Cats are pretty clear when they don’t like something.
They might throw an angry hiss your way, give you a nice little gash on your arm with their extended nails, and run off to hide behind or under something—not to be heard from again for the next hour or two.
This series of events is often affiliated with grooming-related activities: bathing, nail clipping, teeth brushing, ear cleaning, etc.
But things don’t have to be quite so stressful. While a cat may not necessarily enjoy the experience, grooming can be managed so someone doesn’t end up in the ER (meaning you).
One very good way to have a cat that tolerates grooming is to get him used to being handled in this way as a kitten. Start by just getting him used to you touching his ears, mouth, paws, etc. Then very slowly introduce each type of grooming activity over time, starting with the least bothersome from a feline perspective (don’t start with bathing). For instance, once you have gotten your kitten to enjoy a good pet and light massage, gently try a little brushing of his coat. Remember, don’t try and do everything at once—take things slow and be patient.
If a cat is irate, much of the damage he can inflict on you will probably be coming from his nails. So it’s important to master the art of trimming your cat’s nails to be able to perform the other grooming activities safely. If your cat becomes too stressed during nail trimming, don’t force it. Let him have a break and try again later when he’s more relaxed.
Keep Things Mellow
Go into each grooming activity relaxed and make sure your cat is also in a relaxed state. If he’s running around chasing imaginary birds, it is not a good time to attempt any type of grooming. Also, avoid grooming when there’s a lot of activity in the house, with people coming from or going to work or school, for example. If you can, go into a quiet room. To help mellow your kitty out, consider Bach’s Rescue Remedy, which is a flower remedy formula designed for stressful situations.
Make sure you have all the appropriate supplies you need for each grooming endeavor set up and ready to go. Don’t try and wing it. Do your research and look for cat-specific products that are high quality and chemical-free. If you’re brushing your cat’s coat, have a brush or comb appropriate to your cat’s coat type. You don’t want it to snag or pull on his hair and create a negative experience. For ear cleaning, make sure you know the appropriate technique and have a nontoxic, gentle cleaner like witch hazel. Brushing teeth will require a nontoxic, cat-safe dental cleaner and cat-specific brush. Bathing will require a gentle, cat shampoo and a lot of towels.
Have a Friend Help
Four hands are better than one when it comes to grooming your cat. It always helps to have someone who can hold the cat in place, petting and trying to relax him, while the other person performs the grooming activity.
Avoid Strong Smells
Cats aren’t always thrilled with strong scents. So whenever possible, choose products that don’t have a fragrance. Especially during bath time, that added smell can further irritate an already tense feline.
Cats aren’t always up for grooming activities like bathing and nail trimming, but with these tips, the experience can be a little less stressful for the both of you.
Jessica Peralta has been a journalist for more than 15 years and an animal lover all her life. She has had dogs, cats, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, and rabbits. Her current children are a German shepherd named Guinness and a black kitten named Riot (and he lives up to that name). It’s because of her love for animals that she focused her journalistic career to the world of holistic animal care and pet nutrition. In between keeping Riot and Guinness out of mischief, she’s constantly learning about all the ways she can make them healthier and happier.