HEALTH & CARE

How to Groom a Cat: Your Feline Loves to Be Clean

A person grooming a cat at home
Jeremy Vaughn
Written by Jeremy Vaughn

We rarely see a dirty or messy cat because felines love cleanliness. They can often be found cleaning themselves from time to time. Even though cats do a good job keeping themselves relatively nice and clean, if you let weeks go without grooming her, she may become unkempt and dirty and a danger to her health and yours. But what can you do that the cat hasn’t already done to herself? Knowing the proper answer to the question “how to groom a cat” here is pivotal.

Grooming is an essential part of living for both humans and felines alike. It can look daunting, and you may not be sure where to start. True enough, once you get started, you’ll realize that there’s actually plenty that your cat needs help with in terms of grooming—such as smoothening out mats, clipping their nails, and caring for their dental health. Don’t worry. We will make it as easy as A, B, C to ensure that you and your cat are both happy and satisfied after every grooming period.

Image showing how to groom a cat

In this article, we will break down the grooming process into different body parts. We will also enumerate on the tools and supplies you need to prepare beforehand. Before we explain everything in detail, however, give us a minute to highlight the importance of grooming and how often you should do it.

Why is Grooming Important?

Grooming, when used on animals, is a word that specifically refers to the act of cleaning and caring for every part of their body—not just their coat and fur. Grooming—apart from the fact that cleanliness engenders good health—has other benefits it has to offer to your feline, which includes:

  • Improve the health and appearance of your cat’s coat and mane

  • It can help prevent digestive problems that may arise from hairballs

  • It can deepen the bond between you and your cat.

  • Protect your cat from diseases

  • Increase total wellbeing

  • Enhance longevity

How often you should do a thorough grooming depends on the part of the body in question and the individual situation of each cat. Long-haired cats should be brushed daily, while short-haired cats can be brushed twice to thrice weekly. The teeth should be brushed daily.

Bathes can be monthly, depending on the need and the hair length of your cats. The ears and the eyes can be cleaned at the same time you give your cats a bath. Nail trimming can be done as needed or bi-weekly.

Image of a person cutting the nails of a cat

Although there is an unspoken standard about the frequency at which you should do some of the activities, there are, however, no hard and fast rules. On the other hand, the actual process of grooming is actually pretty straightforward and routine.

You may fear the time you need to give your cat a bath now because cats typically hate it and will raise hell in the bathroom, but once you’ve gotten the hang of how to do it easily and effectively, you will probably learn to enjoy it. The routine can be quite soothing and beneficial for both your cat’s health and the bond that you share.

The Grooming Process

Before you start grooming, you’ll need to prepare the supplies beforehand. Please note that the instruments listed below are designed for cats. You can get them at any pet store. They include:

  • A long metal comb that can penetrate to the skin, ideal for long-haired cats

  • Soft bristle brush or slicker brush for short-haired cats

  • Electric razor

  • Pet scissors

  • Claw clippers

  • Toothbrush

  • Toothpaste

  • Shampoo

  • Towels

  • Rubber gloves

  • Washcloth

  • Cotton pads and buds

Now let us get to the meat and potatoes of this article. In this part, we will cover all the different body parts of the cat—like the coat, hair, teeth, ears, and eyes. Different steps need to be taken for each grooming activity.

The Coat

Brushing and combing your cat’s hair should be a daily activity. We did mention that short-haired cats can survive on two to three grooming sessions each week, but it would be ideal if you could tend to them every day.

Image showing woman brushing cat

Brushing does not require any formal environment; you can do this while curled up on the sofa with your cat watching the latest movies on Netflix or while sitting cross-legged on the floor in the living room. Each grooming session will last just for a few minutes, but these sessions are truly beneficial. Each stroke of the brush will:

  • Help untangle knots

  • Keep your cat’s coat shiny

  • Prevent matting

  • Remove dead hair and shed hair

  • Improve blood circulation for overall coat health

Now, caring for your cat’s coat doesn’t only involve brushing and combing. At times, you may also need to cut off some of your cat’s hair. You may wonder why you need to do this.

Cat with big eyes looking at the camera

If you have a long-haired cat, you must include this as a number one activity on your list. We all need a haircut once in a while, and so does your cat. Keeping their hair at a certain length will improve their coat’s overall shininess and reduce shedding. Even if you like your cat’s hair long, you may also need to cut some parts out since at times the mats can get so bad that it’s impossible to smoothen them out. To cut a cat’s hair, here’s what you need to do:

  • Use cornstarch with a soft brush to loosen matted hair as much as possible before cutting.

  • To avoid nicking your cat while cutting the hair, you need to always use a leash to enable you to stay in control of the process.

  • Use an electric razor with two blades that you can change intermittently. To be safe, don’t let the razor get too hot before changing the blades.

  • When you put on the electric blade, let her get used to the sound of the clipper so that you don’t startle her.

  • It is better to start at the back and not in the front, so she doesn’t count it as an attack and begin to react aggressively.

  • Move your hand in the direction of the hair growth.

For the face area, you may need to trim the hair with scissors. You should definitely not put a razor on a cat’s face because it’s a sensitive area. The same can be said for the paws. The hair growing out from between your cat’s paws need to be trimmed so they won’t accidentally slip and hurt themselves. Use scissors for this task.

The Nails

Nail clipping and trimming is recommended every two to three weeks. Claws can bring injury to your cat and the people around them when they are left to grow without a trim.

A persong trimming a cat's claws

Trimming can be tricky if you don’t hold your cat in the correct position. Here’s how to do it safely:

  • It is important to keep your cat calm when you whip the nail clippers out to avoid cutting deep into the quick.

  • You can cover your cat’s head with a towel to reduce any restless movements.

  • You can also put your cat on a platform and trim her nails with her back to you by raising her limbs to bend backward.

  • Place your index finger at the bottom of the paw pad and press the top of the claw with your thumb to expose it, then you can trim with nail clippers.

You can also put soft claw caps on your cat to keep their scratching under control.

The Eyes

If your cat tends to have discharge or residues around their eyes, you can clean them with cotton pads soaked in saline solution. This will clean the area thoroughly without harming the eyes. You may have to see the vet to get a permanent solution for the teary eyes if it happens all the time.

The Ears

The outer ears should be cleaned with cotton buds or a Q-tip when there is dirt that can be seen. You should use an ear-cleaning solution first to soften the dirt. You must never dip the Q-tip inside her ears as you will in a human.

Veterinarian examining a cat's ear

Use a flashlight to light the way then use cotton buds to get to the trickier areas. There should be routine professional checks from time to time as ear infections can get quite serious.

Dental Care

Start caring for your cat’s dental health by regularly brushing their teeth. The food they consume over time will lead to plaque and tartar build-up that should be removed with proper teeth brushing. There are toothbrushes designed for cats as well as toothpaste made to suit a cat’s taste.

Veterinarian-cleaning-teeth-on-a-pet-cat

It is important to take care of your cat’s teeth because if there is tooth decay, it may affect your cat’s food consumption and ultimately her health.

  • Get them familiar with having their teeth and mouth touched. You can start by rubbing their teeth gently. Praise them during the rubbing and after.

  • Next is introducing the toothbrush. There are finger toothbrushes if you and your cat are more comfortable with that.

  • Next, simply kneel behind them, open their mouth gently, and brush.

The brushing does not have to be longer than one minute for it to be effective. However, you must never use human toothpaste on your cat. A cat’s toothpaste is designed to be safe when swallowed. It is better to leave their teeth unclean than to use regular human toothpaste which can cause health problems for them.

Bathing

This is the most feared grooming activity for pet owners—particularly cat owners. Cats have an aversion to water, but it is necessary to give them a bath monthly or bi-monthly. The ideal frequency depends on the nature of their coats.

Person bathing a black and white cat

Logically, a long-haired cat has the tendency to get dirty faster and may require a bath more often. We have divided the bathing process into the prior preparations, during the bath, and post bathing:

Stage #1: The Prior Preparations

You need to have everything ready and reachable before attempting to bathe your cat. Use a shampoo designed for cats. It is recommended that you use a bathtub for adult cats while kittens or very small cats can be bathed in a sink.

A cat holding a cat shampoon

You should brush and trim your cat’s nails before their bathing session. Make them content and happy by playing with them. If you can tire them out with exercises to help reduce their energy level, that will get them to cooperate better.

Stage #2: The Main Event

Some cats tolerate the water, while others never get used to the idea of taking a bath. With the latter, you may need an extra pair of hands to hold the cat still.

Image showing a cat that doesn't like bath

Here’s how you give them a thorough cleaning:

  • You should fill the bathtub with water up to 4-inch deep, reaching your cat’s underbelly

  • The water should be warm or lukewarm

  • Place a towel in the water so that your cat can grip on to something during the process

  • If it is your first time bathing your cat or just to be safe, we advise you to use a medium-sized cup to pour water on your cat. Shower heads if not held and controlled well can spray water in the wrong places—such as the ears, eyes, and nose

  • Soap her properly—washing the legs, paws, tails, and anal area with your hands

  • Rinse thoroughly by using the cup

  • Use a washcloth for the face area

  • Towel-dry the cat. But long-haired cats will require blow drying. Make sure to set it to the lowest setting

Stage #3: The After Care

Ensure your cat is dried properly after her bath. You should wrap her in a large towel and then another when that one is soaked. Then you can blow dry and comb her fur to remove any loose hair.

adorable little kitten wrapped in a towel after bath time

Reward her with lots of praise words, treats, and affection to reassure her she did fine in the bathing session. This is a good way to make her look forward to her next bathing time and behave herself again.

Wrap Up

No matter how neat a cat is, she can always do with your help to get groomed properly. There are many places her tongue can’t reach on her body. Get her groomed right, and both of you will enjoy the benefits. With the processes laid down above, you should be excited to get grooming. If you and your cat have had bad grooming experiences before or if you don’t have the time to groom your cat, then you can always go to the professionals.

There are pet spas and grooming centers that specialize in grooming animals, and you can be sure that they will do a thorough job. Some vets also offer grooming services. It can be expensive, but the price is usually worth the pampering your feline will receive. Whether you plan to do it yourself or leave the grooming to the experts, remember that cats need the ultimate care during grooming sessions because their skin is tender and they do not sit still while you work.

A person grooming a cat

To avoid an accident, injury, or any fatal occurrences, you or the professional must be patient, wield a soft touch, be careful and gentle, be willing to take as long as required, be observant, and avoid distractions while grooming. It’s a lot to take in, we know, but you’ll learn to appreciate grooming sessions with your cat because they can deepen the bond between the two of you.

How do you usually groom your cat? Which part of the grooming process do you fear the most? Or perhaps you really enjoy the grooming process? Share the secret to your success in the comments section below!

About the author
Jeremy Vaughn
Jeremy Vaughn

Jeremy Vaughn is a member of Canadian Professional Pet Stylists, who lives in Winnipeg. Creating new looks for cats and other pets is his passion. Jeremy shares his house with the wife and wonderful Siamese cat.

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