Cats are fairly self-sufficient at grooming themselves. They use a scratching post to keep their claws in check. They lick and clean themselves every day to clean dirt from their fur, and remove loose hair. And they even ‘wash up’ after every meal.
However, every once in a while your kitty may need a little help from you. Grooming your cat not only gives you time to check his/her body for any ailments or health problems, but also allows you to spend some quality time bonding with your pet.
- Brush your cat daily or at least a few times a week. If you are going to brush your cat regularly you should start slow and early. A cat who began being brushed as a kitten will enjoy it much more than an adult who is being brushed for the first time. Allow your cat to get used to the brush and to you brushing him/her. Start slow and eventually your cat will be calm enough to allow you to brush his/her whole body. Cats who are brushed daily will tend to shed less, get less matts and need bathed less often; their coats will be clean, soft, shiny and moist and thus will repel dirt better as well. Grooming will also limit the number of hairballs your cat ingests.
- Clip your cat’s nails when necessary. Cats will scratch to remove the outer sheath from the nail. You may also want to clip your cat’s nails if they get too long. Remember, you should only clip indoor cat’s nails, outdoor cats need their nails in order to defend themselves, climb, jump, run and maintain their balance. When you clip your cat’s nails make sure to use professional cat nail clippers and only clip to the hook of the nail. You will see ‘the quick’ or the visible blood vessel running through the nail. Always cut above the quick, if you cut into it you will not only hurt your cat but you will cause your cat to bleed. If you do cut the quick you can either put pressure on the center of the nail with a cotton ball or apply styptic power to the wound to stop the bleeding.
- Brush your cat’s teeth. Cats are unable to brush their teeth and thus are prone to numerous dental problems. Plaque is the underlying cause of gum disease and the first step in dental problems. Plaque is composed of food debris, saliva and bacteria. The plaque sticks to the surface of the tooth, and can only be removed by mechanical means (chewing, scaling or brushing). The best way to avoid plaque build-up and other potential dental problems is to brush your cat’s teeth with a vet-approved brush and toothpaste (found at pet stores). If you have never brushed your cat’s teeth your may want to take your cat to the vet for his/her first teeth cleaning. This will help remove any hardened plaque and tartar that simple brushing can’t remove. After that you can brush your cat’s teeth weekly. You can also keep your cat’s teeth healthy by feeding him/her dry food as a staple and giving tartar control treats every once in a while.
- Clean your cat’s ears. Cat’s ears can accumulate wax and dirt in the ear canal. DO NOT use Q-tips® on your cat. Cats have a tendency to jerk and move quite a bit while getting their ears cleaned and you don’t want to take the chance of poking your cat’s inner ear or damaging the ear canal. Instead use ear cleaner on a cotton ball to wipe the inside of the ear clean.
- Bathe your cat when necessary. Cats in general don’t ‘need’ bathed but if you have an outdoor cat who just played in the mud, if your cat has fleas, if your cat has dandruff or if your cat’s coat is just a little dull and dry you may want to give your pet a bathe. Make sure to use a vet-approved cat shampoo (which can be found at pet stores). Fill the tub with luke warm water up to the cat’s stomach (if he/she is standing). Calm your cat by talking to him/her and petting him/her while you wash your cat. Most cats do not like bathes so make sure to keep your cat as low-stress as possible throughout the ordeal. Also try not to get your cat’s head wet or water in his/her ears, this will make him/her very nervous. After the bathe rinse him/her off and dry your cat off thoroughly with a thick towel. Make sure that after a bathe your cat is kept in a warm environment, the last thing you want is for your kitty to catch a cold!