wipes? I would stay away from introducing soaps and other agents and just stick with a cotton towel dampened with water. I know we are talking about cats who don’t like water – but a damp cotton towel shouldn’t bring on the same anxiety as a tub of water!

How do you use these wipes? They are really easy, you simply wipe your cats coat down following the direction of the fur starting from the neck and moving to the tail and across and down the rib cage. 

Once your cat is accustomed to the sensation, you can clean the more sensitive spots like the ears and the pads. 

These wipes are great for spot cleaning, great at removing dander from fur and reducing allergic reactions in family members – not so good at deep cleaning away odor issues!

a black cat with wide scared orange eyes held and washed in a sink with a shower head

Waterless Shampoo

If cat wipes don’t sound like a good solution to you then the next best bet is to try a waterless shampoo. This is another great way to give a cat a bath without water!

Waterless shampoo is a bigger job than using cat wipes. You can use cat wipes to just wash a select area like the ears, the paws, or around the butt, but waterless shampoo – you are going all in! Not spot cleaning!

Here is how it works. These waterless pet shampoos come in two formats generally speaking – the instant foam or liquid spray option. 

With the instant foam, you simply aim and spray. You get a foam that settles on the fur, penetrates down to the skin and you leave it on until it self dries. You can improve performance by massaging into the cat’s fur but massaging is not essential.  You also get improved performance by giving your cat a brush down after the foam experience.

The liquid spray is similar but slightly different. You get a liquid rather than a foam and you have to spray on and massage the liquid into your cat’s coat – but then you leave this liquid shampoo to dry naturally and again you can either brush your cat down to finish or just leave it at that.

Generally speaking, these waterless cat shampoos are slightly more expensive than the wipes but you’re less likely to use the shampoo as often as wipes, can’t spot clean but do get a deeper clean going on. Additionally, some of these shampoos do contain added ingredients like neem oil which is good for dealing with fleas, and calming fragrances to make the experience easier for your cat. Just be careful to avoid scented shampoos made to appeal to humans if you want kitty to fully buy into the experience!

You have to be careful with keeping foams and sprays out of the eyes and these products are not suitable for nursing cats or kittens but they are effective and have garnered a great reputation with cat owners as an effective tool for cats that hate water!

These shampoos are great for a deeper, but less frequent clean – not so useful for spot cleaning. Can be very helpful against allergy-causing cat dander, reducing odor issues and may help reduce potential flea issues. 

an orange cat being groomed on the head with a cat brush

Groom With Brush

No cutting-edge chemistry or technology with this option but if you want to clean a cat without a bath a brush or comb is a good place to start. Old fashioned but effective. Sometimes a good old brush down is very effective at removing dirt, grime, and excess fur. 

Sometimes a cat needs a little time to get used to a brush but the experience can become a bonding experience between cat and owner over time.

Less likely to be of use against allergy-causing cat dander, although a regular regime should remove loose fur, reduce hairballs and prevent mating.

Clearly, not that good at spot cleaning, say after an episode of dick tummy, but cheap – just by the brush and you are good to go! Additionally, you don’t have to worry about chemicals and toxicity as you might with other options.

What Would We Recommend?

How to clean a cat without water? You want wipes for spot cleaning, shampoo for the deeper all over clean, and the brushwork to optimize the whole process. Using all three provides good options with dander control, spot cleaning, and hairball and matting issues. We recommend you have all three in your bag of tricks if your cat hates water!