How To Groom Your Cat – From Cleaning Ears To Clipping Nails
Veterinarian Reviewed on April 2, 2010 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Cats naturally keep themselves clean. In fact, your cat will clean itself a few times a day!
But as their caretaker it’s just as important that you groom them, too. Kitties can’t reach deep into their ears or clip their own nails, so your help is necessary.
What You Need
Grooming your cat is easy, when you have the right tools. To make sure your time is quick and easy, you’ll need the following:
Old Clothing – Particularly a long-sleeved shirt. This will protect you, most importantly from potential scratches!
Cat brush – While brushing helps distribute the natural oils in your cats coat, the best choice is a brush to remove dry, dead skin from kitty’s fur. Hard or soft brushes are great for shorthairs, while pin or wire brushes are best (along with combs) to keep longhair cats’ coats from knotting.The right cat brush will make your cat’s coat shiny and smooth!
Nail Clippers – Clipping your cat’s nails is one of the most daunting tasks for pet owners. But it’s easy, with the right tips and the right special nail clippers.
Towels – Towels will be needed to dry kitty off when bathing, or for placing your cat on to make her more comfortable. Make sure to use older towels that you don’t mind getting dirty, or ripped up.
Cotton Balls – For ear cleaning your cats ears.
Wash Cloth – For wetting your cat in the bath.
Olive Oil – A gentle, edible oil that can help remove greasy spots from kitty’s fur, and it’s also great for using when cleaning cat ears.
2 Buckets or Pitchers – To help rinse your cat while in the bath.
Shampoo / Soap – A non-toxic shampoo will be needed during bathing, to remove any greasy parts of your cat’s fur.
Treats – For rewarding the kitty who sits still during their grooming!
How to Groom Your Cat
Whether petting or grooming your cat, always speak in soft, soothing tones. When your cat is at ease, you’ll be safe from scratches and bites – if your cat is not in the mood to be touched.
You’ll want to brush your cat only when they’re in a good mood! Since cats typically love to be brushed, they’ll let you groom them often this way – and you can brush your cat everyday.
Outdoors is a great place to brush your cat, since most of them shed.
Start by petting your cat for a few minutes, until they lie down and are comfortably relaxed – purring, or licking you. Begin at the back, using long strokes from head to base of tail. Read your cat: look for signs that your cat isn’t happy – purr stopping, tail flicking, pupils widening. Try offering a treat throughout the brushing.
Avoid tugging on knots or brushing near your cat’s genitals, paws, and tummy. These areas can be very sensitive, and you want to avoid being swatted.
Remove fur often while brushing, to keep brush clean. A full brush won’t collect hairs, so it’s important to keep the teeth clean.
When you’re done let your cat go – but not without a treat!
Clipping a pet’s nails, for many pet owners, is one of the most hazardous missions to accomplish. Especially when it comes to cats – their nails are sharp, and their tempers are sharper.
It’s important to start clipping your cat’s nails when they’re kittens, to make sure they get used to the process early.
You can start by gently petting, and holding, kitten’s paws. Try this when kitty is relaxed and sleepy, and once holding press gently on a toe pad to extend the claw. You’ll notice a pink tissue on the inside of the claw: this is called the quick. This is the part of your cat’s nails that you must avoid cutting – while the actual nail doesn’t hurt to be clipped, the quick will.
Once they are used to having their “hands” held, you can start the trimming.
Try holding your cat on your lap, or on a table at your level.
Hold the clippers in a vertical position, up and down. This way, the claw is trimmed from bottom to top instead of across the nail and won’t split.
Hold one of your cat’s paws in one hand and extend the claw by pressing a toe. You’ll want to clip the sharp tip, half-way down to the quick. Make sure to treat your kitty during clipping!
If you accidentally clip the quick, don’t panic! Bleeding can happen, and your cat may be upset. The bleeding will stop quickly, but if not you can use a styptic pencil to stop it.
Let your cat go when done, and don’t forget to send him off with treats!
How Often To Clip Cat Nails
Clipping your cat’s nails depends on how quickly they grow. Front nails can be clipped every 10 – 14 days.
Rear nails can be clipped sometimes as little as 3 – 4 times per year, since they aren’t used as often as front nails. Cats will often chew at them more than the front.
Does kitty need a bath? Chances are they’re fairly clean, but outdoor cats tend to roll in dirt or greasy areas. You’ll want to do more than just brush and rub your cat – you’ll need to bathe her!
Wear an old,long-sleeved shirt to avoid your skin and clothing from being scratched.
Before bringing your cat in for a bath, fill a tub with warm water to about 4 – 5 inches. Add your shampoo or soap, to make a cleaning solution. Fill a few other receptacles, like a pitcher or a bucket, for extra rinsing water. Cats can be fearful of running water, so this extra step can help them stay calm.
Hold your cat firmly, so it can’t wriggle out of your grip. If your cat is big and strong – like a coon cat – you may need to enlist the help of someone else! In this case, someone will hold the cat by all four legs, while the other holds the cat’s mouth shut gently (no biting).
At this point, make sure you’ve brushed out all snarls in your cat’s fur, an d trimmed his nails – since most cat’s hate being wet, even the most gentle kitties can get testy during bathing.
If your cat is super greasy or stained with something, massage a little olive oil into it before shampooing. This will help your shampoo or soap lift the oil out.
Again, make sure your cat has been brushed before putting them into the water. Holding them tightly as above, gently lower them into the water. Speak softly the whole time, using words and a tone of encouragement.
Using a wet wash cloth, get your cat wet from the chin down. Then, using the cloth, wash your kitty from neck to tail. Watch out for ears, eyes and nose!
To finish up, rinse your cat with the water in the buckets. Then blot your cat dry by pressing a towel into the fur – don’t rub, to avoid tangling fur! Try popping the towels into the drier before hand, to warm them up. Cats love warm towels.
Make sure your cat is almost dry before you finish drying. You can put your cat near a heating vent with a dry towel to finish them up. And don’t forget treats.
Cats need to have their ears cleaned, to keep them free of mites and debris. Since the ears are a warm and moist place, they are the perfect breeding ground for yeasts and bacteria – helping pet keep their ears clean is key.
Warm your olive oil, by heating it in a little dish over a pot of warm water.
Next, with your kitty on your lap or a table in front of you, place a few drops of the oil with your clean fingertips into each ear. Massage each ear at the base for around one minute, to loosen any wax or debris. You can do this ear by ear, or if kitty is comfortable, then both ears at once.
At this point, let your cat alone and leave her with a treat. She’ll want to shake her head around, which will help any dirt from the inner ear canal move to the outer.
After approximately 5 minutes, use the cotton balls to gently wipe out each ear. Finish up, and give your cat a treat!
A domestic cat is a clean animal by nature, But your cat still needs extra help from you! With a little practice and the right equipment, grooming can be enjoyable for both kitty and owner!
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan