Cat Grooming: The Dos, the Don’ts, and the What-the-Hecks

Cats are known for being fastidious self-cleaners.

But it’s a myth that since cats lick themselves, they take care of their own grooming needs. The reality is that cats need a bit of assistance from their minions, er, owners. Their grooming needs aren’t as substantial as most dogs’ needs, but a little goes a long way.

Brush your cat

Keep your cat’s coat brushed out to keep her skin healthy and to cut down on hairballs. Many cats won’t mind a relaxing brushing session. Try for short periods at a time to test your cat’s sensitivity, then build up to longer sessions. Try different types of brushes, too, to see what your cat feels comfortable with. Short-haired cat? Aim for once a week. Long-haired? You’re probably looking at daily sessions to keep mats at bay.

Pay attention to oral hygiene

At my cat Newt’s annual exam, her vet recommended that I start brushing her teeth. With her temperament—plus she wasn’t conditioned to a toothbrush as a street kitten—there’s no way. If you can brush your cat’s teeth, do. Otherwise, check your cat’s teeth for tartar during those regular brushing sessions, and schedule an appointment with your vet if you spot build-up.

Trim your cat’s nails

If this is new for you and your cat, start by checking how sensitive he is to his paws. Gently and calmly touch his legs or his feet for short periods. Build up to foot-touching tolerance before you even attempt to trim his nails. Check out this useful post from WebMD that outlines the step-by-step process of a cat nail trim.

Don’t make grooming a stressful experience

Sure, cats don’t make it easy on us all the time. But for each of the grooming tasks, start slowly and build up trust and comfort. It’s far more enjoyable for your cat and far less dangerous for you (scratched arms, anyone?) if you can work toward each task rather than force your cat to do something she really doesn’t want to do.

And, seriously, don’t dye your cat

Like this. Or this.

Meet the Author: Maggie Marton

Maggie is a writer and author, whose first book, Clicker Dog Training: The Better Path to a Well-Behaved Pup was published by Open Air Publishing. When she's not writing (or reading books about grammar), she teaches writing courses to college students and professionals who want to nail down the basics of communication. Outside of work, she hikes, throws dinner parties, plays with her three dogs and cat, and travels as much as possible.

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