Build a Smart Grooming Routine with Your Cat

Cats are majestic creatures. And what owner doesn’t want their cat looking his or her best? Beyond the appearances, there are health and social reasons to keep your cat well groomed. Here are some tricks of the trade that can help you build a rock solid grooming routine.

But first, a little perspective.

Even if you’re feeding a food like Purina ONE® Hairball Formula or Indoor Advantage® that contains a natural fiber blend to  help keep hairballs to a minimum, your cat will still need your help with grooming.  

First off, it helps prevent over-grooming by your cat that can lead to troubles with hairballs (not to mention the clean up). A matted or tangled backside may lead to constipation. Plus, a cleaner environment can be more accommodating to family and friends with allergies.

And there’s a social component to grooming that can bring you and your cat closer. When done regularly, brushing provides soothing tactile stimulation. Your cat may reward you with snuggles and purrs during each interaction.  Well-groomed cats may also be more social and active because they’re more comfortable in their bodies.

Here’s a look at the recommended routine maintenance required for your cat’s coat, nails and ears.

Grooming

The main component is brushing. Things to consider are which tools are right for the job, how to use them and how often. Your best answers depend on your cat. If you have a shorthair cat, you should ideally brush once a week. Longhair cats should be attended to every other day.

Now, depending on your cat’s coat, you may need different tools for the job.

-       A standard brush

-       A de-shedding tool for working with thicker coats

-       A multi-toothed comb for separating tangles or mats

1. Make sure your cat is relaxed before you begin brushing. Some cats are more receptive than others, and often times go into a trance-like state.

2. Always brush down the length of your cat’s body, from head to tail. Be gentle – you’ll want to avoid pulling on any snags. And easing into it gives your cat time to get used to the sensation of the brush. Speaking to your cat in a soothing tone also helps your cat to relax and enjoy being groomed.

3. Continue to work your way deeper, but stop short of contact with the scalp.

4. Be mindful of brushing the belly as it’s more sensitive than other parts of your cat’s body.

5. If you find mats or tangles in the coat, particularly near the your cat’s backside, use a comb to gently tease them free. In the event they are too clumped, use a clipper or scissors to trim it free. You’ll want to trim the top of the mat first and see if you can pull the remaining bit apart with a comb. When you pull on the base of the mat, it can pull your cat’s skin. So be sure to trim very carefully as to avoid injuring the skin. If you’re still having trouble, see a professional groomer for a remedy.

Bathing

When it comes down to it, cats are pretty skilled at keeping themselves clean. But there are instances, such as times when they’re not feeling well or get into something they shouldn’t have, that a bath is necessary.

It’s important to remember that all cats are different. So the stigma of a cat that hates water doesn’t always apply. Often times, it’s a matter of setting the right tone for a bath, and paying attention to the cues your cat is giving off to know when it’s time to call a time out and try again later.

Here’s how to make bath time as calming for your cat as it is for you.

You’ll need – specially formulated cat shampoo, a sink or basin large enough for your cat to comfortably fit in, a pitcher or sprayer for rinsing, a washcloth, a large towel and cotton balls for cleaning and drying the ears and rubber gloves in the event your cat decides scratch.

It’s important not to use your shampoo as it may irritate and dry out your cat’s skin.

Once you have everything in place, it’s time to get started.

1. Brush your cat before bathing to get rid of as much dead hair as possible.

2. Fill the sink or basin with about 3 inches of lukewarm water. Pay close attention to the water temp – you don’t want it too hot or cold as you place your cat into the water.  

3. Use the pitcher or sprayer to wet the body of your cat from shoulders to tail.

4. Apply some shampoo. Lather and massage just as you would for yourself.

5. Next, use the washcloth to wipe your cat’s head and face.

6. Now, use the cotton balls to wipe the inside of the ears clean.

7. Refill the pitcher or use the spray to give your cat a good rinse. Make sure you’ve washed away all of the shampoo and suds. 

8. Wrap your cat in the towel and dapple as much water from the coat as possible.

9. If you have a longhair cat, you may need to use a blow dryer to finish the job. Just be mindful of the loud noise and heat setting, so always set it to the lowest settings for air flow and heat.

Ears

Cats are blessed with amazing hearing. So it’s important to keep their ears clean and clear. And the buildup of wax and debris can irritate and possibly infect your cat’s ears. Here’s a quick checklist for how to go about cleaning them. 

1. First off, give the inside of your cat’s ears a good look. Check for wax buildup, or any colored discharge that may be indicative of an infection or mites. If you do see a discharge, consult with your veterinarian immediately.

2. If you’re just cleaning wax, place a few drops of feline ear cleaner in each ear. Gently fold the ear in your fingers and massage it to help the cleaner get into all of the nooks and crannies. Then give it a break so your cat can give a headshake – this helps to work loose debris to the outer part of the ear. Repeat with the other ear. Just remember not to use water as it will give bacteria a place to grow.

3. Use a cotton ball or pad to gently wipe out wax or dirt from the ears.

4. Give your cat a treat for a job well done. This will also help create a positive association for next time. You should give your cat’s ears a check once a week as part of your routine, and clean accordingly.

Nails

Nails that are left too long can crack and break, causing discomfort and pain for your cat. So it’s a good idea to trim nails once a month, or every couple of weeks depending on how fast your cat’s nails grow.

As for tools of the trade, there are three main types of clippers: One works like our nail clipper, one like a scissors, and the other like a guillotine.

Here’s how you go about putting one to use: 

  1. Timing – Always try to trim when your cat is relaxed.
  2. Handling – Work with your cat so it’s no big deal to handle his or her paws. Practice pressing on the paw pad to expose the nails.
  3. Spot the Location – Looking at your cat’s nails, you should see an area of pink in the center of the nail. This is called the quick. It contains blood vessels and nerves. You’ll want to trim the nail just in front of the quick. Just be careful not to nick it – it may cause some bleeding and can be painful. It’s good to keep some cornstarch or styptic powder close by in case you need to stop any bleeding.
  4. Direction - If you’re working alone, place you cat in your lap, facing away from your body so you can hold feet in a comfortable position to trim.
  5. Pace - Don’t feel like you need to complete the job at one sitting. If your cat starts to get antsy, revisit the job later when things have settled down.
  6. Reward – Always positively reinforce the experience with a treat.

Further Consultations

As always, your veterinarian or your local shelter is a great resource for techniques across all aspects of grooming, especially as it pertains specifically to your cat’s situation.

Want to connect with other devoted cat owners? Check out our Purina ONE® Cats community on Facebook.