Home Grooming For Cats

January 1, 2019

Cats are considered self-cleaning animals and would usually spend at least 10 percent of their active time grooming themselves. They make use of their barbed tongue, teeth and forepaws to remove excess fur coat and dirt. However, this is not enough to keep them thoroughly clean as there are areas that are difficult to reach. Some cats also do not clean themselves properly. This is where the owner and professionals can step in to help.

Grooming can be a time of bonding between the cat and its owner. Hence, it is important for the owner to make grooming as enjoyable as possible. If you have a kitten, it is advisable to introduce grooming early so as to get it accustomed to the grooming routines. If you are doing it to an adult cat, you might need to introduce grooming slowly.

For a cat that has not been groomed by a person or that does not like to be handled, the experience can be both frightening and distressing initially. Hence, keep the grooming sessions short – 5 to 10 minutes – and increase the time gradually. You could also start by getting into the habit of petting your cat on different parts of its body, such as ears, tails, feet, belly and back. Treats can be incorporated to help the cat associate grooming with positive elements. This article looks into home grooming sessions for cats.

Brushing helps to remove dead and excess hair, and dirt on your cat’s body. It also helps to distribute its body oil and keep its entire coat healthy. This involves an investment in a good cat brush and cat comb. The bristles on cat brushes and combs are designed especially for cats for the aforementioned purposes, thus it will be a waste of time and efforts using any other normal comb/ brush.

There is a difference between a cat brush and a cat comb. The former is used to fluff up the fur for smoothness and the latter is used to remove excess hair, matt and dirt. Brushes and combs also differ in the spacing between bristles and the length of bristles. Generally, the longer the hair coat, the longer and more widely-spaced the bristles should be than for shorter hair coats.

Shorthair cat usually needs only a weekly brushing while a longhair cat would require a daily maintenance. Be systematic and start from the head as you work towards the tail. Use firm but gentle strokes and be careful not to tug, rip or pull through mats and tangles. You will risk hurting your cat and creating a bad experience for it. One way to remove mats is to use a clipper or matt splitter. Usually a slick or fine-toothed comb would help more than brushes. If the matting is serious and over large areas, it is best to bring your cat to professionals.

For shorthair cats, brush and comb in the direction of the hair growth. Do it the other way for longhair cats and after it has been brushed in an outward manner, start over in the direction of the hair growth. To groom the tail, part it down the middle and brush it down on either side. Be extra gentle on its abdomen, chest and leg areas. A wire-pin brush will work well also for cats with wooly or wiry coat, such as the Rex breed.

Not all cats like bath and bathing one that does not enjoy the water can be challenging. In view of this, it will help if efforts can be put into choosing suitable bathing tools for your cat. Entering into a plastic tub will certainly feel more comfortable than a cold metal sink. Before bathing your cat, do give it a good brush to remove excess hair and mats. Prepare enough towels and place a rubber mat in the bathtub so that your cat will have a secure footing. Fill the bath tub with about 3 to 4 inches of lukewarm water before placing your cat slowly into it.

To wet your cat, you can either use a spray hose or a plastic cup or container. Use a gentle shampoo; one that is for cat is recommended. Work from head to toe as you massage in the shampoo on its body. Do give your cat a thorough rinse after that, being careful to avoid the ears, eyes and nose; a damp cloth would help to clean those areas if needed. Use a large towel to dry your cat as soon as you remove it from the tub. Finish the job by thoroughly drying your cat with a hair dryer.

Dental care
The cat’s dental hygiene is an area that is often given less attention than its coat. Considering how poor oral hygiene can lead to other health issues, having good dental care would help promote an overall hearty growth that is incomparable to a healthy coat. Brushing your cat’s teeth should happen every week. For a kitten, this should start as soon as it has all its 36 teeth, which happens when it is around 6 months of age.

You can use a toothbrush designed for cats, otherwise, a kid’s toothbrush can work just as fine. What is more important is that the bristles must be soft. It is necessary to use cat toothpaste as any other toothpaste would likely cause digestive problems in your cat. If your cat is not yet comfortable with teeth-brushing, you can start by brushing only the outer surface of the teeth. Work your way towards the inner side of the teeth as it gets more comfortable with subsequent brushings.

The right way of brushing is in a circular motion starting from the bottom of the gum. Seek professional help if swollen gums, bleeding, dark spots or sores are observed. Bad breath and a refusal to open the mouth can also be signs that your cat might be suffering from gum disease. Such disease is common in cats and is a result of accumulated tartar and plaque on the teeth. The bacteria find its way to the root, and eventually an infection will surface. This can be detrimental to the cat’s overall health if not treated. However, such situation can also be prevented with regular brushing.

Nail clipping
Another important part of cat grooming is nail clipping. Keeping the nails nicely trimmed is important in preventing long nails from cutting into paw pads, thus, causing infection. Some cats might not like the foreign feeling of having their nails cut. Thus, it would be ideal to introduce this nail trimming process regularly when the cat is in kittenhood. Otherwise, the owner will have to let it get used to being handled on the legs and paws. Do this when the cat is calm for it to get comfortable to the feeling. Offering treats for your cats when you are using the clippers is a good way to help your cat correlate this activity with something positive.

To unsheathe it nails, simply apply gentle pressure on the top of its paw and its paw pads underneath. Look for the “quick”, which is a pink area inside the base of the nail. Do not cut near to this sensitive tissue as it contains vessels and nerves. You only need to remove the white tip of each nail, which is at a point where the nail begins to curl.

If you do accidentally cut the quick, apply pressure at the end of the nail with a piece of clean tissue to stop any bleeding. Septic powder can be used to stop persistent bleeding. Your cat will experience moments of pain, though the injury is nothing serious. Do use a good quality clipper for a clean cut.

If your cat reacts adversely towards nail clipping by biting or struggling, get an assistant. Both of you can wrap the cat in a towel and cover its face so that it does not bite. If things get out of hand, a qualified groomer or a veterinarian would be your next best option.

Ear cleaning
This could be one of the easiest aspects in your grooming routine. To check the cat’s ears, gently fold each other ear back to reveal the canal. Ears that are healthy will be pale pink in color and will have minimal or no visible earwax.

To clean the accumulated dirt and wax, dampen a cotton swab with liquid ear cleaner approved for cats. Clean around the areas where you can see, being careful to lift the debris away instead of rubbing them in. Do not go try to probe or go deeper into the ear canal as you might cause damage to the cat’s hearing. This is best done by a professional.

If there is an excessive amount of earwax or odor, bring your cat to the veterinarian instead of a check and proper cleaning. Ear cleaning should be carried out once every one or two weeks to prevent dirt from building up excessively.

Image Credit

Photo by John Morton - CC BY-SA 2.0

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