Do Cats Really Prefer Warm or Cold Water Baths? The Surprising Answer


When it comes to bathing cats, one of the most debated topics among cat owners is whether to use warm or cold water. Knowing cats’ preferences for bath water temperature is important for pet owners to ensure a stress-free, safe, and comfortable bathing experience. While some claim that cats prefer cold water since they groom themselves by licking, others argue warm water is less shocking and mimics a mother cat’s grooming. With disagreement among experts, it can be confusing for cat owners to determine the ideal water temperature for feline bath time.

In this article, we will explore the reasoning behind warm and cold water preferences to help cat owners make an informed decision. By evaluating factors like cats’ normal body temperatures, senior cat needs, and individual preferences, owners can better provide their cat with a bathing environment tailored specifically to their comfort.

Cats’ Normal Body Temperature

A cat’s normal body temperature ranges between 101-102°F (38.3-39.2°C) (Taking Your Pet’s Temperature – VCA Animal Hospitals). The average normal temperature is 101.5°F. Cats, like all mammals, must maintain a precise core body temperature for normal metabolic function. If a cat becomes overheated or dehydrated, the body temperature can rise to dangerous levels.

There are several ways to take a cat’s temperature, including rectally, ear canal, or with a special temperature-sensing microchip implanted under the skin. However, the most common method is rectally with a digital thermometer. It’s important for cat owners to establish their pet’s normal temperature range while healthy, for comparison if the cat becomes ill.

Monitoring body temperature is one way to check a cat’s overall health status. An elevated temperature could signify an infection or other medical issue requiring veterinary attention. A temperature over 104°F is considered an emergency. On the other hand, a lower than normal temperature may indicate hypothermia, shock, or impaired metabolism.

Warm Water Mimics Grooming

Licking themselves is part of a cat’s natural grooming behavior. A cat’s saliva is usually close to their normal body temperature, which ranges from 100-102°F (1). When cats lick themselves as part of grooming, the warm and wet sensation provides comfort. Simulating this feeling with warm water during bath time can help cats relax and feel soothed.

Warm water that is close to a cat’s natural body temperature may feel familiar and less shocking than cold water. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends using lukewarm water around 100°F for cat baths (2). This comfortable warmth mimics their self-grooming routine and helps them adapt to the bathing experience.

While cats spend much of their awake time self-grooming (3), bathing introduces new sensations. Using warm water can provide reassurance amid this unfamiliar process. The temperature helps approximate the warmth and moisture of their tongue, making bath time seem more natural for feline comfort and cleanliness.





Cold Water Can Be Uncomfortable

Cold water can feel shocking or stressful for cats when bathing. Cats have an average body temperature between 101-102°F, so cold water will feel very chilly to them (Source). Immersing in cold water can cause a cat’s body temperature to drop rapidly, leading to hypothermia. This sudden temperature change can be uncomfortable and frightening for cats.

Humans also tend to perceive cold water as more unpleasant than warm. We are used to taking warm showers and baths for comfort. Similarly, most cats seem to prefer lukewarm to warm water over cold when bathing. The cold sensation can make the bathing experience more stressful overall.

However, some individual cats may tolerate or even enjoy cold water during hot weather. Monitoring your cat’s reaction is important to determine their preference.

Individual Preferences

Cats have varying preferences when it comes to water temperature for bathing. Some cats may actually enjoy cold water, while others prefer warmer water temperatures (ModernVet). It’s important to determine an individual cat’s preference on a case-by-case basis.

Cats are adaptable creatures and can get used to different water temperatures over time. However, most cats will likely show an initial preference for either warm or cold water. Observing the cat’s reaction during an initial bath can help determine if they prefer warm or cold water.

Signs a cat prefers warm water include appearing relaxed and comfortable during the bath. On the other hand, if the cat seems stressed, vocalizes, or tries to escape, it may prefer cold water. Testing different temperatures and gauging the cat’s reaction is the best way to identify their ideal bath water temperature.

In general, kittens and senior cats may prefer warmer bath water temperatures. However, each cat is unique, so catering bath water to the individual is recommended over making generalized assumptions.

Kitten Baths

Kittens have special considerations when it comes to bath water temperature. Since kittens are still developing, they cannot regulate their body temperature as effectively as adult cats. Kittens tend to lose body heat faster, so the bath water may need to be warmer for their comfort and safety.

Experts recommend a bath water temperature between 100-102°F for kittens, which mimics their normal body temperature range of 101-102.5°F [1]. Warmer water helps kittens retain their body heat and prevents hypothermia. It also feels more natural to them.

By contrast, adult cats only need a bath water temperature around 98-100°F. So kittens may need water about 2 degrees warmer than their fully grown counterparts.

It’s important not to make the water too hot for kittens, as this risks burns or overheating. Check the temperature with your hand or elbow before bathing. Adjust as needed so the water is warm but not hot.

With the proper warm bath water temperature, kitten bath time can be an enjoyable bonding and grooming experience.

Senior Cat Baths

As cats age into their senior years, their grooming habits often start to decline. Older cats with arthritis or other joint issues may have difficulty cleaning themselves properly. However, senior cats still need occasional bathing to keep their coat and skin healthy. When bathing an aging cat, there are some important considerations.

Older cats may appreciate warmer water to soothe achy joints. The warm water can provide therapeutic benefits and relax muscles. According to Falls Road Animal Hospital, the ideal bath water temperature for senior cats is around 100-102°F. The water should be warm but not hot enough to cause discomfort or dry out the skin.

It’s also important to monitor senior cats closely in the bath. Their energy levels and mobility may be limited, so bath sessions should be brief. Check that the cat can stand securely and doesn’t risk slipping. Limit the bath duration to 5-10 minutes.

Use gentle motions when lathering and rinsing senior cats. Avoid getting water in their ears. Thoroughly dry their coat afterwards with a soft towel. Keeping aging cats warm during and after bathing helps prevent chills.

With some adjustments for comfort and safety, baths can still be a positive experience for senior cats. The warm water soak and gentle scrubbing provides cleaning they can no longer manage alone. Proper grooming helps senior cats continue enjoying their golden years.

Water Temperature Safety

When bathing a cat, it’s crucial to use a safe water temperature range to avoid scalding or shocking them. According to PetMD, the ideal water temperature for bathing cats and kittens is between 100-103°F (37.8-39.4°C). This lukewarm water is similar to a cat’s normal body temperature of 102°F (38.9°C), helping them feel comfortable and relaxed.

Water that is too hot can quickly burn and scald a cat’s sensitive skin. Always check the temperature before placing a cat in the water. Use a thermometer or test the water with your hand or elbow to ensure it feels warm but not hot. Never use water that feels uncomfortably hot on your skin, as this can cause injuries for cats.

On the other end of the spectrum, cold water can be equally distressing for cats. The shock of cold water may cause them to panic, scratch, or become fearful of future baths. Always warm the water to a cat’s natural body temperature. With the proper preparation and safety checks, bath time can be an easier, stress-free experience for cats.

Bathing Techniques

When bathing a cat, it’s important to use techniques that help keep them calm regardless of the water temperature. Cats can become stressed during baths, so paying attention to their body language is key.

Speaking in a soothing, calm voice can help relax a cat during bath time. Avoid sudden loud noises or movements that may startle them. Give them frequent verbal praise and gentle pets to help them remain at ease.

Work slowly and handle them with care, supporting their body gently but firmly so they feel secure. Watch for signs of stress like ears back, pupils dilated, tail swishing, or trying to scramble away. If a cat seems extremely upset, stop the bath immediately.

Let the cat air dry naturally rather than using a blow dryer, which can scare them. Provide treats afterward so they associate bath time with something positive. With the right techniques focused on keeping cats comfortable, baths can be less stressful regardless of water temperature.



When it comes to water temperature preferences for bathing, every cat is different. While some may enjoy a nice warm bath, others prefer cooler water. As a cat owner, it’s important to pay attention to your feline’s unique preferences.

Take the time to experiment with different water temperatures to see which one your cat responds to best. Look for signs of comfort or stress, like relaxed muscles, purring, or ears turned back. This will help you determine the ideal bathing water temperature for your cat.

Regardless of the temperature you choose, always monitor your cat closely during bath time. Make sure they are handling the experience well and watch for any body language cues that may indicate they are getting too cold or overheated. Your cat’s wellbeing should always come first.

With some trial and error, you’ll be able to discern your cat’s favored water temperature for bathing. Paying attention to their needs will ensure bath time is a positive experience that brings you closer together.

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