How often should you groom your cat? What tools do you need? What are the key benefits of grooming for your cat? And how can regular grooming help you and your BFF (best feline friend) grow even closer?
From award-winning pedigree show cats – who’ll be hoping to bag a top prize in this year’s Supreme Cat Show – to our beloved household pet cats, one thing’s for sure – felines like to look their best and spend lots of time keeping their coats and claws in good condition.
From the lengthy shoulder lick to the high leg lift and the intricate paw inspection, most cats spend a great deal of their time grooming themselves – and they’re perfectly designed and fully equipped to keep themselves neat, tidy and clean.
Feline welfare charity International Cat Care says: “Their bodies are incredibly supple and can bend and flex to enable them to reach all parts with ease. The cat’s tongue is covered with backwards-pointing spines, perfectly designed to groom coats effectively, removing loose hair and dirt.”
Grooming fulfils several important functions
The charity sets out the important functions grooming performs for your cat:
- It removes loose hair and smooths the coat to help insulate the body more efficiently
- It regulates temperature in hot weather by spreading saliva across the coat that subsequently evaporates, cooling the cat down
- It keeps the coat waterproof by stimulating glands at the base of the hairs
- It spreads sebum along the coat, producing Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight which is subsequently ingested by the cat
- It spreads your cat’s own scent across its body
- It removes parasites
- It maintains strong social bonds when cats groom each other
Wow! No wonder they spend so much time doing it!
Why it’s good to groom your cat
International Cat Care adds that when you groom your cat, irrespective of their coat type, there are a number of additional benefits, such as improving muscle tone and stimulating the skin to produce oils, giving the coat a healthy shine. The charity advises: “Your cat will remove a large amount of hair itself when grooming but if you get involved on a daily basis, particularly when your cat is moulting, you can remove the majority of the hair and prevent the formation of hairballs. The whole process can be very therapeutic for both of you and should be a positive way of reinforcing the bond between you.”
An added bonus of regular grooming is that it gives you the opportunity to check your feline friend’s skin for any lumps, bumps or pesky fleas and ticks. The RSPCA says: “Regular grooming allows you to spend quality time with your cat, as well as providing the opportunity to monitor their health. Grooming also removes dust, dead skin and loose hairs, prevents serious tangling and matting and can improve circulation. Looking at the condition of your cat’s coat can be a good way of checking on their overall health and nutrition. Look for issues such as sore patches, wounds or matted fur, and if the condition of your cat’s coat changes, visit your vet for a check-up.”
A change in your cat’s grooming habits could be a sign that there’s a problem. If your cat suddenly starts grooming less or more than usual, it’s a good idea to consult your vet to be on the safe side.
Source: Cats Protection
Why do cats sometimes need our help?
Animal welfare charity Blue Cross advises: “Your cat is already brilliant at cleaning themselves but keeping on top of their grooming yourself has many benefits, including increasing the bond between you and your pet.
Cats Protection adds: “Our cats usually need very little from us in the way of fur maintenance. However, some cats might find this difficult for lots of reasons so you may need to groom your cat yourself.”
Instances when cats need a little help from their human include:
- If they have long fur
- If they have matted fur
- If they can’t groom themselves as well (for example, if they are older or have mobility issues)
- If they’ve just had an operation which means wearing a cone (and can’t reach themselves to groom)
- If they’ve been outside and have things stuck in their fur – it’s better for you to get these out rather than your cat lick and swallow them
Your cat should keep their claws in good condition through scratching. Make sure you provide them with plenty of scratching posts to keep their claws in good condition.
Source: Cats Protection
How often should you groom your cat?
This depends on your cat’s fur length and individual situation. For example, a short-haired cat may only need a weekly brush, whereas a long-haired cat is much higher maintenance and will need a daily brush particularly if they are an outdoor cat. Even if your cat only has short fur, you might find you need to brush them twice a week during the spring and autumn when they shed their fur the most.
Importantly, grooming has to be an enjoyable experience for your cat. Blue Cross advises: “No matter what age, your cat will need a slow and positive introduction to being groomed, and all grooming sessions must only begin when your cat is happy and relaxed. You’ll need to finish before they show any signs of being uncomfortable, keeping sessions short so that you end on a positive note.”
It’s a good idea to introduce grooming equipment such as combs and brushes to your cat from a young age. This will help them get used to being groomed and see it as a good thing to be enjoyed, rather than something scary.
Source: Cats Protection
What tools do you need for grooming your cat?
Getting the correct cat grooming kit is essential. Cats Protection advises: “You need to make sure you have the right equipment for grooming your cat. Usually at most you’ll only need to brush them. A lot of what you use may be down to your cat’s preference and fur length. For example, a long-haired cat might be fine with a comb, but a short-haired cat might prefer a soft brush.” Check out your local pet shop for:
- Flea comb
- Wide-tooth comb – ideal for long-haired cats
- Bristle brush – good for giving your short-haired cat a weekly once over
- Grooming mitt – some cats prefer these as it feels like you are just stroking them. They’re better for short-haired cats
Grooming should be carried out with as little restraint as possible. This will make it a better experience for your cat. When first introducing grooming to your cat, don’t try and do it all at once. Do a little bit at a time and build up from there. Signs that your cat is starting to feel uncomfortable include pupils dilating, ears moving back or changing position quickly, and tail twitching or swishing. These subtle signs mean it’s time to stop grooming before your cat gives you a sterner warning such as growling, hissing, scratching or biting.
What’s the best way to groom your cat?
Blue Cross has this great advice on grooming short-haired and long-haired felines:
How to groom your short-haired cat
- Step one: Run a flea comb through their fur first, to make sure they’re free of any fleas or eggs. If flea dirt is present, speak to your vet about your options.
- Step two: Gently massage your cat’s fur at the base. This loosens any fur that otherwise couldn’t be reached or removed by a brush.
- Step three: Using the bristle brush, run it through their fur from head to tail in the direction that the hair grows.
- Step four: The rubber brush or mitten will then work to collect the hair brought to the surface by the bristle brush. Just run this down your cat’s body the same way you did the bristle brush.
How to groom your long-haired cat
- Step one: Check for fleas by lifting your cat’s fur. If flea dirt is present, speak to your vet about your options.
- Step two: Gently massage your cat’s fur at the base. This loosens any fur that otherwise couldn’t be reached or removed by a brush
- Step three: Using the wide-toothed comb, run it through their fur from head to tail in the direction that the hair grows. Be sure to take extra care on the arm pit areas, this is where they can get knotty!
- Step four: The rubber brush or mitten will then work to collect the hair brought to the surface by the bristle brush. Just run this down your cat’s body the same way you did the bristle brush. If you do come across any knots in your cat’s fur, be sure to treat them gently. Slowly tease them apart with your fingers, working carefully from root to tip.
It is very unlikely that your cat will ever need a bath – as long as they are grooming regularly, they should stay clean. Often, using a soft cloth soaked in warm water will be enough to remove most dirt. The only time you may need to bathe your cat is if they have something potentially toxic in their fur. If this is the case, it’s best to ring your vet for advice as bathing can be a very stressful experience for cats who are not used to water.
Source: Cats Protection
CARE MORE Get more advice on caring for your cat from Burgess, the pet experts. Training, nutrition, grooming and general care. It’s all here >>
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