Cats are naturally clean animals, but sometimes they need help. Depending on the breed, cat grooming requirements can range from weekly to rarely.
As an animal that self-grooms, cats are a rare breed! Did you know cats spend roughly 25% of their waking hours grooming themselves? It’s believed that one of the reasons they keep so clean is because they’re ambush predators. Cats prefer to hide, stalk, and then pounce on their prey – catching them by surprise. Removing any scent from their fur can be a matter of life or death.
Cat tongues are functionally both a comb and a bath, with papillae (the ‘spines’ on their tongues) that look like little velcro hooks. Oddly enough, these are comprised of keratin, the same element our fingernails are made of. These long papillae can transfer saliva to the fur from the skin up while also combing it!
Why Do Cats Need Grooming?
There are a handful of reasons cats need help with grooming, and we’ve included a few below. Regardless of the reason, if you’ve noticed your cat needs help with grooming, be sure to bring them to the vet to make sure it isn’t because they are sick.
- Some cats have heavier appetites than others, which can cause them to increase in size and ultimately make it harder for them to reach certain parts of their bodies.
- Some cats have longer fur, which is harder for them to groom completely and has a tendency to mat.
- Some cats have no fur! This results in oily skin with building in some areas.
- Some cats are curious and will explore things they shouldn’t, resulting in them being covered in dirt, or something else.
Cats are not all built the same, so whatever the reason they need help with grooming, you should know how to accommodate them.
Combing Your Cat
Cats require combing for a number of reasons, but they mostly fall into two categories. Long-haired cats, or cats who have stopped grooming certain areas (most commonly their lower back near the base of the tail).
If your cat is older or overweight, they may struggle with reaching their lower back which can cause the area to become oily, produce visible dandruff, and in some cases, mat. Regular combing can actually prevent all of the above!
Cats with long fur need help for the same reasons as older cats, it can be overwhelming to fully groom all that fur. Consider their entire bodies are covered in thick, long fur. You can help them by taking some of the work off their plate by regularly combing their fur. Ideally, you’d comb it every few nights, but weekly can be enough if the cat is doing well with that pace.
When choosing a comb or brush for your cat, it’s important to give them some options. Some combs can overstimulate them and will not work well for getting them used to the process. The best thing is to line up a few combs for your kitty and let them choose the one they like the most.
One last tip for combing – approach from below. Many cats will react poorly to someone approaching from overhead as that is often how other animals will attack them in the wild. Start low and slow!
Trimming Your Cat’s Nails
Nail trimming is something you are best to introduce to a kitten or young cat and continue throughout their life. It can be an absolutely devastating experience for an older cat with zero experience having their nails cut – not to mention the owner as well.
Nail trimming on a cat is also different from humans. Cat nails grow with the ‘finger’ inside them, centred, whereas human nails grow overtop of the finger. That means human nail trimmers won’t work for a cat and a special tool is required.
We cannot stress enough, before attempting to trim a cat’s nails, talk to your vet and watch a how-to video online. If done wrong, you can seriously injure your cat, causing bleeding and potentially an infection.
Acceptance of nail trimming is a learned behaviour for cats, so you may need to condition them to it for a number of days or weeks before actually trimming for the first time.
Wiping Your Cat’s Eyes
Some cats have runny eyes, with liquid getting stuck in pockets around their eyes and drying out throughout the day or overnight. Some cats may also have respiratory issues that lead to runny eyes. In most cases this is harmless, but also be sure to check with your vet.
Getting your cat used to you wiping its eyes is a lot easier than getting them used to nail trimming. You simply need a familiarity with your cat where they are comfortable with you touching their face.
Wet a cloth or paper towel with warm water and gently rub it past their eyes. Remember how sensitive your eyes are when you wipe them, and make sure you aren’t applying too much pressure.
Does Your Cat Need a Bath?
99% of the time, the answer is actually no! Unlike dogs, most cats don’t need a monthly bath. Unless they get into something they shouldn’t have, cats will take care of their own cleaning. You can help with combing, but a bath would be inappropriate in most cases.
There are a great many cats that are afraid of water, so pouring a bath and dumping them in it is going to be a traumatic event for them. To get a cat used to water, you need to condition them over time. If it is an emergency, it may be better to simply wipe them down with wet face cloths instead.
Getting a cat used to water takes some dedication. Start with baby steps, and fill the sink with an inch of warm water. Let them explore it at their own pace and over time introduce new elements – like warm towels, wet facecloths, and more water. Just keep in mind that cats are not aquatic animals and do not naturally take well to water. Be gentle, patient and sensitive!
At the end of the day, before starting a new grooming routine with your cat, do some research, talk to your vet, and be sure you are doing the right thing. Some cats don’t need extra help with grooming, such as baths, etc. They are clean animals to begin with, and have been that way for thousands of years!