How To Groom a Cat

Grooming cat coat

Would you want to bathe using your tongue on a daily basis? I didn't think so. But that's exactly what cats do. You'll never hear them complaining about it, either - or if you do, you probably won't recognize the complaint.

No, cats are generally very stoic about their grooming practices, quietly doing as much as they can to keep themselves tidy. But contrary to what many believe, cats can't groom themselves entirely on their own. We have to groom them in order for cats to be as clean and happy as they can be. And we all know how important it is that our cats be happy (they aren't stoic about too many things).

  1. Brushing your cat. Cat hair comes in different lengths...
    • For short-haired cats. Since your cat has relatively short hair, your primary brushing tool can be a rubber brush (the kind used for kittens and puppies). However, you may want to use a metal comb before applying the rubber brush. Instead of a rubber one, you could also try a bristle brush. Don't brush too hard, being especially careful in the tender areas around the belly and chest. Try to brush your cat every week.
    • For long-haired cats. Longer-haired cats will grow uncomfortable if you brush them the same way as you would their short-haired siblings. Since their hair is longer, you should brush in more vertical, lifting motions rather than parallel to the stretch of body. Use a bristle brush or a rubber brush as you comb and lift.

      Brush your long-haired cat either every other day or even daily.

    Your cat might appreciate slightly more frequent grooming sessions when heavy shedding season ensues. Flea combs are a decent idea for any cat that ventures outside (but especially for longer-haired cats).

  2. Trimming nails. Trimming a cat's nails fills most cat owners with anxiety. Think of how the cat must feel! With all the possible tension in the air, it's best for both you and the cat to progress slowly, first with just some handling of the foot and individual toes. If you do this a few times before actually trying to trim nails (and if you reward your cat's cooperation with treats), your cat will be more relaxed when the trimming occurs.
    • Buy a nail trimmer from your pet store. The sharper the blade, the easier the trimming will be.
    • Hold the cat with your non-clipping arm. It may help you to have another person hold your cat for you.
    • With your free hand clasping the clipper and your non-clipping arm around the cat's body, grab hold of a paw in your non-clipping hand and press on both the top and bottom of the paw. This will cause the claws to extend.
    • Chances are, your cat's claws are light, which means you'll be able to see the pink "quick" (a vein extending into the claw). Trim nails in a well-lit room sothat you can see the quick and avoid ever cutting into it; make your cut before you arrive at the quick to avoid discomfort and bleeding.
    • Be careful as you position yourself for the trimming session. Those claws can slice!

    Some people trim their cats' nails every week or every other week. If your cat's claws are clicking on the floor as she walks, but your cat is unaccustomed to trimming and you are afraid to trim the nails yourself, schedule an appointment with a veterinarian.

  3. Washing your cat. Most cats rarely require any bathing beyond what they do to themselves. However, sometimes your indoor-outdoor cat may get into some thick mud, get a sticky substance stuck in her hair, or develop a flea problem. In order to help your cat recover her cleanliness and dignity under these circumstances, a bath is in order.
    • Buy a gentle shampoo form your pet store.
    • Make sure you have a rubber shower or bath mat so that your bewildered feline doesn't slip in the tub or sink.
    • Tubs are a safer bet than sinks, if you have access to one.
    • Fill the tub or sink with about 4 inches of body-temperature water.
    • Wet the cat by either gently pouring water over him or spraying using a quiet spray-nozzle. Don't expect your feline friend to move beneath any flow of water, or move at all in response to your beckoning. You have to bring the water to the cat!
    • Work some shampoo into the fur and then completely rinse the suds from his coat.
    • Dry thoroughly with a towel afterward.

    As you bathe your cat, don't spray or pour water into the cat's eyes, nose or ears. Remember to brush thoroughly before bathing. You may want to enlist the support of a trusted friend as you bathe your cat.

  4. Start at a young age. The earlier you begin grooming your cat, the more receptive your furry friend will be to it.
  5. Begin modestly. Work your way up to a thorough grooming session gradually; don't try to brush, bathe and trim right off the bat. With any cat, resistant or otherwise, it's best to start off by getting your cat used to being touched on the back, feet, stomach and head before using a brush. When you start using a brush, only subject your cat to a couple minutes of it at first. Gradually, brush more thoroughly and ultimately combine brushing with a very occasional bath afterward.

Your cat will thank you for the tender care you provide. You might even see an improved disposition if your cat has been getting a little gloomy or disgruntled. The important thing is to be prepared for it to take a little longer than you expect. Demonstrate patience rather than frustration; frustration causes your cat to grow more uneasy and even harder to groom. Your devoted pet looks at every interaction as an opportunity to express the deep bond you share; as long as you keep that in mind and show your love, the grooming session ultimately will be beneficial to both of you!


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