Regular brushing prevents mats, keeps coats healthy, reduces shedding and much more.
Although cats are naturally fastidious and spend a good percentage of their time cleaning themselves, they can use a little help from their humans in the grooming department. Regular grooming prevents mats, keeps coats healthy, reduces shedding, detects fleas and helps you keep an eye on their health. Every cat has different tolerance levels for the various grooming procedures, so know what you can do at home and what will require professional help.
If you have not groomed your cat before, start slowly, with just a few minutes of brushing. Gradually work up to longer sessions. Choose a time when your cat is calm and reasonably cooperative. Start by combing through the fur with a wire comb, gently untangling any mats. If there are large mats you can’t untangle, shave them off with electric pet clippers. Never try to cut them out with scissors.
Next, brush through the coat to remove dead hair. You can also use a Furminator or other deshedding tool to remove the undercoat. Now go over the coat with a fine-toothed flea comb to check for pests. These procedures do not have to be done in one session; if your cat gets restive, stop and continue later.
Shorthaired cats need brushing only once or twice a week. Longhaired cats, on the other hand, should be combed or brushed every day or two. Most cats enjoy being brushed, but some dislike it. I have a Himalayan Persian who hates being brushed and constantly struggles to escape. She ends up covered with uncomfortable mats. My solution is to have a groomer shave off her coat periodically, very short in summer and left slightly longer in winter. When her coat is short, she doesn’t mind being brushed.
Cats rarely need baths, since they bathe themselves constantly. However, if your cat’s coat is oily or she gets into something nasty, a bath is in order. Put a rubber mat or towel in a large sink to prevent slippage and fill the sink with a few inches of warm water. Place your cat in the sink and wet her all over using a sprayer or a small plastic pitcher. Avoid getting her head wet. Work in a mild shampoo formulated for cats, then rinse thoroughly and towel dry.
Some cats will tolerate baths with only minor grumbling. Others will fight to the death to avoid getting wet. If your cat needs a bath but is a fighter, get a mobile groomer to do the job. Using a mobile groomer rather than going to a grooming salon will significantly reduce your cat’s stress level.
Clipping your cat’s nails can also be done at home. If you haven’t cut her nails before, get her used to the idea by handling her feet regularly. Most cats dislike having their feet touched, so this will help accustom her to your touch. When it’s time to do the deed, use a good-quality nail clipper designed for cats. Hold your cat on your lap and pull out one foot at a time. Squeeze the paw gently to extend the claws and clip off the white tip of each claw. Don’t neglect the dew claws. Do not cut into the pink quick; that will cause bleeding. It helps to have someone else hold the cat while you clip. Four hands are better than two if the cat is resisting.
Some cats become very upset by any attempts at clipping their claws and will bite, scratch, yowl and try hard to escape. As mentioned here before, my cat Gracie requires a towel, a hood, two people to hold her down and one to clip. The only reason we clip her nails ourselves is that her vet has refused to attempt it again unless we allow him to sedate her. We finally found a mobile groomer who is able to do the job quickly with minimal help from us.
After any grooming session, give your cat plenty of praise and a few treats. This will help reinforce that grooming isn’t all bad and good things will happen when it’s over.
About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novels “Death in a Wine Dark Sea” and “Vulture au Vin.”