How to Groom a Kitten: Step-By-Step Instructions

Dr. Michael T. Robbins, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Michael T. Robbins, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 6/4/20242-4 minutes
owner petting siamese kitten

As a pet owner, knowing how to groom a kitten is a handy skill to have. It’s true cats are good at cleaning themselves (their tongues have tiny bristles that are effective at removing dirt and debris from their coats). 

However, despite their preference for cleanliness, kittens are limited in what they can do on their own. That’s where you come in. Whether it’s brushing, bathing or trimming their nails, you can help your young feline companion stay healthy through good hygiene. 

Read on for a step-by-step guide to kitten grooming, and learn other helpful tips, like how often to groom and what to do if your kitten is not grooming properly. 

Benefits of Kitten Grooming

Understanding how to groom a kitten is an important part of promoting your pet’s well-being. Benefits of grooming include: 

  • Improved appearance 
  • Healthier skin and coat 
  • Removal of hairballs, which can cause intestinal blockages 
  • Protection for you from sharp claws 
  • Disease prevention (skin and teeth inspections help you catch problems early) 
  • Bonding between you and your pet

When Do Kittens Start Grooming Themselves?

Typically, kittens start grooming themselves around four weeks of age. They learn the behavior from their mothers. 

It’s a good idea to start grooming your kitten around 2 – 7 weeks of age. This window of time marks a stage of their development when they begin socializing with people. So, you can start grooming and offering positive reinforcement around the time of weaning, or once you bring your kitten home. 

By acclimating them to grooming at a young age, you can increase the chances they’ll enjoy—or at least tolerate—it as they get older. 

Preparing to Groom Your Kitten

If you’re grooming your kitten for the first time, start slow. Similar to how you might groom a cat who’s older, gradually introduce them to the activity. 

Whether it’s bathing, nail trimming or brushing, show your kitten the tools before using them. Let them become familiar with the brush, clippers, etc. Having your tools organized before starting may also help create a sense of calm. 

Additionally, making your feline comfortable with physical contact is important. If you’re wondering how to get a kitten used to being held, try to gently pet and stroke them, especially when they’re receptive to socialization (usually starting between 2 – 7 weeks of age).  

Just remember to keep the grooming sessions short. 

It’s possible your young cat may be skittish about this new process. To avoid creating negative associations with grooming, don’t force them into an uncomfortable situation for long periods of time. 

What Kitten Grooming Tools Do You Need?

Having the right tools will make kitten grooming easier and more effective. Here are some options to consider: 

  • Traditional brush and/or kitten grooming glove 
  • Kitten-safe shampoo  
  • Towels and a slip-proof mat for the bath 
  • Nail trimmers 
  • Styptic powder (in case you have to treat a bleeding nail) 
  • Cat treats, pets and positive reinforcement

How to Groom a Kitten, Step-By-Step

Not sure how to groom a kitten? Follow these steps to make the process as simple as possible. 

1. Make Your Kitten Comfortable

Try to eliminate stress during grooming. Choose a time when your kitten is calm and give them praise and treats throughout the process. If they get anxious, end the grooming session and try again later. 

2. Brush Your Kitten’s Hair

It’s important to regularly brush your kitten, especially if they’re a medium or longhaired breed. Brushing prevents mats, removes dirt from their coat, and manages shedding.   

If you’re wondering how to brush a kitten, first let your pet sniff the brush. Then move it gently along their back and sides. While you’re brushing, talk to them calmly in a soothing voice.  

Once they’re comfortable with the feeling of being brushed, you can brush other areas such as their belly, tail and ears. 

Pro tip: grooming sessions are a good time to check your kitten for skin growths or other new or unusual developments on their body. 

3. Bathe Your Kitten

Since cats and kittens don't need baths very often due to their efficient self-grooming skills, you may not know how to bathe a kitten. 

Baths can be necessary from time to time, however. Depending on your kitten’s size, you might be able to bathe them in a sink, which can make the activity easier for you.  

After brushing your pet, find a comfortable water temperature for the bath (use the underside of your wrist to make sure it’s not too hot). Rinse them, gently apply kitten-safe shampoo, and thoroughly rinse again. Dry them off with a towel when you’re done. 

4. Trim Your Kitten’s Nails

Maybe you’re wondering, “When can you cut a kitten’s nails?” because your feline has scratched you or torn your furniture. Typically, you can trim kitten nails when you begin other grooming activities—around the time of weaning or when you bring your kitten home.  

Knowing how to cut your kitten’s nails not only protects you from scratches, it can provide comfort for your cat.  

Before you attempt to trim, spend time making your kitten comfortable with the presence of your hands on their paws. 

When you’re ready, begin by gently squeezing the top of each digit. This will expose the nail. Approaching from the side, trim a small portion of the nail.  

Important: make sure you avoid cutting the quick, the vein that runs through part of the nail (it’s usually pink and you can see it through the sides of the nail). If you accidentally cut the quick, apply styptic powder to stop the bleeding. 

Unless your kitten is relaxed during nail-trimming, it may take you a few sessions to finish the process.   

How Often Should You Groom a Kitten?

How often you groom your kitten depends on the particular type of grooming. Brushing can be done a few times per week, though some kitten breeds may need daily brushing. 

Cats who use a scratching post or spend time outdoors likely need their nails trimmed less often. However, check your kitten’s claws every few weeks to see if a trim is necessary. 

You probably don’t need to bathe your kitten very often unless they become exceptionally dirty. It may be a good idea to introduce them to a bath at an early age, though.  

What’s the Best Kitten Grooming Brush?

The best kitten grooming brush for your pet depends on their coat.  

A slicker brush may be appropriate for longhaired cats, as it has bristles designed for thick fur and detangling. Shorthaired cats, on the other hand, might benefit from a rubber brush or kitten grooming glove.  

While some felines may enjoy it, there’s no research to show that grooming a kitten with a toothbrush is an effective way to promote skin and coat health. 

Not sure what to use? Ask your veterinarian or a professional groomer for recommendations.  

What to Do if Your Kitten is Not Grooming Properly

If your kitten is very young, they may not have figured out how to groom well yet. This will likely change with age. In the meantime, if they’re old enough to be groomed, you can begin brushing them and trimming nails as necessary.  

Otherwise, check your cat for any signs of a health issue. Sometimes kittens and cats stop grooming because of discomfort or a weight issue.  

Gently feel around their body (and check inside their mouth) for growths or other unusual symptoms. Consult your veterinarian for additional guidance. 

For more expert tips on kitten care, explore our library of kitten health articles. 

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