Cats are known to be "self-groomers" but there are times when they will need a little help in grooming such as nail clipping, de-tangling hairballs, bathing and oral care. Grooming should begin when they are still kittens to get them accustomed to it.
Read this section if you want to familiarise yourself with the different types of grooming.
Combing and brushing
Cats are categorized into short-haired, long-haired and hairless. Regular brushing keeps your cat's fur free of dust, spreads the natural oil throughout, and prevents the tangling of fur and formation of hairballs.
Short-haired cat like British Shorthairs require the least amount of brushing although it is good to give the coat a good brush now and then, whereas, long-haired cats such as Persians are high maintenance requiring daily brushing of their long coat. Hairless cat breeds like the Sphynx may seem bald but they actually have a layer of fine coat that is not visible to the naked eye. Because of this, they still require minimal grooming. However, it is more important to apply sunscreen on them as their skin tends to get sunburned easily.
In general, a fine-toothed or wide-toothed comb should be used to remove tangles and a bristle brush to remove dead or loose hair. Brushing helps to remove excessive cat hair, minimizing furballs (also known as hairballs). Furballs are normally expelled through vomiting or elimination. If not expelled from the body, they may turn into a pellet and get stuck in the intestines. Such cases can be life-threatening and require immediate vet attention.
It is good for cats to have an occasional bath especially when their coat gets dirty, starts to smell or turns greasy. Cats are generally not a fan of water (or getting wet); hence there may be difficulty in bathing them. It is easier to start this routine when they are kittens to familiarise them to it. It is also important to detangle any matts or hairballs on long-haired cats before giving them a bath.
Tips on bathing your cat
- Place a rubber mat or towel at the bottom of the sink to prevent your cat from slipping.
- Gently put your cat into the sink or tub filled with a few inches of warm water and wet them. Take care to avoid getting water near their eyes or ears.
- Lather up some pet shampoo into their coat and massage from head to tail.
- Rinse them thoroughly making sure there are no shampoo remains.
- Once done, thoroughly dry with a towel.
- Take note that long-haired cats will require drying with a dryer as their coat is denser.
Let's face it, cats have to and love to scratch, so nail trimming is an important aspect in grooming. Long nails for cats may cause distress for older cats as they can't walk properly, and their long claws may also get caught in the carpet. They may even scratch you accidentally when they get too excited during playtime. Therefore, nail care should be done occasionally for the benefit of both owner and cat.
Most owners are seldom in contact with their cat's paw so it may feel foreign to your cat when you hold his paw and start the trimming. It is always good to get your cat used to their paws being touched so they won't be so alarmed the next time you want to trim his nails. Cat's nails grow fast so it is advisable to trim them at least once a month.
To trim your cat's nails, start by holding your pet in your lap in a comfortable position. Apply firm (but gentle) pressure to the top of the paw and the cushiony pad underneath to extend the claws. Once the claws are out, use a sharp, cat nail clipper and trim off the white tip of the nail, taking note to avoid the pinkish part where the nerves are. If you accidentally cut into them, it may start to bleed. Do not panic and calm your cat down by using soothing tones, speaking to him softly and stroking him. To stop the bleeding, apply light pressure or styptic powder.
Cat's eyes generally require very little attention, though some cats like the Persian may tear more often than others due the nature of their breed. Hence, just remember to wipe their eyes with a damp cloth or cotton ball to keep the eye area clean. Bacteria thrive on mucus and if not cleaned properly might lead to eye infections. If you notice your cat squinting continuously, and showing redness, swelling or excessive discharge around the eyes, bring him to a vet immediately as he may have contracted a serious infection.
This aspect may not seem as important and is often neglected by many. Cleaning your cat's ears should not to be overlooked as infections could arise, and good ear cleaning should be part of a cat's grooming routine.
Cats have very sensitive ears so be gentle when cleaning them. Use a cotton ball and dip the tip with baby or olive oil, removing any dried up wax or debris. Never use a cotton bud or items that may poke as it might damage the ear lining or worse, the ear drum. While doing so, observe the ear for any redness and colour of discharge. Light brown wax is alright, but anything that looks black, red, or pus-like has to be examined by a vet for a thorough check. If your cat scratches his ears a lot, there might be a mite infection. Any unusual looking discharge or odour should also be highlighted and investigated.
Oral & dental care
There are a few reasons for this symptom. It could be diet, eating the wrong type of food, teething, gingivitis or tooth abscess. If in doubt, always seek the advice of a vet.
Dental health is as important to cats as it is to human beings. Tartar and plaque may accumulate if teeth are not cleansed regularly. These will lead to tooth decay, loss of teeth, infection and gum disease.
Before brushing, open your cat's mouth and take a look at the gums and teeth. Make sure that the teeth are white, gums are pink, and there is no odour from your cat's breath and there are no loose teeth.
When you're ready to start, put a little bit of cat toothpaste on a pet toothbrush and start brushing, one tooth at a time. The inner side of the teeth is not as necessary as the cat's rough tongue can clean this part of the mouth. Be aware that it is not easy to clean a cat's teeth unless they have been trained since young. If you do not feel confident in doing this yourself, consider bringing him to the vet for a regular dental check.