How to Clean a Stray Kitten

Before welcoming a helpless and adorable stray kitten into your home, there is one very important thing that you need to carry out: clean it. This will not only get rid of dirt and grime but also kill fleas that can infest your home. Unfortunately, stray kittens hate water. And now you may be looking for the proper steps on how to clean a stray kitten.

There are 5 steps when cleaning a stray kitten. First, get rid of dirt and grime on its body with diluted baby shampoo. Rinse its body with lukewarm water. Clean the head and face with a washcloth dampened with soapy water. Wash the washcloth and rinse the head and face. Dry the stray kitten.

Making a stray kitten feel at home is easier if you clean it the right way. It also makes it easier for you to fall in love with its overflowing cuteness if it looks neat and smells nice.

Because water is one of the most hated things by stray kittens and kittens in general, cleaning a baby cat by giving it a bath as soon as you bring it into your home can be a daunting experience for both you and the furry animal. Fret not — below, you will come across some of the steps on how to clean a stray kitten the right way.

Prepare the Necessities

wet cat
Image credit: Canva

Before anything else, it’s a must that you prepare and place all the essentials within your easy reach. This is especially true if you will be cleaning the stray kitten alone. With no one around to lend a hand, it’s of utmost importance to make sure that just about everything you will need for bathing a stray kitten is accessible.

Here are the musts for cleaning a dirty and grimy stray kitten:

  • Diluted baby shampoo or bath gel
  • Lukewarm water
  • A Washcloth
  • A thick hand towel
  • Cotton buds and cotton balls
  • Diluted rubbing alcohol

Rushing to the nearest supermarket if you don’t have a baby shampoo or bath gel (because there is no baby at home) is not necessary just to make sure that the stray kitten will look and smell its best. It’s because you can replace a baby shampoo or bath gel with a mild dishwashing liquid.

It’s perfectly safe to use a mild dishwashing liquid on a stray kitten when giving it a bath for the very first time.

However, the next time you give the little animal a bath, use a baby shampoo or bath gel. This is to keep its skin and fur from becoming excessively dry — dishwashing liquid, even the mildest kind, is designed to get rid of anything that’s oily and greasy, including a kitten’s essential skin oils.

Start Washing the Body

First things first: do not submerge a stray kitten in water. As mentioned earlier, all stray kittens (and other types of kittens) have a hateful relationship with water. But worry not because there is a possibility that the stray kitten will grow fond of water, thus making subsequent bath times a more positive experience for all concerned parties.

Gently hold the stray kitten by the loose skin on the back of its neck. It’s called scruffing, which is something that can calm kittens — although it can cause pain to adult cats.

While scruffing the stray kitten, allow it to stand on its four feet. Using a washcloth soaked in lukewarm water, wet the kitten’s body. This will get it accustomed to the feeling of getting wet without terrifying it. Scoop a small amount of baby shampoo or bath gel diluted with water and gently rub it on the stray kitten’s coat to make a lather.

Scoop a small amount of lukewarm water and carefully rinse the stray kitten. Refrain from scooping a lot of water at a time to keep it from attempting to break away from your grasp. However, do your best to rinse the kitten fast.

Repeat until there is no more lather on the stray kitten’s body.

Clean the Face

After ridding its body of dirt and grime, it’s time to clean the stray kitten’s head and face.

Wrap the stray kitten’s now spotless body with a hand towel, leaving its head popping out and easily accessible to you. Just make sure that the hand towel is thick enough to keep the whiskered creature’s tiny claws from passing through and piercing your skin. Use several ones if you are not confident with just one hand towel.

Hold the wrapped kitty cat as a mother would while breastfeeding her baby.

Dip a washcloth in baby shampoo or bath gel diluted with lots of water.

Squeeze out some of the soapy water and gently clean the head and face. Don’t forget to clean the inside of the ears, too. Use cotton buds dipped in rubbing alcohol diluted with equal amounts of water to clean hard-to-reach areas in the ear. Do not insert cotton buds in the ear canal!

If the stray kitten’s eyes are crusty and have discharge, gently wipe them with cotton balls dipped in lukewarm water. Always wipe from the inner corner of the eye outward, and use a clean cotton ball each time.

Rinse the washcloth in clean lukewarm water and wipe the head and face and the inside of the ears. Repeat until the water that drips from the washcloth is clear.

Dry and Keep Warm

cute kitten

And now, we have come to the easiest step on cleaning a stray kitten: drying it. All you have to do is place the now clean and nice-smelling kitty cat on your lap, slowly unwrapping the hand towel while scruffing the kitten, and gently rubbing the hand towel all over its body to dry its coat and keep it warm, too, through friction.

Use a dry hand towel if the one you are using is soaking wet.

It’s a must to keep the stray cat from getting cold because its little body is incapable of regulating its core temperature. It’s for this reason exactly why bathing it with lukewarm water is a must.

Speeding up the drying process with a blow dryer is perfectly fine. However, see to it that you won’t accidentally burn the tiny baby cat! Use the blow dryer’s lowest setting and place it as far away from the stray cat as possible. If the blow dryer is too hot for your skin, then it’s probably way hot for the stray cat’s body.

Once the stray cat is fully dry and feeling warm and cozy, reward it by giving it some cat food or milk replacer.


The first few days of a stray kitten as a member of your family can be stressful not only for the pawed animal itself but also for you. Cleaning it before anything else is a smart move as it helps commence the kitten’s journey from being a stray animal to a household pet by making it look and smell perfect for the indoors.

Above, we talked about the right steps on cleaning a stray kitten by giving it a bath. Follow them to a T, and the kitten might develop a love for water, making any subsequent bath a breeze!

Related Questions

How often should I bathe a stray kitten?

As a general rule, bathe a stray kitten every 4 to 6 weeks only. Bathing a stray kitten too often can cause skin dryness, which can cause excessive scratching and even skin infections. To keep a stray kitten looking neat and smelling fresh, clean it with fragrance-free and hypoallergenic wet wipes.

How can I make a stray kitten stay?

The best way to make a stray kitten stay and not go away is by gaining its trust and confidence in you. In order to win its full trust and confidence, provide a stray kitten with just about everything it needs to survive that its mother cat can no longer give: food, shelter, and water.

Photo credit: ©

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Pet Rescue.

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