Many pup parents frequently take their fur babies in for regular grooming, and for even more, regular baths at home are the norm, but what about feline family members? Cats spend quite a lot of time grooming themselves in the course of even a single day so it might be surprising to learn that they can actually benefit substantially from a little assistance by you.
If the idea of grooming a cat seems funny or foreign then consider this: Regular grooming is the best way to prevent hairballs. It promotes healthy skin, helps manage shedding and dander, prevents mats and tangles for long haired cats, and circumvents the digestive problems (and vet bills) associated with those nasty, dreaded trichobezoars (the technical term for hairballs) -- and that's just for starters.
So just exactly what is involved in grooming a cat? Regimens will vary slightly according to cat breed and age, but essentially, tending to coats, skin, claws, and ears monthly, weekly, or even daily is what's needed. Cats can be groomed at home or taken to a professional. Keep in mind that older cats and those in a single cat household will need a little extra help with the areas they can't reach themselves.
Our Clients Bean and Cosmo helping each other out with grooming tasks.
Most cats have a double coat. That means they have a layer of short hairs as well as another of longer hairs that are different textures and serve different functions. Indoor-only cats tend to shed a bit year-round, so it's a good idea to brush them regularly to keep hair from ending up everywhere from in their gut to all over your clothing and furniture.
Short hair cats can benefit from weekly brushing while long haired cats will need it more often - like daily. You can even follow up a good brushing with a few passes from a wipe/moist towelette to get at any remaining hairs. Be sure to choose the right brush for the type of coat that your cat has, and keep in mind that brushing also promotes good skin health.
In addition to regular brushing, some cats will actually benefit from an occasional bath. While it's generally thought that cats naturally loathe water, the truth is that many don't mind it all. If your cat is young, affectionate, and/or likes attention, chances are bath time will go over a lot easier with them.
Our Client Mina thinks water is for playtime.
The good news though is that baths are rarely necessary - only when kitty has gotten into something sticky, smelly, greasy, super dusty, or something you wouldn't want her to try and lick off. Of course if kitty spends time outdoors this will increase the chance of her getting dirty and possibly needing a wash.
A dip in the tub could also be in order if your cat is older and can no longer reach everywhere as easily. Be sure to check the backside of fur babies with long hair for "leftovers"... If the time comes where you've determined your feline friend does indeed need a bath, be sure to only use cat approved shampoo as anything else can be too drying to their skin.
Bath or no bath, when it comes to grooming your cat you will actually want to start with their claws, especially for felines not used to a grooming regimen. Cats need to scratch and claw to maintain their nails so you can proactively protect your rugs and furniture by helping them out with a regular mani-pedi.
These sweet little paws belong our client Gherig.
An added benefit to regular nail maintenance is that it allows affectionate kitties to play with you and put their paws on you without snagging your clothing or accidentally clawing and scratching up your skin. It will also make any visits to the vet easier and safer. By no means should you ever declaw a cat.
If you're not squeamish, you can learn to clip the tip of kitty's nails yourself, taking special care to avoid the quick (that pink area). You'll want to clip only the tip, and at just the right angle; here's a great youtube video from PetCo that demonstrates how to give kitty a nail trim.
Does your kitty have any extra toes? Polydactyl cats in particular will need a regular nail trim to protect their paws from ingrown nails. Kitties with extra toes need to be monitored carefully so they don't incur injury, and in some cases poly cats may need their extra claw removed (not a declawing) in order to prevent infection and trauma.
Our client, David, is a polydactyl.
In between nail trims it's also a good idea to regularly inspect paw pads for cuts or other issues, and you might give them a wipe periodically as well. After all, kitty spends a lot of time walking around the house barefoot.
Cleaning your cat's ears is something you won't have to do often, but they should be checked regularly to be sure kitty doesn't have any ear health problems. Examine the outer area first and call your vet if you see anything out of the ordinary such as bald spots or sores. If kitty's ears are a little dirty they can be cleaned easily with a moist cotton ball.
Never use cotton swabs inside, and unless you have experience cleaning your cat's ears, it isn't a good idea to try an ear solution. Extensive cleaning is best left to your vet, especially if your cat is a little older and not accustomed to grooming. To get your fur baby used to having her ears handled, you may want to start my gently massaging them. In addition to looking clean, a healthy ear should smell clean. If there's any doubt, check with your vet.
In addition to the overall health benefits, grooming provides an opportunity to examine your cat for any possible skin conditions, lumps, bumps or insects. It's also a great way to to bond with your fur baby and show affection.
For more information on grooming and other aspects of cat care, be sure to check out our Pinterest board: Cat Culture
Health Benefits of Grooming Your Cat
A Cat Parent's Guide to Grooming
Cat Grooming Tips from the ASPCA
Different Strokes for Different Coats
Tips For Preventing and Treating Hairballs in Cats
How to Best Take Care of Cat Claws
Safe Alternatives to Declawing Your Cat