Yes, yes… we know that cats keep themselves spotless. However, they do need some attention to ensure that they stay hygienic and healthy.
Cats have a knack for keeping owners on their toes, and cat and kitten grooming is no exception.
“In my 13 years of cat and kitten grooming, I have seen the cat climb the paneling near the tub to get away from the water, and the kitty that likes the water and looks at me upside down in the tub. I’ve seen the sweet little kitten who kneads us, the table, the tub, the comb and anything he can get his hands-on,” says Danielle Genovesi, owner of Honey’s Haven in West Hartford, Conn.
Cat and kitten grooming can prove challenging, so use the right tools, begin when your cat is young and introduce regular cat grooming routines to make the task less daunting.
Why should you groom your cat?
Cat grooming should be a natural extension of the love and care owners already have for their cats, and a little love can go a long way.
“Handling, touching, petting and loving your cat daily will help when it comes to building trust, which is a big hurdle to cross when grooming your cat,” Samson says.
Veterinarians, breeders and groomers recommend that most cats receive some sort of grooming on a regular basis for a variety of reasons. Here are eight ways grooming helps your cat:
- Decreases hairballs.
- Controls fleas.
- Keeps the cat (and therefore your home) cleaner.
- Keeps matting to a minimum.
- It allows the cat more freedom of movement.
- Removes dead skin/fur.
- Degreases the coat.
- Avoids the chance that elimination would be impeded.
Regular combing and brushing stimulates a cat’s skin and keeps the coat clean and healthy. Comb or brush shorthaired cats at least once a week, and longhaired cats every other day, or more often if needed.
A comb reaches the cat’s skin better than a brush, especially with longhaired cat breeds. Wide and fine-tooth combs used together to provide the best results. For this, we strongly recommend the Furminator deShedding tool.
“Take a wide-tooth comb through [the fur] first and then follow with a finer tooth. That way you can make sure to get all the [shedding] undercoat out,” says Michelle Schrader, owner of Doggie Do’s and Kitty’s Too, in Akron, Ohio.
When combing or brushing your cat, examine its body for problems such as skin irritations, fleas or ticks, and mats, which can hide deep in the coat.
“Combing your cat from head to toe usually only takes about five minutes if done regularly,” says Linda Tumminello, head groomer of The Cat Connection Inc. in Dallas. Carefully comb mats out. If they won’t comb out, contact a professional groomer.
“Never use scissors on a cat to get the mat out,” Schrader says. “I have a number of customers who have tried themselves and have cut the cats and they’ve needed to get stitches. Bring it in to have somebody cut it out. You don’t want to take a chance on cutting the cat.”
You may also be interested in the best remedies to reduce cat hairballs.
It takes different strokes to groom longhaired and shorthaired cat breeds. See where the comb comes down on these cat coats.
Combing shorthaired cats
Shorthaired cats may be single or double-coated. Single-coated breeds, like the Siamese, Korat, Bombay, Havana Brown, Snowshoe, Burmese, and Oriental Shorthair, have smooth, silky fur that contours their bodies, needing only occasional grooming in the form of a polish with chamois cloth or a silk glove to keep them well-groomed.
Double-coated shorthairs include the Chartreux, Russian Blue, Abyssinian, Scottish Fold and Manx, as well as the British, American and Exotic Shorthairs. To keep these dense coats groomed at their best, a comb and curry once or twice a week will maintain a healthy coat and help prevent hairballs caused by overzealous self-grooming.
Two unusual variations of the shorthair are the wirehair and the Rex coat. The American Wirehair is similar to the American Shorthair, but its fur is springy, taut and curled. Brushing and combing are not advisable when grooming these cats, though gentle bathing may be needed once a month.
The Cornish Rex and the Devon Rex may also have curly coats. The Cornish coat has no guard hairs. Like the less dense Devon coat, its curl may vary from tight ringlets to a rippling wave.
Coming longhaired cats
When it comes to grooming longhaired cat breeds, coat length can vary from 2 to 6 inches. The double-coated Persian coat falls away from the body, its distinctive ruff flowing from behind the head into a frill along the chest. Like the Himalayan, this magnificent cat requires daily grooming, preferably with a steel comb, to keep it in optimum condition.
To keep mats under control, the shaggy double coat of the Maine Coon and the waterproof topcoat and thick woolly undercoat of the Norwegian Forest Cat require grooming twice a week.
The coats of such longhairs as the Balinese, Birman, Cymric, Somali and Ragdoll are mat-resistant but will benefit from a weekly grooming session to keep them in tip-top shape.
Another type of longhaired coat belongs to the Turkish Angora. Medium-length on the body and longer on the ruff, this breed has a bushy tail. Its silky fur will keep its satiny sheen if combed or brushed once a week.
Clipping your cat’s claws
On average, clip your cat’s claws monthly. “If you have not trimmed your cat’s claws before, practice on a toothpick,” Tumminello says. “A cat’s claws and toothpicks have about the same feel to them when being cut.” Be careful not to trim into the quick or pink area of the claw, as it will hurt the cat and cause bleeding.
To clip your cat’s claws, you will need a pair of cat claw trimmers. Our best recommendation is Pet Republique Cat Nail Clippers (they have over 2,600 reviews on Amazon).
Once you feel confident handling your pet, place it on a table or countertop. Run your hands over its body and talk to it in a loving tone to help both of you relax. Most cats are comfortable lying on their bellies. Hover over the cat using your own body to keep it in place.
First, lift the left front paw. Do not lift it too high or twist it out to the side; it should be tucked near the cat for your own control and the cat’s comfort and safety. Press down slightly on the soft paw pads. This activates the claws “push-button” feature, automatically extending them for you to see.
Clip only the clear, hooked portion, not the pink part closer to the paw, which is actually a vein. If you clip too close and nick it, it will bleed and cause the cat discomfort. It’s not a major injury if you accidentally nick this vein. A dab of styptic powder or a rub from a soft bar of soap will stop the bleeding immediately.
With the cat still lying on your table or counter, proceed to the rear claws, lifting each paw only as much as needed to expose the claw. For squirmy cats, you may need a helper to hold the neck scruff so the cat won’t twist and escape.
When you are done, place the cat on the floor. Don’t be surprised if it makes a hasty retreat. If you succeed at performing this important chore, you have good reason to feel proud. Keeping your cat’s claws well-trimmed will significantly cut down on damage to your furniture and make life much more pleasant.
Check your cat’s teeth
All cats should have their teeth examined by a veterinarian at an annual checkup. You can brush your cats’ teeth between veterinary visits.
“Cats do build up a lot of tartar and plaque on their teeth, because they don’t really chew on things. [Home dental care] helps keep the plaque from settling,” says Dara Samson, owner of Wags to Whiskers Pet Grooming in Long Beach, Calif.
Best cat toothbrush (US & Canada)
Best cat toothbrush (UK & EU)
Cat grooming checks
Check your cat’s eyes, ears, teeth, and claws regularly. Many cats are prone to eye tearing, so wipe the cat’s eyes with a warm, moist washcloth or cat-safe eye wipes.
Check your cat’s ears twice a month for dirt or wax buildup. Gently wipe the visible part of the ear with a cotton ball and cat-specific ear cleaner or a wet washcloth. Do not go into the ear canal, as this can cause damage. If dirt or matter accumulates inside the canal, it must be flushed out professionally.
What things do you need to groom a cat?
Before you begin a grooming session with your cat, make sure you have these tools on hand:
- Furminator deShedding tool and cat combs. Wire-tooth combs work best for getting dead hair off of a cat and for thinning out a cat’s undercoat. Wide teeth dig into longer fur and pull out mats and tangles. Fine teeth help get rid of fleas.
- Pet Republique Cat Nail Clippers. Nail clippers blunt a cat’s nails and keep them from growing into the paw pad. Avoid using human nail clippers on your cat’s claws because they may cut them improperly and injure the cat. Use cat claw trimmers (they’re not expensive).
- Pet Craft Supply Self Cleaning Brush. Brushes effectively remove excess hair and fluff a longhaired cat’s coat. Pin brushes work well by allowing more air into the coat and giving a better fluff. Slicker brushes have soft bristles for light brushings, such as for shorthaired cats.
- Pogi’s Grooming Wipes – Hypoallergenic plant-based, deodorizing wipes. Hypoallergenic, odor-free wipes will clean a cat’s rear area, especially for cats that cannot clean that area thoroughly themselves.
- Cotton balls. Cotton balls and a cat-specific ear-cleaning solution will keep a cat’s ears clean and healthy. Avoid using cotton swabs so as not to injure the cat. A pack of these costs next to nothing.
- John Paul Pet Ear and Eye Pet Wipes for Dogs and Cats. Eye wipes are premoistened sheets for cleaning the cat’s eye area.
- Cat teeth cleaning products. Finger brushes, pet toothbrushes and pet toothpaste aid in teeth care. Introducing brushing at a young age and using a hard, quality cat food will keep teeth at their best.
We also recommend that you read our list of best cat grooming tools.
To conclude, one of the benefits of cat ownership is that most cats come with an efficient, self-cleaning mechanism their own tongues.
Some longer-haired, allergic, obese, ill or flea-ridden cats may require bathing. Most cats, however, would prefer that you let them do the work, and relatively few shirk the responsibility. The self-cleaning also provides adequate brushing.
For cats that like additional dermal stimulation, brushing is a great way to spend some quality time with your feline friend. Cats that do not adequately groom, that have matting or heavy shedding or that tend to vomit lots of hairballs should be brushed and groomed at least every other day, more often if needed even if they are not crazy about the prospect.