Original Article by Ray Chao for PetsBest
Cats are notoriously independent, but that doesn’t mean cats can’t enjoy a bit of pampering. When it comes to cat grooming, there’s no need to be a scaredy-cat because grooming can be enjoyable for both humans and felines with patience and practice. While it’s true that cats are incredibly efficient with self-grooming, cat parents should help with brushing, clipping nails, and an occasional bath. While not all cats will enjoy being groomed, it is important to make sure your cat maintains a clean and healthy coat. Follow these tips on how to groom a cat to safely and properly ensure your cat stays healthy.
The Brush, a Purr-fect Cat Tool
Despite the amount of time a cat spends on self-grooming, regular brushing with the right brush keeps the coat clean and removes dirt, grease and hair. Also, even though cats have coarse tongues specifically to self-groom, additional grooming with a brush helps blood circulation, removes skin flakes and massages the skin while also stimulating glands that secrete natural oils to help keep fur clean and shiny. Most cats will benefit from weekly brushing, but long-haired cats will need more frequent brushing, helping reduce hairballs. Also, an outdoor cat may require more attention to keep their coat clean and free of tangles.
The Best Brushes to Use to Groom Your Cat
There are many types of brushes, and you should make sure to select the proper brush and/or comb depending on the texture and length of your cat’s fur. Here are some of the kinds of cat grooming tools available:
- Slicker brush: good for all types of fur, has metal tines, so be careful not to injury cat’s skin.
- Molting comb: good for all types of fur, particularly long-haired cats and has two lengths of pins to detangle and prevent mats.
- Bristle brush: best for cats with short or sleek hair and a good finishing brush for long-haired cats.
- Rubber brush: great for skittish cats because the rubber teeth massage the skin, stimulates oils and removes loose hair, particularly for shedding cats.
- Pin brushes: good for all cats, helps remove tangles and prevents mats, particularly good for cats with medium and long-hair.
- Grooming comb: use to untangle knots for all cats, use a comb with wide spaces between teeth for long-haired and thick hair, and use a comb with narrow spaces between teeth for short-haired cats.
Successfully Grooming Your Cat at Home
Once you have the proper cat grooming tools, you are ready for your first brushing. Ideally, your cat will enjoy being pampered and not resist, but just in case, make sure to proceed slowly and with caution.
First, look for any tangles or knots and untangle them with a comb before you start brushing. You should use a de-matting comb for matted hair and gently untangle the matted hair from the tips downwards toward the skin. Untangle small portions at a time with the brush, or your thumb and index finger. Never use scissors to cut matted hair. A grooming professional should treat cats with severely matted fur, especially in cases where shaving may be necessary.
Once you have removed any tangles, make sure your cat is comfortable and start stroking by hand, and slowly introduce the brush. All cats are curious and will certainly want to see and sniff the brush and get accustomed to it. As you brush, always follow the direction the coat grows, and start at the neck and work your way to the tail. Be careful of knots or tangles, and switch to an appropriate comb to untangle hair. Use your hand to guide the brush and feel for bumps or injuries. Cats socialize by grooming each other, so try to make this a bonding experience that you both enjoy. Always pay attention to your cat for signs of stress or discomfort and stop grooming immediately if your cat protests and try again after a rest.
To Bathe or Not to Bathe Your Cat
Most cats do not like baths and all cats are not shy about telling you what they don’t like. But with patience, you can safely and properly bathe your cat. With that said, most short-haired cats that live indoors will not need to be bathed. However, outdoor cats, or cats that get into a mess will need to be bathed. You should always have proper shampoo and take into consideration any allergies or skin conditions. Never use human shampoo which will be too harsh for feline skin. You may also want to gently place a cotton ball in each ear to keep dry.
Once you are ready, place a rubber mat in sink or tub, and fill with a couple of inches of warm water. Be firm, but gentle, and wet your cat thoroughly; apply shampoo and lather, starting from the head and working to the tail. Rinse and use a washcloth to clean their face but stay clear of the eyes and ears. Dry with a towel, or hairdryer set to the lowest heat, if your cat will tolerate it. Most importantly, make sure to reassure your cat with lots of praise throughout the bath.
Giving Your Cat Mani-Pedis
Surely you have provided your fur babies with a variety of scratching posts, scratch pads and toys to enjoy, but cats scratch for a variety of reasons and as a form of exercise. Cats do not, however, necessarily scratch to keep nails trim. That’s why you should trim your cat’s nails regularly depending on how quickly they grow. A good rule of “thumbnail,” is you want to trim nails when they become sharp. Outdoor cats may not need a mani/pedi, but indoor cats, and older cats, will need your help in maintaining so they are not too long. Also, make sure the paws are clean and free of injury since cats are so curious and often use paws to investigate.
How to Trim Your Cat’s Nails
Trimming a cat’s nails will require patience. First, there are various types of cat nail trimmers, so find a style that you are comfortable with. Second, have some styptic powder if you accidentally cut the quick, which will cause bleeding, but is generally nothing to be concerned about. Finally, when you are ready, find a comfortable place and allow yourself and your cat enough time to get used to the task by taking the following baby (paw) steps:
- Let your cat sniff and get accustomed to the nail clippers (including the sound of it. Use spaghetti noodles to simulate the sound of nail clipping).
- Make sure your cat is comfortable with you handling paws by gently holding and massaging the paws. Don’t engage in play because you don’t want this to be playtime.
- Practice extending the nails by gently pushing on the paw, which will extend the nails.
- When you are both ready, clip the tips of the nails only. Be careful not to cut the quick, which is more difficult to see with dark nails. Try clipping one or two nails, and then take a break if your cat seems to be uncomfortable.
Don’t forget to have a gentle, yet firm grip on your cat, particularly the paw as you trim the nails. Keep reassuring your cat in a calm, soothing voice. With a bit of patience and lots of tenderness, you can safely ensure your cat’s nails are properly maintained.
Most importantly, with all grooming tasks, be patient and pay attention to your cat who should have no problem expressing discomfort. Take it slow, and never scold your cat for resisting. Cats are incredibly self-sufficient, but most cats could use some help to ensure healthy, clean coats and nails when it comes to grooming.