How to Groom a Cat

As to be expected from these independent felines, cats take care of most of their own grooming. One of the many fabulous things about our furry friends is that they are actually built that way.

A cat’s tongue has small spines that allow them to remove hair and dirt from their bodies. This, combined with their enviable flexibility, makes most aspects of self-grooming pet care a breeze. However, there are a few areas in which the savvy cat servant can help with cat grooming.

There are four essential aspects of cat  grooming that I will address in this article:

General brushing

Dematting

Bathing

Clipping nails

Just as it’s best for children to learn from an early age how to pour their parents wine, It’s also best to start grooming your cat from an early age; it allows your kitten to get used to the brushing and your touch helps to establish a bond early on.

siamese cat in bucket with cleaning products

Younger kittens are less experienced at grooming themselves, so they will benefit from your help. Older cats, who are less flexible than they used to be, might need extra help to reach certain places with cat grooming tools. Does this sound familiar, savvy servants?

Firstly, let’s start with the many benefits of why you should groom your cat. (Assuming they are in the mood and allow you to!)

⇒ Whilst you’re in a grooming and caring mood check out my Guide to the Best Cat Brush, Caring for Cats Guide and my quick Cat Check up.

long haired grey cat being combed

How to Groom a Cat: Benefits

  • Grooming your cat helps to improve their muscle tone. It also stimulates the skin to produce oils that give their coat a healthy shine.
  • Grooming provides you with the opportunity to give your cat a quick once over to ensure all is well
  • Your cat will remove some loose fur when grooming themselves but daily help from you can remove most of the loose hair and remove dirt. This helps to guard against matting and prevent the formation of the dreaded hairballs.

⇒ About to become a fur parent? Check out my Complete Guide to How to Look After a Kitten.

Grooming cat with tool for shedding hair.

How to groom a long haired cat

On a special note, for those of you who have medium to long-haired cats, they may benefit from extra grooming. They are more prone to matting than short-haired cats and so tend to require more grooming help. Shorter hair isn’t just lower maintenance for humans apparently.  

This goes without saying, but don’t attempt to groom your cat when she is in a Mariah Carey mood. Btw-did you know that one of Mariah’s special requests was ‘a bunch of kittens to play with’ because she was bored? Have we ever loved her more?  

Once your cat is relaxed and happy and has chosen to acknowledge your existence, you are ready to go. However, as grooming is a form of human touch, you need to be familiar with the areas your cat prefers to be touched before you start grooming your cat.

⇒ Check out my guides to the Best Cat Products and the Best Cat Litter

Grooming cat with tool for shedding hair.

The tummy area is a sensitive area for a cat, so a lot of cats prefer not to have this area touched. I figured this out the first time I tried to stroke my friend’s cat’s tummy and ended up with a hiss and a near-miss paw in my face.

If you would like to avoid having your eyes scratched out by your loved one, Battersea Dog and Cat home has some good advice on how to interact with your cat.

Another important reason to groom your cat is that it’s an opportunity to have a closer look to make sure all is well. Here are some things you should be looking out for when grooming your cat:

Check for skin problems

Whenever you brush, clip, or bathe your cat, check her skin for bumps, bald spots, or cuts. This can indicate health problems such as allergies or stress.

Cat itches on the street near the flower

 Some skin problems your cat may have are:

  • Parasitic infections from fleas, ear mites, or harvest mites
  • Fungal infections such as ringworm or yeast infections
  • Infections from excess bacteria on the skin
  • Viral infections such as feline cowpox
  • Feline acne or seborrhea
  • Immune disorders such as allergies and feline eosinophilic granuloma complex
  • Sun damage like skin cancer
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Drug reactions
  • Fur loss due to stress

⇒ Don’t miss my guide to buying Cat Walking products, the 7 Best Escape Proof Cat Harness options and the Best Carrier for Cats.

How to groom your cat

Now that we understand the ‘why’, and what to look out for,  let’s look at some tips on how the grooming should be done

Make sure the room or space is silent, relaxed, and free of other stimulations such as playing children, other pets or excessive noise

To begin, hold out the brush to your cat (as you would your hand) to see if they choose to sniff and rub their face against it to deposit their scent. This is their way of making the cat brush smell familiar to them.

Cat in a veterinary clinic hairdresser doing beauty care

It’s a good idea to groom your cat in short bouts as this will help them feel in control of the situation. Allow your cat to choose whether or not they would like to rub a certain part of their body on the brush first. This is particularly useful if you’re struggling with how to groom a cat’s belly.

Cats particularly enjoy being stroked around the face, so it is a good idea to start with a few strokes of the brush on the head and cheek areas before moving onto other parts of the body during your cat care.

Always groom in the direction of your cat’s fur. If your cat is comfortable or enjoying the grooming around the head region, move onto a few grooming strokes in between the shoulders and along the back.

Beautiful grey cat smiling while being brushed

Try using different cat combs and cat brushes, and choose ones that are appropriate for the length of your cat’s coat. Bristles can be hard, soft, wire, or pin, and you can also use grooming gloves that you wear over the hand.

Softer brushes tend to make cats more comfortable, so consider starting with soft brushes and working your way up to the harder ones, which tend to be more effective.

Keep brushes next to where your cat likes to nap so you can quickly seize the moment to groom your feline friend.

Use human toothbrushes for hard-to-reach areas such as the spots around the ears.

Grooming sessions should be as long or short as your cat is comfortable with. Remember to take the brush away every now and then and re-offer the brush to your cat as a way of checking that your cat is still comfortable for the grooming to continue

a vet brushing the teeth of a cat in studio

Give your cat treats afterwards so they will learn to associate grooming time with positive outcomes. Finicky felines are not against bribery.

If you’re wondering how to groom a cat that hates it check out this useful advice from Battersea Cats Home.

⇒ For all things fun with your kitty check out my guides to clothing for cats, the best toys for cats, great gifts for cats and my annual cat planner for kitty photo opportunities across the year.

How to Groom Your Cat: Dematting

If you haven’t been able to regularly groom your cat, or your cat is a fan of cross country trekking, you might notice some matting of her fur. If this is  somewhere sensitive, like her tummy, there are two options.

If your cat is comfortable with being touched there, you can tease it apart gently using your fingers from root to tip. If your cat is uncomfortable and you’re noticing that the matt is getting bigger, you should wait for a time when your cat is relaxed and comfortable before attempting to do a quick safe snip with some scissors, taking extra care to avoid your cat’s skin.

If you have a feeling that dematting your cat’s hair yourself is not going to put you two in a happy place, then it’s best to contact your vet and/or cat grooming services.

cat with scrub in bath tub

How to Groom Your Cat at home: Bathing

Just as it’s an urban myth that cats always land on their feet, it’s also a myth that they don’t like water. It is true , however, that they don’t like being submerged in water. Can we blame them?

Due to their built in grooming tools and fastidious self-grooming habits, regular grooming by brushing is usually sufficient. However, there will be times when your finicky feline friend needs a little extra help, like if she has come into contact with something sticky or smelly. That’s where the discriminating servant comes in!

Because, despite their exceptional hygiene methods, bathing is not high on their ‘must do’ list. If your cat gets oil or paint on herself, bathe her as soon as possible.

Cats are naturally inclined to lick themselves clean and you want to avoid this if you can. If your cat has a lot of oil on her fur, you may want to have your vet sedate and clean her.

Gray color cat and dog sitting together in a luxury tub in an upscale bathroom
Probably not the best idea!

Otherwise, to make this as stress free as possible for you and your loved one, make sure you have all essential supplies ready before bringing your cat in for a wash.

If your cat is especially finicky about being bathed, a gin and tonic for you might also count as an essential supply.  Other supplies that you need include:

Cat shampoo (and cat conditioner if necessary).

Towels.

Cat Comb, or cat brush for longer haired cats.

Jug or other container for rinsing.

Rubber mat or towel, placed in the sink or tub to prevent slipping.

Once you have assembled the necessary supplies (don’t skimp on the lime for the G&T, it really makes it) you can follow this guide for how to bathe your cat.

kitten in blue bowl with soap suds

How to bathe your Cat

Start by brushing your cat and getting rid of much dirt as possible. Then fill the bath or sink with just enough warm water to wash your cat

Sometimes food treats and/or the help of another person to hold your cat can make the bathing process easier for both you and your cat. If your cat is biting or scratching a lot during bathing, or appears to become distressed, stop bathing your cat and check with your vet for advice.

You might be able to get someone else more experienced such as your vet or a professional cat groomer to bathe your cat without issues.

Next, apply a small amount of cat shampoo and warm water to the dirty or stained area only. If you are washing the full body, avoid the head area and only soap up the rest of the body. This includes your cat’s neck, underside, and tail.

If you want to clean their face, use a damp towel to wipe it down. Never dunk your cat’s head into the water or splash water into their face. Only a damp towel should be used on your cat’s face and ears.

To rinse your cat, fill the jug with some warm water and cover your cat’s eyes and ears as you gently rinse the rest of their body. Repeat with a conditioner if you are using conditioner.

⇒ Check out my guides to the best treats for cats, high-calorie cat food and a complete cat feeding guide wet and dry food.

grey cat wearing a yellow towel turban

Make sure you rinse off any shampoo and conditioner thoroughly as you don’t want your cat to be swallowing any residue shampoo when they next groom themselves.

Finally, set your cat on a towel and allow them to shake off excess water. Help them along with towel drying rather than a hairdryer, as the sound might frighten your cat.

Cat Shampoos

Just because the models in the shampoo commercials have silky, shiny hair doesn’t mean it will do the same for your cat. Human shampoos will dry out their skin. For a water bath, use a cleansing and deodorising shampoo formulated with natural ingredients.

For cats with dry skin, try a dry skin and conditioning shampoo. Other types of shampoo that you might consider using depending on the condition of your feline friend’s coat are flea or tick control shampoos that have been designed specifically for cats, and shampoos for shedding and hairballs.

And, no, the one you use for your faithful companion (that’s a dog, by the way) will not work for your cat.

Little fluffy kitten's paw and woman finger for contrast close-up

Alternatives to Water Bathing

Getting a professional groomer to bathe your cat is one option if she absolutely hates baths, but another alternative is to use bath wipes specifically designed for cats.

These wipes are designed to clean your cat like a bath, but without the water. You can also use cat bath wipes to clean your cat in hard-to-reach areas, do spot cleaning if your cat’s fur has a dirty spot, or if your cat has been unable to groom herself due to illness.

When purchasing a cat bath wipe, always choose one with natural ingredients and without harsh chemicals. Do spot testing to make sure your cat isn’t allergic before using the wipe.

Although we love a shiny coat, only use these when necessary, as you can dry out your cat’s coat when you use them too often.

Clippers

The point of trimming your cat’s claws is to get rid of the sharp points. This not only reduces the risk of damage to your furniture, but it allows you to play with your cat without the risk of becoming a human pin cushion.

Master of grooming haircut makes gray Persian cat on the table for grooming on a white background

Taking the sharp ends off helps her avoid the pain of having sore, broken claws that can result from a sharp tip getting caught in carpet or other things around the house. As most other areas when it comes to grooming, you can attempt it yourself, or let the vet handle it.

How to Groom a Cat with Clippers

When buying a nail clipper, make sure you choose a quality one that is the right size and specifically made for cats.

Similarly to brushing your cat, you should first allow your cat to get used to the nail clipper.  Let her smell the cat nail clippers. If your cat has been exposed to clippers she was a kitten, then she will be used to the process and it will be much easier.

If you’re starting off clipping an older cat, make sure you complete the process gradually. Start by getting your cat used to you touching and handling their paws. Make sure they are used to sitting in your lap and feel comfortable with your touch.

Gently touch their paws. At any sign of negative body language, such as ears folding back, moving tail, or other signs of tension, stop until cat relaxes again. Once you have reached the stage where they are comfortable with you touching their paws, you can progress to pressing on their paw gently to expose their nails.

cats nails being clipped

Another tip is to wrap her in a towel to prevent her from scratching and/ or ask a friend to hold your cat while you clip her nails.  Give her a treat for a successful nail clipping session.

And, remember that your cat needs to scratch to maintain the health of her paws. Offer her a scratching post and check her paws for wounds.

If you’d like to see a cat grooming video on the correct procedure, please check out this one from the RSPC.

Long haired adult black and white cat while grooming procedure

Due to their tendency to be self-sufficient, cats don’t require huge amounts of care. However, they will certainly appreciate your extra attention when helping them stay fresh, healthy and happy when it comes to their grooming.

As most things in life, little and often is the key here. Oh yes, and to make sure they are in a good mood when attempting any of the above.

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click through on most of the links and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. This will not effect the price that you pay. I wanted to make sure that you were aware of this.

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