Q: I’m allergic to my cat. Will wiping her down with a moistened washcloth work as well as actually bathing her for reducing allergens? If not, what is the most calming way to lather up a cat and rinse her off? My cat hates to be bathed.
Dear Ms. Marcella,
A: Please note that bathing your cat is for her, not for you. Cats devote a fair amount of time and energy to cleaning their coats with their tongue and teeth, but even so, they tend to get a gummy feel after a while, which can lead to their skin feeling irritated and even pave the way for infections. Bathing them now and then fills in where their own grooming “tools” leave off.
But it will not really make you less allergic. Bathing does reduce allergens on cats’ coats, but studies show that the allergen levels start creeping up again very quickly and in some cases can reach their pre-bathing levels in as little as 24 hours. Reducing allergens requires frequent vacuuming with a vacuum cleaner that incorporates a high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filter; not touching your hands to your face after petting your cat until you wash them; keeping windows open, even if only a crack; using an allergy-proof mattress and pillow covers (covers with a mean pore size of less than 4 to 6 micromoles); and regularly wiping down walls and hard floors.
Back to your cat. Yes, you can use premoistened wipes, although actual bathing is better. Put a rubber mat in the sink or bathtub so she feels grounded and won’t slide around. And keep the water no hotter than lukewarm. Try gently pouring water on her with a cup rather than having it spray out of the faucet. Don’t wet her face; wash her only from the neck down (although you can try using a wipe on her face).
If those steps don’t help, premoistened wipes are not the end of the world. There are wipes made just for cats that contain antibacterials and conditioners formulated specifically for feline hair. There are even dry shampoos in powder form that you shake onto your cat’s body and work into her coat and skin with your fingers (wear rubber gloves) and then brush through.
One more option is a foam. It dampens the fur slightly, but some cats prefer that to having powder sprinkled on them. (Less messy for you, too.)