Cats are fastidious creatures, but they sometimes need help maintaining their coat and their overall hygiene. Our Just Cats Clinic team wants your cat to be ready for their next close-up, and we explain how to safely and effectively groom your feline friend to help keep them clean, healthy, and happy.
Brushing your cat
Regularly brushing your cat removes dead skin cells, loose hair, dirt, and grease, stimulates blood circulation, distributes natural skin oils, and improves their overall skin condition. In addition, these sessions can decrease the amount of cat hair you have to lint-roll off your clothes and furniture and help prevent hairballs. Long-haired cats should be brushed daily, while short-haired cats should be brushed once or twice a week. Tips to brush your cat include:
- Evaluate your cat’s coat — Check your cat’s coat and skin for abnormalities such as parasites, bald areas, wounds, and skin lesions to ensure they don’t require veterinary attention.
- Brush your cats — Brush your cat, stroking in the direction their hair grows. For long-haired cats, use a long-tooth metal comb or brush; for short-haired cats, use a natural bristle or metal fine-tooth cat brush.
- Untangle knots — Use your fingers to gently tease apart knots. For difficult areas, sprinkle talcum powder or use a mat-splitter to help resolve knots. To prevent injury to your cat, never use scissors to cut out knots.
Trimming your cat’s claws
Most cats need their claws trimmed every 10 to 14 days to prevent them from growing into their pads. Starting when your cat is young is the best way to help them get accustomed to claw-trimming sessions. Tips to trim your cat’s claws include:
- Choose the right time — Cats are typically more cooperative when they are full and sleepy. Practice sessions after your cat eats when they are relaxing as opposed to when they are in play mode.
- Go slow — Take your cat in your lap and gently put pressure on their nail bed, causing the claw to extend. If they pull away, don’t increase pressure, but follow the paw, keeping gentle contact. Give your cat a treat when you release their paw. Practice every day until your cat is comfortable letting you handle their claws.
- Cut correctly — Once your cat lets you handle their claws, use cat claw trimmers, and gently cut off the white part of the claw. The pink area is the quick, and if you cut too close to the quick, it will hurt your cat and cause bleeding. Cut conservatively to avoid causing a negative experience for your cat. Only trim one or two claws at each session until your cat is comfortable. Give your cat a treat after their trim.
- Ask for help — If your cat refuses to let you trim their claws, ask our Just Cats Clinic team for help.
- Don’t declaw your cat — Some people think declawing is a good option if their pet is resistant to claw trims, but this procedure is extremely damaging to your cat, resulting in chronic pain and behavioral problems.
Bathing your cat
Cats are usually extremely good at bathing themselves, but if they are elderly or arthritic, they may have trouble. Tips to bathe your cat include:
- Brush your cat’s coat to remove debris and tangles.
- For your own protection, trim your cat’s claws to help prevent scratches.
- Put cotton in your cat’s ears to help keep out water.
- Fill the sink or tub with about 3 to 4 inches of warm water.
- Use a plastic cup or pitcher to pour water over your cat, taking care to avoid their eyes, ears, and nose.
- Use cat shampoo to gently massage your cat from head to tail, working in the direction their hair grows. Cats should only be bathed with products specifically formulated for them because their skin has a different thickness and pH, and human shampoo, including baby shampoo, is much too harsh for their skin.
- Use the plastic cup or pitcher to rinse the shampoo from your cat’s skin and coat, ensuring all residue is thoroughly removed.
- Use a soft washcloth with plain water or extra-diluted shampoo to wash your cat’s face. Be cautious around their eyes and ears.
- Wrap your cat in a towel, removing as much moisture as possible.
- If your cat has long hair, you may need to comb out their coat to remove tangles.
- Praise your cat and offer high-value treats.
Brushing your cat’s teeth
Most cats have some degree of dental disease by the time they are 3 years of age, resulting in serious problems such as painful gums, loose or missing teeth, tooth root infections, and jawbone deterioration. In addition, the bacteria can enter their bloodstream and cause damage to their heart, liver, and kidneys. Brushing your cat’s teeth helps promote their oral health between professional veterinary dental cleanings. Tips to brush your cat’s teeth include:
- Offer incentives — Place anchovy paste or tuna juice on your finger and let your cat lick the treat.
- Handle your cat’s mouth — Once they expect a treat when you present your finger, get your cat used to having their mouth handled by rubbing their teeth and gums with your finger.
- Introduce the toothpaste — Find a cat-specific toothpaste that your cat enjoys. Many feline-approved flavors, such as poultry, seafood, and malt, are available to tempt your cat. Place the toothpaste on your finger and let your cat have a taste. Never use human toothpaste because these products are often toxic to cats.
- Introduce the toothbrush — Find a cat-specific toothbrush or fingertip brush and let your cat investigate the new item.
- Brush a tooth — Once your cat is used to the toothbrush, put a small amount of toothpaste on the brush and gently brush one tooth.
- Practice — Practice brushing your cat’s teeth every day until they are comfortable with the sessions.
- Provide treats — Offer a high-value treat after every tooth brushing session.
Keeping your cat clean and healthy should be easy if you follow our grooming tips. If you need help trimming your cat’s claws, contact our Just Cats Clinic team.