How should I groom my cat?

Brushing, ears, claws, teeth

Poised and proud, cats are usually competent at keeping themselves tidy. They will patiently lick their own coats, paying attention to every detail. If you’re lucky enough to be loved by a very friendly cat, you may have even got a dose of that affectionate cleaning yourself. As dedicated and thorough as they are, cats require our help with some aspects of grooming. Depending on the cat, this can seem like a daunting task. It’s easier to convince a kitten that grooming is something to be enjoyed. If you do get the chance to start at a young age, take advantage of that. Older cats can often be coaxed into appreciating grooming, or – at the very least – tolerating it. How often you should groom your cat depends on the breed and individual. Regardless of those factors, there are some basics that can be applied to all cats.

Getting Started

Remember to start your introduction to grooming sessions slowly. Allow your cat to grow accustomed to the different tools you’ll be using. Let her sniff the brush and maybe even play around with it. For the first few sessions, keep them very short. In the beginning, the goal is not to accomplish an incredibly efficient grooming session. All you want to do is get your cat relaxed with the idea. The last thing you want is for her to sprint out of the room and hide when she sees you grab the grooming bucket. Keep your attitude calm, your voice soothing, and the atmosphere light. Once she’s adjusted to the foreign objects and seems comfortable, you can begin more thorough grooming practices.


Brushing is probably the first thing that pops into anyone’s mind when thinking about grooming. Fortunately, this important part of the process is also one of the easier aspects. Most cats can learn to tolerate a gentle brushing. If your cat has a short, easy-maintenance coat, you won’t need to brush more than once a week. Cats with longer, more exotic coats require it more frequently. For short-haired cats, start with a fine-tooth comb. With long-haired cats, a wide-tooth comb is better. Long haired cats are prone to knots, which can take a while to softly work out. With both lengths of hair, you can switch to either a bristle or rubber brush after combing. Brush in the direction of the coat to avoid tugging uncomfortably on her skin. You can stroke your cat with your hand at the same to provide extra reassurance. Be extra tender when brushing the belly, or when near the face.

Nail Clipping

A less pleasant part of the tidying process is nail clipping. All animals can be sensitive about their paws being touched. If you have a kitten, spend plenty of time touching and rubbing the paws of her feet. You can even pretend to go through the motions of clipping her nails. With an older cat, just start slow and pay attention to her body language. Ease up if she starts to get tense because you don’t want to escalate the situation into something she’ll remember negatively. Grab her favorite treats and make daily foot rubs a fun experience. Practice lightly pressing her paw until her claws extend outwards. Once she’s composed about having her feet handled, break out the clippers. Use clippers that are designed for cats, not humans. Take the actual clipping movement cautiously. If you accidentally clip too short and hit her quick, you will hurt her. The quick is the pink part where her blood vessels and nerves are. It’s much easier to see the quick on a cat with light nails, so be even more careful when clipping darker nails. If you do hit her quick, she will likely bleed and be quite unwilling to have her nails trimmed again. While you are trimming her nails, give her paw a general scan to check for any swelling or abnormalities. Unless your cat is supremely serene about having her nails trimmed, avoid doing all of them in one sitting.

Ear Cleaning

It’s not often that you will need to worry about ear cleaning. This will mainly be for if your cat randomly becomes excessively dirty or has a medical issue. If your cat’s ears are chronically unclean, ask your vet if everything looks normal. Regularly inspecting your cat’s ears for dirt and wax will also prep her for when you do need to clean them. Ear infections will often have a noticeable smell to them, so any strange scent would be a sign of potential trouble. Make sure to ask your vet for a proper ear cleaner before you attempt the job. Soak a cotton ball or pad with the cleaner and gingerly press the ear back. Wipe away any visible dirt but take care not to press too deep or hard. You don’t want to accidentally push debris further into your cat’s ear. If you’re doing a thorough, vet-recommended cleaning, you might place a few drops of the cleaner directly into the ear and massage the base. Again, this isn’t a job that will need to be done frequently, but it’s wise to be prepared.

Teeth Cleaning

Teeth cleaning is often neglected with cats, which contributes to the disconcerting number of felines suffering from dental disease. It may not be easy to care for kitty teeth, but it could save you costly dental treatments in the future. If getting your cat to allow you to literally brush her teeth with a toothbrush is out of the question, there are some other things you can do. Some people use silicone “finger toothbrushes,” which are less challenging to maneuver in a cat’s mouth. You can buy special cat toothpaste, which comes in flavors like chicken or tuna. Feeding your cat a diet that consists at least partially of kibble will bode better than if you offer purely wet food meals. Dry food can scrape away at plaque, while wet food just clings to the teeth. Get your cat’s teeth checked at least twice a year. With regular check-ups, your vet will be able to give you a head’s up of any impending dental problems. It will also be much easier to combat something like gum disease when you catch it early.

Some Cats Just Don’t Dig It

In an ideal world, grooming would be a picturesque bonding experience between cat and person. For some lucky cat owners, that’s a reality. If your cat does not quite match that description, don’t be disheartened. There are cats who are incapable of tolerating much grooming. If a specific grooming procedure needs to be done, you can talk with your vet about sedation options. Take grooming at your cat’s own pace and don’t feel rushed.

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