Guide to Grooming a Cat

Person combing a cat

All cats require some level of grooming and most of it can be done right in your house. The type of grooming that your feline needs is based on factors like her hair type or the climate. Cats require more grooming as the weather warms up, as they lose their winter coat.

Identifying Your Cat’s Grooming Needs

Hairless cat breeds don’t need brushing but still require bathing, nail trimming and nail bed cleaning, skincare and routine ear cleaning—like their furrier friends.

Most shorthaired cats are considered low maintenance and typically need to be brushed every one to two weeks, but some may only require it once a month. Cats with medium length hair need a weekly brushing to maintain their coats.

Longhaired cats typically require daily brushing and combing to help prevent matting and tangling of the hair. This practice also helps remove dirt and manages shedding.

And don’t forget to always use a gentle voice and give your cat treats periodically throughout each type of at-home grooming session to bring her comfort and put her at ease.

 

Brushing and Shedding Management

Brushing is one of the easiest ways to manage cat hair that can easily accumulate on your couches and clothes.

Brushing also allows you to bond with your feline while helping improve the health of her coat. Not only does it offer her physical comfort, but it lets you help her minimize issues from self-grooming like hairball accumulation or oil buildup in her coat.

Plus, brushing helps reduce the amount of hair and dandruff flakes that you’ll find on your furniture and floors—especially as the temperatures rise outside and shedding also increases.   

Just simply brush from head to toe, as needed. Don’t forget to use a comb to remove fur from her undercoat, as well.

 

Bathing Your Cat

How often you bathe your cat depends on the type of fur she has and her lifestyle.

Hairless cat breeds need weekly baths to help manage oil, dirt and sweat buildup. You can use a wet washcloth or baby wipes to maintain skin hygiene between bath times. However, if your cat has fur but isn’t comfortable with baths, a wipe down is a less stressful alternative.

It’s no secret that most cats find baths agonizing. But, they can get comfortable with them over time. A few simple strategies can help make bath time easier.

Here’s What You’ll Need to Get Started:

  • Treats
  • Cat-safe shampoo
  • Cat-safe conditioner (optional)
  • Rinsing cups
  • Non-slip mat
  • Plenty of towels
  • A helper (if available)
  • A pair of old clothes for yourself and a helper

The key to a successful cat bath is preparation. After you’ve gathered supplies, you’ll want to prep the area. The bathroom is the ideal location for this because you can shut the door, creating a safe, and quiet space while limiting her ability to flee.

Have the water ready before your cat enters the bathroom because the running water might make her uncomfortable.

Make sure the water is shallow, meeting the bottom of your cat’s chest, and that the rinsing cups are already filled with water. You can place a non-slip mat in the tub.

Next, it’s time to prep your cat. Brush her from head to toe to remove any tangles, loose hair or debris. If your cat is not comfortable with brushing or bathing, try separating these two tasks with a break in between and lots of petting and verbal praise. When you’re done, grab your helper and bring your feline friend to the bathroom and close the door.

Keep calm as you ease her into bath time, using a relaxing tone of voice and a gentle touch.

Have your helper hold her or pass you the supplies as you rinse and then lather her up, avoiding the face. Complete the steps outlined on the products, rinsing with your cups of water. You can use a damp washcloth to wipe off any dirt on the face.

Be sure to rinse your cat thoroughly, washing away all products. Residual shampoo or conditioner can cause buildup. Finally, dry your cat off as much as possible before releasing her back to her routine.

 

Trimming Your Cat’s Nails

Trimming your cat’s nails at home can be intimidating. But we have some tips that may make it a better experience.

Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed brings her more physical comfort. It also helps protect you and common household items like curtains, couches, and rugs from scratches, too.

Before you attempt to do this, you’ll want to engage in contact with her paws during a few play or cuddle sessions. Eventually, your cat should grow more comfortable with having her paws touched.

When you and your cat are ready for an at-home nail trimming session, enlist a friend to help you. You may want to try trimming them after she is tired from playing. 

Here’s What You’ll Need to Get Started:

  • Trimmers
  • Styptic powder or cornstarch
  • A helper
  • Treats

Find a comfortable spot where you, your helper and your feline friend can all get comfortable. Trim no more than a couple of nails at a time, followed by verbal praise and brief petting.  It’s ideal to keep sessions short. And don’t forget to trim the extra fifth nail on each of her front legs, also known as the dewclaw.

Trim by gently squeezing the top of each digit with your thumb and index finger, exposing the nail. Go in with the nail trimmers from the side and not the top, just trimming the tip.

Be extremely careful not to cut the nail’s quick (it has nerve endings and blood vessels). It’s pink and you should be able to see it through the sides of the nail. You want to leave some space between the quick and where you trim.

As you trim, check the length by looking at the nail head-on. Trim about halfway between the tip of her nail and the tip of her quick.   

If you unintentionally cut the quick and the nail starts to bleed, apply pressure right away. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, apply styptic powder or cornstarch to help stop the bleeding. End the session if this occurs, and follow up with verbal praise and petting.

If you or your cat are not comfortable doing this at home, take your cat to a professional groomer for help.

An additional tactic to maintain nails at home is to place scratching posts throughout the house. This allows her to naturally file her own nails down, sparing your furniture at the same time.

 

Cat Skincare

Like with humans, great skincare starts with hydration. Make sure your cat is getting plenty of water. If her gums seem pale, you may want to increase her water intake.

Also, consider adding high-quality wet cat food to her diet. If your vet approves, consider giving her small doses of Omega-3 fatty acids with meals.

Moisture in the air can also influence skin health. If the air in your home is dry, consider investing in a humidifier to improve the air quality.

The last form of moisture we recommend is topical—yes, there are skin moisturizers for cats. Using one can help during dry winter months. You’ll likely only need this if you have a hairless cat.

We hope this guide helps you with how to groom your cat at home. For more tips, visit our Pet Expertise page.

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