Cats by nature are very clean. A typical cat spends 5 hours a day grooming herself—and 16 sleeping. But sometimes even the most fastidious feline sometimes needs a makeover.
Here are some of the benefits of regularly grooming your cat:
It depends on the type of coat, and on your cat’s tolerance level. Short and medium-haired cats are generally fine with weekly brushing to remove dead hair and redistribute skin oils. Cats with short hair rarely need to be bathed unless they are unusually dirty or unable to clean themselves due to poor health. Long-haired cats are a different matter. They need to be brushed several times a week or even daily to keep tangles and matting under control. The Persian and Persian-related cats benefit from a daily brush. They also may need to be bathed every month or two to keep the long coat clean. Toenails need trimming every two weeks or so.
Some cats adore being groomed, while for others, it takes some getting used to. For best results, choose a time when both your and your cat are relaxed. Start with short sessions at first and build as you both get more comfortable. Begin by stroking your cat with your hands and then move on to the brush or comb. Be gentle around sensitive areas like the belly, haunches, tail, and ears. Always work in the direction that the fur grows. Praise and reward her for good behavior.
There are many grooming tools on the market, and you may need to experiment to see what works best for you and your cat. See the glossary below if you are not familiar with the types of grooming tools. For long-haired cats, it’s good to start with a wide-toothed or shedding comb. This detangles and removes dead undercoat hairs. Then follow with a slicker brush, curry comb, or grooming glove to smooth the coat and make it shine.
Mats are often a problem in longer haired cats. For isolated mats, grasp the mat at its base and work with a wide toothed comb starting at the tip and working inward toward the base. Avoid the temptation to cut a mat out with scissors! It is easy to cut the skin by mistake. If matting is severe or becomes unmanageable, consult your veterinarian or a professional groomer.
Short-haired cats usually just require a soft brush, followed by a chamois. Some of the delicate-haired cats such as the rex-coated cats only require a light chamois or hand rub.
Note that a flea comb is not just a useful tool for identifying fleas and dirt in the coat—it also works well to remove dead hairs in both short and longer haired cats and can be used to help keep the coat free of debris.
If your cat has long hair or gets very dirty, she will need to be bathed—but don’t expect her to like it. Most cats are thoroughly insulted at the prospect of a bath. Some resist vigorously. In fact if your cat is frail, has heart problems, or high blood pressure, check with your veterinarian before heading for the tub.
Here are some tips to make it as painless as possible:
Nail Trimming and Ear/Eye Cleaning
This may be a breeze or an ordeal depending on your cat’s temperament. Some act slightly bemused; others despise having their feet touched especially. Set yourself up for success using sharp, good quality cat nail scissors, which can be purchased wherever you buy grooming supplies. Review our article on Nail Trimming for details of the procedure and some examples of trimming equipment.
Ear cleaning rarely needs to be done in cats. If your veterinarian or professional groomer has advised the procedure be done, review our article on Ear Cleaning for details. Some cats with short faces need regular eye cleaning—see this article for tips on how to gently cleanse around the eyes.
Curry comb: A brush with rubber bristles that traps dead hair and debris on the surface of the coat.
Grooming glove: A glove with rubber bristles on the palm and fingers that works like a curry comb.
Flea comb: A metal comb with very closely-spaced tines for extracting fleas and flea eggs.
Shedding comb: A metal comb with alternating short and long tines that extract dead undercoat hairs.
Slicker brush: A flat, rectangular brush with short angled wire bristles.
Chamois: A soft cloth made from cow hide—often used for polishing cars.