Grooming a Cat : A Quick Guide

Even a cat that compulsively cleans itself can benefit from a little grooming from her owner. Cats rarely need (or like) baths, but frequent brushing removes a lot of loose hair, which would otherwise end up on the furniture. Grooming your cat on a regular basis also helps to monitor his health and prevent constipating hairballs.

Grooming sessions are a also good time to check your cat’s ears, eyes, teeth and claws. If your cat is still a kitten, be sure to frequently handle these areas to get her accustomed. By the time she is an adult, looking inside her ears, eyes and mouth will be routine. If your cat is an adult, proceed at her pace. With every grooming session, go a little farther, praising her, petting, and rewarding with treats. If she resists, let her go and try again another day.

Brushing

Brushing your cat helps improve skin condition by stimulating blood circulation. Long-haired cats should be brushed daily, while short-haired cats only need grooming about once per week. While brushing your cat’s coat, check for lumps and skin irritations. Brush along your cat’s back, from head to tail with firm pressure and be gentle near the belly area. Repeat this several times, until all areas have been brushed thoroughly. Always brush in the direction the hair grows.

If you notice patches where hair is missing, keep an eye on the cat for the next week to determine if she is over-grooming these spots.The hair loss could be a skin condition that requires a veterinarian’s attention. Be sure to check for fleas and remove them immediately using a flea comb. If you notice rice-like objects around her anus (or in her bed), she most likely has worms and needs to be treated.

Nails

Never declaw your cat. This surgery involves amputating the end of a cat’s toes and is highly discouraged by the ASPCA. Preferably, trim her claws regularly and provide your cat with scratching posts or consider soft plastic covers for your cat’s claws. Getting your cat comfortable and relaxed while massaging her paws is a good start and way to measure her resistance. Try pressing the claw down to expose and see her reaction. Do this daily until she becomes accustomed and willing. Never cut close to the pink area which is the quick and will need to be treated with styptic powder if bleeding occurs. Once you have trimmed the tip of one nail successfully, give her a treat and move on to another. If she begins to get upset, don’t push. Try again in a day.

Ears

Checking the ears for wax and debris should be done weekly. For cleaning inside the ear, use a cotton ball slightly dampened with warm water. Never put a cotton ball or swab into her ear canal. If she jerks away, you could injure her ear. Dark, coffee ground-like flecks inside her ears could mean ear mites and should be treated. If you also notice her shaking her head or scratching at her ears, or there is a strong odor coming from her ears, have your veterinarian take a look.

Eyes

A healthy cat’s eyes are bright, clear and free of discharge. Eyes should be free of any tearing, crust, cloudiness or inflammation which could indicate a health problem. Check eyes by rolling your cat’s eyelid gently with your thumb while looking at the lid’s lining. It should be pink, not red or white. Wipe away any crusty gunk from your cat’s eyes with a damp cotton ball. If anything appears unusual, such as swelling, uneven pupils or if she is squinting, it is best to see a veterinarian immediately.

Mouth

Your cat should have sharp, clean teeth and healthy pink gums. Lift her upper lip to check her gums and take a look at her teeth while checking for odor. A strong odor could mean gingivitis and should be treated by a veterinarian. The teeth should be clean and free of any brownish tartar and none should be loose or broken.

When you start to clean your cat’s teeth you can purchase a small toothbrush or use cotton swabs. There are toothpastes formulated for cats or salt water is an option. Never use human toothpaste, it can be harmful to cats. To get your cat accustomed to teeth brushing, your finger can be used to massage the outside of the mouth, working inward, until she is comfortable with a brush. It may take a few sessions before she allows actual teeth brushing.

Cat grooming is not always easy and can be a slow process but over time you can get your cat to accept and enjoy it! If all fails you can find a local groomer which in turn will keep you and your cat happy and healthy.

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