I do not advocate that you frequently bathe your cat, since it can deplete your cat’s fur of natural oils and leave the skin vulnerable to problems. Cats have a good natural system for cleanliness, given these oils and their constant licking and preening.
As you point out, however, there are times when a bath seems necessary. Maybe your cat has stepped in something stinky, or its fur is out of shape beyond your pet’s control. If you go the traditional wet-bath route, be sure to use a shampoo that’s made specifically for cats (or a no-tears human baby shampoo if you’re in a pinch). Use big cotton balls to keep your cat’s ears dry, since water can get in and cause problems, not to mention discomfort, later on.
Pet stores often sell dry-bath products, but you can give your cat a homemade bran bath as well. Such baths may have originated with show-kitty owners, since regular wet bathing can leave a cat’s fur a bit soft and floppy for a few days before the oils come back and everything fluffs out again.
Foothill Felines Bengals & Savannahs, a group dedicated to those beautiful cat breeds, explains how to do a bran bath:
1. Start off with 6 ounces of plain bran, found in the health food section of your market.
2. Warm it thoroughly in a moderate oven until just warm (but not uncomfortably hot to the touch).
3. Rub the bran with your fingers against the natural growth direction of your cat’s coat.
4. Leave it on for a few minutes before a thorough brush-out with a slicker wire brush. The bran works as an absorbent, capturing excess dirt and oil. Since it’s just an edible carb, a few extra bits won’t hurt if ingested, but do try to get all of it out.
As per all cat baths, bran baths should only be given once every so often. Let nature and your cat handle the bulk of those cleanup duties.