How to Groom Your Cat – Bathing, Trimming & Brushing Hair and Nails

Keeping your cat well groomed is an important part of caring for your beloved friend. My tabby, Eeyore, loves having his fur brushed. He pretty much does the rest of his own grooming, however, some cats do need nails clipped, and fur trimmed and brushed to prevent matting.

How to Groom Your Cat – Cat Grooming Tips

Cats don’t generally enjoy bathing, but there are times it’s necessary. I created this post to give cat owners useful tips on keeping their kitties looking their best.

Bathing Your Cat

Most of the time you won’t need to give your cat a bath. They don’t like it much, and it’s better not to do it, except in three situations: using flea shampoo to help kill fleas, if your cat has some sort of skin allergy, or if your cat gets into something that stinks, and you need to bathe him to get rid of the smell as well as get whatever he got into off of him. I had to bathe my cat when I first brought him home at 10 weeks old because he stunk like vomit and he was infested with fleas. After that, I made sure to get some Frontline to put on him once I bathed him with flea shampoo.

First of all, when bathing a cat, you need to make sure you use shampoo designed for kittens or cats and not a shampoo that humans use. Our shampoo is too hard on their skin.

Next, you need to make sure you have all the necessary items right by the sink or tub you will bathe him in. You will need two thick towels, the shampoo you will use, and two cups or mugs filled with warm water.

Only fill the tub or sink with enough warm, not hot, water to get the cat wet enough to work up a good lather with the shampoo. You don’t want to drown the poor thing.

He is likely to be frightened enough without having the sink or tub filled deep. Once you have enough water in the sink or tub, turn the water off and hold your cat with his stomach resting on your forearm.

Get him wet with the other hand and then put just a small amount ( about a dime size ) of shampoo in your hand. Work it through his entire body, rubbing very gently and taking care not to get any in his eyes.

Once you work up a good lather, you can rinse him off with the two cups or mugs of water you have on hand. You may need to refill them and do it again if those two were not enough, but it’s best to use larger cups or mugs so you won’t need to do that. If bathing him in the kitchen sink, you can use the sprayer to rinse him off instead, or if you have a shower head attachment, you can use that in the tub.

If you are using flea shampoo, you need to leave it in for about five minutes before rinsing so that the shampoo has a chance to work on killing the fleas. After rinsing the shampoo off, you can grab one of the towels and gently wrap it around your cat. Dry the cat off, taking care not to rub too hard.

The extra towel is so the cat doesn’t get too cold, and if it’s a bigger cat, you may need the extra one. Once the cat has been towel dried, if he is an outdoor cat, don’t let him out until he’s had a chance to dry off completely. He’s likely to get too cold, especially in cooler weather.

The trick to bathing your cat is to be as gentle as possible and to get him in and out of the bath as quickly as possible, minimizing any trauma he may have with regard to being afraid of the water. Also, you want to get done in one piece and not have him scratch or bite out of fear. Now that his bath is done, you can now go on to other areas of grooming.

Brushing Your Cat’s Hair

cat grooming tips

Cats tend to shed, so they need regular combing or brushing. Outdoor cats tend to shed in the spring and fall, and indoor cats tend to shed all year long. Brushing your cat’s hair helps to keep his coat looking good and also helps to minimize fur balls. The type of brush or comb to use depends on the cat’s hair. Short haired cats need a shorter metal comb or brush and long-haired cats need a longer one. Also, longer haired cats need daily brushing and short haired ones need only once a week. Regular brushing also helps to prevent too much matting of the hair, although some matting may occur.

Note: it’s best to make sure your cat’s nails are trimmed before brushing his hair because otherwise, he could really scratch you. I will talk about trimming nails later.

When brushing or combing, you need to choose a time when your cat is relaxed and not feeling hyper. It will make brushing a lot easier. You also want to brush against the growth of hair first, and then with the growth of hair. Make sure you brush his head, back, stomach, tail, and yes, even his legs. You can use a metal comb to remove dead fleas.

Once your cat has been combed, you need to remove the hair from the comb or brush before using it again, and definitely if you are using the same comb or brush on more than one cat. Don’t use the same comb or brush on multiple cats if one of them has a skin disorder, as doing so will spread the itch to the other cats. After brushing, rub down your cat with a soft cloth in order to catch any loose hair to prevent him from getting hairballs when he licks himself.

If removing mats from your cat, do not be rough, as this will likely get your cat upset. Use the comb to gently pull the mats out of his fur. Continue to do this until the mats are removed. If there are a large number of mats on your cat’s fur, it’s best to take him to a professional groomer to have them removed. It will be much easier and more pleasant for your cat.

Remember, only comb or brush your cat’s fur when he is relaxed, and be gentle in combing and removing mats. Your cat will thank you for it. He will also have a shiny, attractive coat.

Trimming Your Cat’s Hair

Trimming your cat’s hair isn’t normally necessary, as regular brushing should take care of matting. Cats don’t tend to sweat, so they need their hair to keep them warm. However, when it’s harder to remove mats, giving your cat a haircut may be in order.

Sit with your cat in the crook of your arm where your elbow bends and use your arm to pin him to your side. Hopefully, he will stay put, and you’ll be less likely to get scratched this way. Your cat may not want a haircut though and may put up a fuss.

Use the cat hair clipper to cut your cat’s hair, moving them in the direction that the hair grows. This is important, as you’ll be less likely to nick your cat’s skin this way.

If for some reason, you are cutting cat hair on a larger section of your cat’s body, you may want to stop partway through to give both of you a break, then continue again a short time later.

Of course, you can always take your cat to a professional groomer for a haircut, if one is necessary. Ask your vet to recommend a qualified cat groomer in your area. This may be a better option, as a professional groomer will know better what to do.

So in general, hair trimming is not usually needed, but if it is, using a cordless hair clipper is the way to go. Sometimes using an electric razor is needed though, as shown in the following video:

Trimming Your Cat’s Nails

If possible, start getting your cat used to having his claws trimmed as a kitten. Gently stroke your cat’s paws often, getting him used to having his paws held before you try trimming them. Be sure to reward your cat with a special treat that he only gets during or right after trimming. The best time to trim your cat’s claws is when he is relaxed or sleepy. Never try to give a pedicure when your cat is upset or feeling energetic.

Your cat should be resting comfortably on your lap, the floor, or a table. Hold a paw in one hand and press a toe pad gently to extend the claw. Notice the pink tissue (the quick) on the inside of the claw. Avoid the quick when you trim the claw; cutting into it will cause pain and bleeding Remove the sharp tip below the quick (away from the toe), clipping about halfway between the end of the quick and the tip of claw. If your cat seems to be having a hard time, stop and try again at a later time, when your cat is more relaxed. Even if you can clip only a claw or two a day, eventually you’ll get it done. You don’t want your cat to be terrified of having his nails clipped. Because cats don’t do much damage with their hind claws and do a good job of keeping them trim themselves, by chewing them, many cat owners never clip the hind claws. Others trim their cat’s hind claws three or four times a year or have them done by their veterinarian or a professional groomer.

Many people hold the clippers at right angles to the nail, thus cutting across the nail. This tends to make the nail more subject to splitting or fraying. It is better to hold the clippers in a vertical position so that the claw is trimmed from bottom to top instead of across the nail. This position helps prevent splitting.

If you accidentally clip into the pink tissue ( quick ), don’t panic. The claw may bleed for a moment, but it will usually stop very quickly. Calm your cat by speaking softly to him and stroking his head. If the bleeding hasn’t stopped after a minute or so, touch a styptic pencil to the claw end or pat on styptic powder to help stop the bleeding.

How often you need to clip your cat’s claws mostly depends on how much of the tip you remove, but usually a clipping every ten to fourteen days will suffice. If your cat absolutely refuses to allow you to clip his claws, get help from your veterinarian or a professional groomer.

Trimming a cat’s claws don’t need to be an ordeal as long as you are gentle and are careful not to cut into the quick of your cat’s toenails. If it’s too much of a problem, it’s better to have a professional groomer or your veterinarian do it. The less trauma to your cat, the better.

Cleaning Your Cat’s Ears

Checking your cat’s ears should be a regular routine and should start at an early age so your cat gets used to it. When checking your cat’s ears, you need to look for a build-up of dirt & wax, blood, bad odor, lumps, redness and inflammation, and scratching and shaking ( which could indicate ear mites ). If any of these things are present, seek attention from a veterinarian immediately.

Your veterinarian will be able to provide you with a solution to clean your cat’s ears with. If this is the first time you’ve cleaned the ears, have your veterinarian show you the proper technique, as doing it incorrectly could cause damage to your cat’s ears. Ears should be cleaned if there is an excessive amount of wax, dirt or debris. Apply a few drops of solution to your cat’s ear, massage the base to loosen dirt and wax, use a cotton ball to wipe away excess solution and dirt. Never use a cotton bud in the ear. Doing so could damage it. Repeat with the other ear.

If you check your cat’s ears and there is just some wax, that is normal. No need to clean them, but if, after being checked, there is excess dirt and debris, go ahead and clean them, using the proper procedure. If there are any of the above serious situations when you’ve checked his ears, get your cat to a veterinarian promptly. You do not want to run the risk of permanent damage to your beloved cat’s ears.

Cleaning Your Cat’s Eyes

Regular cleaning of your cat’s eyes after he has gotten them encrusted from having been sleeping is a good way to prevent eye infections, such as feline conjunctivitis. If your cat already has an eye infection, cleaning them daily with a homemade salt solution is a good way to cure it.

  1. Boil a cup of regular tap water. Add a teaspoon of table salt to the boiled water, stir until dissolved and allow to cool to lukewarm temperature.
  2. Dip the ends of several cotton swabs into the warm salt water solution and get rid of excess water. Holding the cotton swabs in one hand and your kitten or cat in the other, apply the saltwater solution to one of your cat’s affected eyes.
  3. Repeat Step 2 for the cat’s other infected eye and do it again every four hours until all signs of infection are cleared up and your cat’s eyes are bright and clear. Remember to always use separate swabs for each eye to avoid cross-infection.

Make sure you have the cat gently but firmly restrained before cleaning. Be gentle in the pressure you apply to the area around the eye, as this is a sensitive area. Apply a sweeping motion with the moistened cloth in a down and outward (away from the nose) direction. Never use an inward motion as this may drive dirt into the eyeball.

Warnings: Always wash your hands and dispose of tainted cotton swabs after cleaning the eyes. There is always the possibility of infection spreading.

When cleaning non-infected eyes, it is only necessary to do this once daily or whenever your cat has crust in his eyes in order to prevent infection. You want to keep your cat’s eyes healthy so his vision isn’t impaired.

Cleaning Your Cat’s Nose

When cleaning your cat’s runny nose, moisten a tissue with warm water, gently wipe your cat’s nose, as well as any affected area around the nose. Gently remove any crust and discharge. Apply a drop of mineral oil to your cat’s nose to moisturize and prevent chafing or cracking of the skin on his nose.

Tissue works well for cleaning your cat’s nose, but cotton balls or soft cloth can be substituted also. If your cat has a runny nose, he may have discharge around his eyes as well, so you may want to wipe the eyes and eye area when you wipe the nose. Mineral oil is a good moisturizer for the cat’s nose, but petroleum jelly or baby oil can also be used.

Be sure to discard any used tissues or cotton balls or immediately wash the cloth used to clean your cat’s nose, as the cause of a runny nose may be contagious. Veterinary assistance is recommended if your cat is ill or has any excessive nasal discharge.

Cleaning your cat’s nose is only really needed if his nose is runny due to a cold. Normally, his nose will be just fine and not need cleaning, but just like with cleaning any other sensitive area on your cat, use extreme care. Your cat will love you for it.

Hair Stylist and Blogger. Know the basics of your hair & beard.

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