Cats are notorious self-groomers. They take real pride in their appearance, spending over thirty percent of their waking hours preening themselves to perfection. And, for the most part, cats can take care of themselves very well thanks to their independent nature, but sometimes they need just a little help from their human.
In fact, regularly grooming your cat can be extremely beneficial to your beloved feline—regular grooming care can help prevent feline health issues such as digestive problems caused by hairballs, helps to improve the overall health of your cat’s skin and coat, and helps to alert you of any lurking health issues.
Assessing the Basics
It’s a good idea to make time at least once a month to perform a thorough physical assessment on your furry friend. This allows you to detect any possible health problems early on.
Check to make sure your cat doesn’t have any signs of bleeding, sores, discharge, inflammation, or ear mites, which usually leave a smelly reddish/brown discharge in the ear and cause excessive itching. Also look along the edges of the ears for any bumps, thickening, scaling, redness, or lesions. If any of these are present, you should consult your vet.
Your cat’s eyes should be free of any swelling or discharge. If any of these symptoms are present it could be a sign of infection.
A healthy cat’s nose is typically slightly moist and smooth. Any discharge coming from your cat’s nose could be a sign of infection, in which case you should call your vet.
Check your cat’s gums for any sores or lesions. Their gums should be pink and healthy looking without any redness, swelling, or bleeding. Your cat’s breath should not have an excessively foul odor.
Coat and skin
You can tell a lot about the state of your cat’s health from the condition of their coat and skin. If your cat has any thinning patches of fur or is engaging in excessive chewing or scratching it could be a possible sign of allergies, fleas or other parasites, or stress. Such issues could have an impact on your cat’s health and should be assessed by your vet.
Brush It Out
Regularly brushing your cat not only removes pesky tangles and loose hair, but also spreads healthy oils throughout your cat’s coat. Depending on your kitty’s fur, they may need to be brushed weekly or even daily (for longer haired breeds).
Always brush in the direction that the hair naturally lays and be sure to be extra gentle around the belly.
For short-haired cats:
Start with a fine-toothed comb and run it through your cat’s fur from head to tail tip. Watch for small pepper-like specks that could indicate the presence of fleas or parasites. Use a bristle or soft rubber brush next to remove loose hair.
For long-haired cats:
Start with a wide-toothed comb to remove debris that may be caught in the cat’s coat, again looking for any indication of fleas or other parasites. Carefully untangle any knots. Use a wire brush or a bristle brush to remove loose hair. Some long-haired cats may need occasional trimming of tufted fur around the paws with a small pair of scissors.
Cats generally don’t love having their paws touched, so getting your cat to accept having it’s claws trimmed takes a little bit of time and patience.
Start by spending some time training your cat to be comfortable having her paws handled. Gentle massages and petting over a period of time will help desensitize your cat and the make transition to nail trimming less stressful. Once the cat is comfortable with having his or her paws massaged, it’s okay to clip.
When it is time to clip their nails, follow these steps for a no stress experience for both you and your kitty:
Apply gentle pressure to the top of the foot and the pad to draw out their claws.
Use cat nail clippers to trim the white tip of each nail to the point where it begins to curl. Avoid the quick, which is the vein that runs into the nail; this vein is in the pinkish area of the nail, which you should avoid cutting.
Remember that patience is a virtue, especially when clipping your cat’s nails. This can be a very vulnerable experience for your cat, and they may react negatively at first. Over time your cat will begin to grow more comfortable with this activity and any negative reactions should decrease.
Rub-a-dub-dub, Kitty in the Tub
Have you ever tried to corral a cat into a bath? It’s not a pleasant experience, which is why there are plenty of home videos floating around the internet bemoaning the unfortunate soul that was forced to bathe their kitty. Luckily, cats don’t often need full-blown water baths. There are many new cleansing aids on the market for your pet, including wet wipes with gentle cleansing agents made specially for cats.
However, on the rare occasion that a water bath is necessary, it doesn’t mean that bath time has to be a time of terror for either of you.
Fill the tub or sink with three to four inches of warm water.
Gently wet your cat with a sink hose or unbreakable container.
Avoid pouring or spraying water directly on your cat’s head.
Use cat shampoo from their head to tail and rinse out when finished. Do NOT use human shampoo, as this could dry out your cat’s delicate skin.
Dry your cat with a large, warm towel.
The Reluctant Bath Time Participant
His hair is sticking upright, he is violently hissing, and his claws are extended. You’ve read the signs loud and clear: he is hating his bath experience.
If your cat is reacting negatively to grooming, work towards creating a positive experience for him.
Take a break when your cat shows signs of high stress and resume grooming once she’s calmed down.
Slowly introduce her to the necessary tools, allowing her to investigate on her own terms.
Provide her with praise and treats as you are introducing her to any new experience.
Above all, be patient. If your cat is extremely stressed, cut the session short and try again when she’s calmer. And remember to pile on the praise and offer her a treat when the session is over.
Keep these helpful tips in mind the next time you’re grooming your cat to avoid any painful or overwhelming situations for your furry friend.
Regular grooming not only keeps your cat looking beautiful, it allows you to spend quality time bonding with your pet and gives you the opportunity to check for any signs of potential health problems.
Fortunately, cats are relatively low maintenance, which is a nice perk for cat lovers. But, while your cat may always be wildly independent, he still needs your help now and again to remain a happy and healthy part of the family. And being loved and needed by your pet is own kind of its own perk, wouldn’t you agree?