Good Grooming: Cats Look Better and Feel Better

Beyond Nine Lives

This is a sponsored post by Dr. Elizabeth Arguelles, veterinarian and owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. 

Though most cats take care of cleaning themselves, there are some simple things you can do to help keep your cat’s fur healthy, clean and free of tangles or mats.

Most cat breeds have smooth outer coats of “protective hairs” and a fine undercoat of soft hairs that give additional insulation. Some cats shed a lot of those outer hairs, while others lose relatively little.

But regardless of how much fur they shed, all felines benefit from regular brushing to remove loose hairs and dead skin cells. This process helps ensure that their coats stay clean and free of external parasites, and also distributes natural skin oils along the hair shafts.

Regular brushing has other benefits for both your kitty and the other residents of your home. For example, removing loose fur and dander will ensure that your cat swallows a lot less hair while grooming with its tongue. This can mean fewer hairballs coughed up on your carpets! Humans with mild cat allergies will also have a better living situation because daily brushing can help reduce the amount of allergens in the air.

How often should you brush your cat?

It is best to brush your cat’s coat every day to make sure that no tangles or clumps develop. Pay particular attention to the areas that your kitty has trouble reaching with its tongue (e.g. under the armpits and behind the ears) and where clumps tend to develop (e.g. the backs of the legs, the belly and the rump).

Regularly checking your cat’s coat and skin will also have the side benefit of improving your chances of detecting any unusual lumps, bumps or areas of sensitivity on your cat’s body at an early stage.

What kind of brush or comb should you use?

Certain types of brushes or combs will work better on longhaired cats, while others suit shorthaired kitties better. Long-toothed metal combs tend to be more effective at removing tangles from medium to long hairs. Conversely, stiff bristle brushes are generally ideal for felines with shorter, coarser coats. There are also a variety of de-shedding brushes on the market today that can help specifically with shedding.

What is the best way to remove tangles, burrs and matted fur?

Rule number one is always be gentle when brushing your cat and avoid excessively pulling on the knots in its fur. If brushing is a painful experience, your kitty is a lot less likely to remain cooperative over time.

Start by examining the each tangle or knot. If any are fairly small, you should be able to remove them easily by gently combing them out. If, however, the tangle is big or there is a large clump of burrs forming matted fur, it might be necessary to have your veterinarian cut the surrounding fur out. If this is the case, DO NOT attempt to cut any mat out at home. It is very easy to accidentally nick the skin underneath and create an open wound. And believe me, we see it all the time so don’t think it won’t happen!

How do you bathe your cat?

Brushing your feline friend tends to be a lot easier than bathing it. Most adult cats are fastidious groomers, and very few enjoy contact with water. However, some conditions, such as advanced age, a restricted lifestyle or underlying health issues like arthritis can make grooming and brushing painful. In those cases, your veterinarian might suggest bathing as an alternative. Baths might also be part of a regimen designed to reduced airborne allergens.

Unless you start getting your cat to tolerate baths from a very early age, you’re probably better off bringing it to a professional groomer or the vet. If you do decide to do the job yourself, here are some tips and other issues to keep in mind:

  • Unless directed otherwise by your veterinarian, use a “dry” or shampoo or a special shampoo and conditioning rinse formulated especially for cats. Don’t use baby shampoo, because it too harsh for feline skin.
  • Make sure that you brush our any many burrs or tangles before starting the bathing process, as those can become impossible to remove once wet.
  • Ensure the water remains warm throughout the bath so that your cat is not exposed to temperature extremes that can increase its discomfort. Warmer water also helps the shampoo rinse away more effectively.
  • To avoid excessive squirming, start by setting your kitty on a clean, dry surface. Gently wet its fur and apply the shampoo. Then carefully rinse off the shampoo. Many cats get frantic when placed under running water, so a wet sponge or wash cloth might be a less stressful way to wash it off.
  • To prevent escapes, use a shallow tub, the bathroom sink or your bath tub to do the rinsing. Make sure the space is large enough for you to handle your kitty and for your cat to not feel overly confined.

As with any change to your cat’s health maintenance, always consult your veterinarian before embarking on a new grooming routine!

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