By: Talin Seta Shahinian
Cats are notoriously fastidious creatures. They have built-in cleaning tools: a sandpapery tongue and sharp teeth, which help them groom their fur. Sometimes they may need a little extra help from us, though. If your cat gets into some mud or encounters something smelly or sticky, she may require you to give her a full bath. While cats are expert groomers, here are some ways we can help them feel and look their best.
Choosing the Best Time to Groom Your Cat
When choosing a time to groom your cat, make sure she’s as relaxed as possible, for example, when she’s sleepy after a good dinner. Make sure it’s a good time for you too. Cats pick up on our moods, so don’t try to groom your cat if you’re rushed, cranky, or stressed out. Start with short grooming sessions if she’s not used to being groomed. Incorporate gentle, loving touch of sensitive areas like her paw pads, ears, and near her eyes to get her used to being touched there and build positive associations for future grooming sessions.
If you take the time to groom your cat when they are a kitten and use canned food as positive reinforcement, you’ll find grooming to be easier as your cat grows. When your cat is used to being held and touched in the manners required for grooming and nail trimming, they’ll be more comfortable overall with the process, making it painless for everyone.
Caring for Your Cat’s Coat and Skin
You should brush your cat one or two times a week. Brushing is beneficial to her fur, as it helps remove dirt, grease, and dead hair from her coat. A long-haired cat especially benefits from being brushed to help her avoid matted fur and tangles. An added benefit of brushing is that it helps remove shedding fur that could lead to hairballs that form when a cat self-grooms and ingests excess fur. Brushing also removes dry flakes of skin and stimulates blood circulation, which contributes to the overall health of her skin.
How to Bathe Your Cat
If your kitty ever needs a bath, be prepared. It may be a challenge, as most cats don’t like water, although there are some exceptions to the rule. If you’re unsure if your cat is one of those rare water-loving felines, proceed with caution, and follow these steps to maximize your chances of a successful bathtime.
The Un-Dirty Dozen:
- Tucker him out. Play with your cat before attempting bath time. A few rounds with the laser pointer, fishing-pole toy, catnip mice, or any other favorite playthings can wear him out and make him a little easier to handle.
- Make sure your cat’s claws have been clipped recently before trying to bathe him in case he panics due to a fear of water.
- Brush him before bathing to remove loose hair and untangle any matted fur.
- Gently put cotton balls in his ears to keep water out.
- Place a rubber bath mat in the sink or bathtub to avoid slipping.
- Add only a few inches of lukewarm water to the basin. Avoid cold or hot water.
- Avoid getting water in his eyes, ears, and nose. Use a spray hose attachment to get his fur wet. Use an unbreakable plastic cup or pitcher to gently laden on the water if you don’t have one.
- Don’t use human shampoo on your cat, as it can dry out his skin. Use a solution of one part cat shampoo to five parts water, and gently massage it into your cat’s coat. Apply the diluted shampoo mixture in the direction of his hair growth, working it in from head to tail. Take care to avoid getting shampoo on his face or in his ears, eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Thoroughly rinse out all the shampoo, again using lukewarm water from a hose, cup, or pitcher. Ensure all the solution is washed out, as any residue can irritate his skin and attract dirt.
- Use a washcloth dampened with plain water to wipe his face, taking care around his eyes and ears. If your cat’s face is filthy, you can further dilute the cat shampoo mixture with more water and then wipe his face with a washcloth soaked in the solution. Follow that by wiping his face clean with a washcloth wet with only plain water to make sure no shampoo residue remains.
- Wrap your cat up in a towel, and dry him off in a warm, cozy spot, away from any drafts. If he’s not afraid of the noise, you can use a blow dryer on the lowest heat setting to speed up the drying time. However, if you have a long-haired cat, you may need to use a wide-toothed comb to detangle his fur carefully.
- After the bath is done, reward your cat with his favorite treats, and lavish him with praise. While you’re at it, pat yourself on the back for a job well done!
Note: If your cat is very resistant, too scared, or becomes combative around bathing, don’t hesitate to take her to a groomer instead. Don’t feel bad because it’s not your fault. Some cats are terrified of water or any unfamiliar experience and are harder to groom. Your veterinarian may also help by prescribing calming medication if you want to try again at home. Many vets also have in-house grooming services. So, put your mind at ease if it’s something you’re unable to do on your own. You do so much else for your beloved furbaby!
If you live in NW Wisconsin, Purple Cat Mobile Vet Clinic is here to help you keep your cat healthy and happy. We’re a high-quality, high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic. We see cats exclusively. Find information for scheduling on our www.purplecatvet.com website. You can also look on our Facebook page for more helpful information on all things feline!