Cat owners consider themselves lucky to have such low-maintenance pets. This means not having to be constantly tied up with the agony and stress of grooming. Unlike dog owners who have to bathe or groom their pups sometimes weekly, cats can’t be bothered with baths and brushes.
They’re much too busy licking and pawing at their fur, being meticulous neat freaks, often grooming themselves a significant amount of the day.
However, as much as cats like to take care of their own hygiene, they could use a little human help. This is especially true for cat owners who have long-haired felines whose fur gets matted and tangled if not brushed daily.
It’s also a good idea to groom your cat often so that you can monitor its health – looking for bumps and lumps and also preventing those pesky digestive problems caused by ingesting too much hair – aka hairballs.
Flea management is also a must and grooming is often the best way for early detection.
Cat Grooming 101: How to Groom a Cat
1. SET THE MOOD
There is a tone that needs to be set before you even put brush to fur. This should be a relaxed and calming experience for the both of you – it shouldn’t be stressful or forced.
Cats are very sensitive to the mood of their human friends, so make sure that when you are ready to groom your cat, you are not stressed-out or angry.
The mood of your cat is also very important that’s why there is definitely an opportune time to groom your feline friend.
2. THE BEST TIME TO GROOM YOUR CAT
There is no time on the clock that represents the perfect time to groom your cat, however, the opportune time is right after feeding or playing.
This is when cats are most relaxed and ready to ease on into taking one of their signature power naps.
3. MAKING YOUR CAT COMFORTABLE
Much like humans, cats enjoy their independence and personal space. Grooming requires you to get into that personal space which can sometimes prove to be frustrating for both you and the cat.
Before deciding to groom your cat, make sure you have made your cat comfortable by regular petting sessions of its belly, tail, ears, head, neck, backside so that your cat is used to your touch and nicely invading their personal space.
When sitting down for the grooming session, it’s best to approach your cat non-intimidatingly instead of forcing the cat to sit where you are sitting.
Sometimes this creates anxiety and stress in the cat, especially when they feel they don’t have an escape route. It’s much easier to build this trust when you start slowly as kittens, but it is not impossible for older cats to learn to be calm while grooming.
4. TOOLS FOR GROOMING
There are many grooming tools on the market for cats and it’s always best to try a few to see which you and your cat likes best. The following are essential tools that are ideal for all types of grooming.
This can include:
- a fine-toothed comb like the Jardin Fine Steel Tooth Comb
- a bristle brush like the Oster Equine Care Mane & Tail Horse Brush
- a grooming glove like the Pet Grooming Glove
5. USING THE TOOLS
First, start with the fine-toothed combed which is used to “finely” go over the cat’s coat and pick up any debris or possible fleas and flea dirt in the fur.
Start by petting your cat first and softly running your fingernails through its coat so it feels relaxed and comfortable and used to the “brush-like” sensation. Then move the brush from head to tail in even, fluid motions so that your cat is not scared or surprised.
Second, switch to the bristle brush. This brush is used to remove dead and loose hair which can cause hairballs. Use this brush softly in sensitive areas like the underbelly.
Third, use the grooming glove. This has the same benefits as a bristle brush – removing dead hair but also is similar to petting your cat. The glove acts as a massage tool allowing the third act of grooming to be a pleasant, calming experience that the cat will remember for the next grooming go-around.
- *Note: Depending on your cat’s fur length you may want to switch the order of brushes. For instance, if the cat is a long-haired cat the first task is to remove any knots and tangles from the fur which is best done with a bristle brush.
HELPFUL TIPS FOR BRUSHING YOUR CAT
- Always brush in the same direction that the fur lays
- Try using an unused toothbrush to brush the smaller areas around the cat’s eyes and nose.
- Keep grooming sessions short, 5-10 minutes long, so they are both tolerable and enjoyable for your cat
- In severe cases, if you find a large piece of matted hair, do not pull or tug as this can be very uncomfortable for the cat. Take your cat to a professional groomer to have it trimmed or shaved off
- After grooming, applaud your cat for a successful groom with their favorite treats
OTHER TYPES OF GROOMING
While brushing your cat’s coat is by far the easiest feline beauty regimen, there are two other types of grooming that may prove more challenging. Bathing and trimming your cat’s nails take a little more practice and patience.
BATHING YOUR CAT
Lucky for cat owners, bathing is not a task that requires regular execution. In fact, unless the cat is ill and unable to groom himself, or gets into a sticky or stinky situation, cats are very self-sufficient when it comes to bathing, and very rarely will you have to step in.
Their sandpaper tongues serve as their very own mesh bath sponges, getting their coat shiny and clean. However, if the day comes when you need to bathe your cat then here are some valuable tips in making the experience as painless as possible.
- Use a non-toxic, mild cat shampoo such as Sofie’s Secret Chamomile Shampoo
- Make sure the surface of the area where you are bathing such as the tub, shower, or sink has a rubber mat to prevent the cat from slipping
- Cats react differently to being given a bath. Some are frozen in fear and some find it soothing. Match your actions to compliment how your cat is feeling. Always remain calm and assure your cat that the water will not harm them by moving in gentle motions
- Use the hose attached to the sink or large plastic pitcher or plastic cup filled with water to wash and rinse the cat with
- Make sure the water is lukewarm – not too hot or not too cold
- Rinse the cat gently with water avoiding the eyes, ears, and nose areas
- Gently massage the shampoo from head to tail. If you have a cat grooming glove this comes in handy with its short rubber bristles to make sure you get some deep cleaning beyond the fur
- Use the spray hose or pitcher to gently rinse the shampoo away
- Wrap your cat in a large towel and gently dry him off. Your cat will shake off any excess water and probably avoid you for the next few hours
For flea baths, it is best to seek veterinarian care so that your cat can get the full flea treatment including specialized flea bath and flea medications.
CLIPPING YOUR CAT’S NAILS
The dreaded clipping of the nails. Thinking you have to get close to those mini-weapons of mass destruction let alone try to clip them. The key is building trust, which is the primary factor in all areas of grooming.
Most cats are not used to people touching their toes and petting their paws, in fact, most cats try to avoid it by curling their paws under their chest. So imagine what they’re thinking when you’re coming at them with scary nail clippers.
The best way to earn their trust with their precious paws is to each day make it a point to pet their paws, gently. This is best tried when they are already sleeping or about to shut their eyes for a nap.
They’re too busy in the nap zone to worry about whether your paw massage is going to kill them. Soon enough they’ll get used to the paw petting and it will be like petting their ears and neck – no big deal.
Take a pair of nail clippers with a safety guard specially designed for cats. This is a safe way to ensure that you do not clip too far into the nail where clip the nail bed (the pink area). Press down on your cat’s paws so that they spread out revealing the claws.
Cut parallel to the flat of the claw. Only clip the sharp tip of the nail and nothing further. You can see this if you clip just before the nail begins to curl. If you do accidentally cut the pink area, most likely it was starting to bleed.
Have some styptic powder on hand to stop the bleeding immediately and prevent it further. You can also have the vet clip their claws as well during routine checkups, leaving you to maintain them in-between visits.
While most cats vary in how often they need to get their nails clipped, it usually is best practice to clip every two weeks.
HELPFUL TIPS FOR NAIL CLIPPING
- Use rewards if your cat is not being receptive to you cutting his nails. This could be a treat after each paw is finished (or each nail in more finicky cases). By using a high reward as a positive association with the nail clipper, you build trust to allow pedicure time to be a more enjoyable one.
- Don’t feel you need to finish both paws in one sitting. Clip one paw per day or even three nails a day and spread out the pedicure if your cat is intolerable to it.
- Depending on the temperament of your cat, you may try sitting him on your lap or even holding him in your lap, holding each paw in your hand ready for clipping. This depends on how comfortable and in which position feels most comfortable for both of you.
Cats are very low maintenance. They’re independent pets that like to take care of themselves as much as they can. Cats are very picky about cleanliness. Owners keeping their litter box clean and areas where they sleep are very important to them.
They like to bathe themselves regularly, but also need a little bit of a hand with the tough stuff like making sure their fur is free of dead hair and tangles, keeping fleas under control, giving them occasional baths if they get stinky or sticky, and keeping their nails clipped to avoid them or you getting hurt.
It’s a team effort and takes a small village (well you and the cat) to create a healthy and clean environment for the both of you. Now if only cats could help out with the dishes.