Cats naturally groom themselves, removing much of the dirt and excess hair in their coats. They typically spend hours at this task, leaving many owners to decide that cats don’t need any help in this area. Grooming a cat is important, however, for many reasons. Regular, gentle brushing or combing is the most important part of grooming a cat, but it is a good time to check the cat for other problems as well. Such care minimizes the amount of hair the cat may swallow or shed onto the furniture, keeps its nails under control and promotes bonding between the cat and its owner.
When grooming a cat it is important that the cat is relaxed and is not feeling stressed in any way. This is especially important at first, since the cat may not be comfortable with the grooming process in the beginning. Have the cat sit in a place that it is used to, such as on the owner’s lap or next to the owner on the couch. Start by petting the cat and then switch to gently brushing it. This works best if the cat is not first made aware of the brush, since seeing a strange object may frighten it.
As the cat is being brushed, the owner can check its skin for signs of parasites such as ticks and fleas, injuries, rashes or other problems. If the cat has been in a fight a bite or scratch may turn into an abscess and may show up as a red bump on the cat, especially on its head, neck or legs. Grooming a cat is an ideal time to find problems before they endanger the cat.
Regular care sessions should also include nail trimming, especially for indoor cats. It is best to trim just the sharp tips and leave the rest of the nail alone. If a toenail is cut too short it can hurt the cat, since there are nerves in the quick, which is the pinkish part inside the nail that can be seen if the toenail is held up to the light. Cutting into the quick also usually causes bleeding, which is readily stopped with styptic powder, but it may make the cat afraid to let its nails be touched in the future.
If the cat has gotten its coat heavily soiled, the cat should have a bath. This part of grooming a cat can be challenging for cats that don’t like the water, and may require two people to manage it safely. A rubber bath mat can help to make the cat feel more secure in the slippery tub or sink. Always use warm water, and wash the cat gently with a cat-safe shampoo. Dry the cat well afterward, and don’t let it get chilled.