How To Groom a Cat


Grooming your cat is a great way to keep hair away from your furniture and food. It can also help your cat develop a bond with you, and allow you to check your cat closely for health issues.

When combing, move the comb in the direction the hair is growing. Cat’s hairs generally grow downwards. However while brushing, move in the opposite direction, i.e. towards the skin. Only the tips of the nails should be clipped, otherwise it will cause injuries.

Grooming also includes clipping your cat’s nails and checking for health issues. I’ve mentioned all the steps to groom your cat in detail below.

Why You Need to Groom Your Cat

Grooming your cat helps keep the hair from tangling and prevents excessive hairball formation. Since you will be looking at the fur and skin closely at a regular basis, grooming also alerts you to the presence of ticks, lumps and wounds in the skin. Catching these problems early on means you can treat them quickly, and before they get too serious.

It is a myth that cats groom themselves. They do lick themselves, sure. But that by itself is not grooming by any means. If you regularly groom your cat, you are also keeping your home a lot cleaner. For instance, if the cat is left to lick itself without any input from you, it will lick and ingest all the loose and dead hair. Afterwards, it will remove it at random places in the form of hairballs. If you remove these hairs with a comb and brush, your cat will throw up hairballs a lot less frequently.

When You Should Brush or Comb Your Cat

Depending on your cat’s coat length, the frequency of combing your cat will change. I’ve mentioned how often to comb and brush your cat based on the coat length below.

It is best to start combing and brushing cats when they are tiny kittens, even before they are weaned, which is about 1 month of age. When they are handled regularly since such a young age, they don’t grow up to be afraid of or aggressive towards humans. They have a very pleasant temperament.

Cats need to be brushed and combed throughout their lives. Special care needs to be given to young kittens and senior adults, as both will be unable to keep themselves properly clean.

Tips to Groom Cats that Dislike Being Groomed

If you are just starting to groom your cat regularly, keep the combs, brushes and other equipment close to where your cat usually takes a nap. This way you can quickly grab a comb or brush and work on a small area of the body. Working little by little everyday will get your cat used to grooming, and it should allow you to groom it properly in a few days.

If the cat is uncomfortable with the brushes and combs, you can try using softer brushes and combs in the beginning. While they are not as effective as the harder ones, they will get your cat used to being groomed. You can use the harder brushes later.

Groom your cat in a room that is free from noise and too much movement, like playing children.

Always end your grooming sessions with a treat and / or cuddling the cat. This will make it associate grooming time with positive experiences.

How to Brush and Comb Your Cat

If you groom your cat regularly, it can be done in a way that is comfortable for both you and your cat. Your cat may even end up enjoying the grooming sessions! You should be slow with your movements, and brush all areas one by one. These areas include behind the arms, the back legs, tummy, tail and back.

If your cat tries to resist being groomed, leave it alone. Forcing your cat to sit for grooming will only make it more skittish or worse, angry. Just groom one or two parts of the body in one sitting, and do it several times a day, if your cat is comfortable.

Brushing and combing the fur of your cat regularly will help in keeping its coat in good condition. Brushing and combing help with removing dirt that is attached to the hair, spreading the natural skin oils evenly throughout the coat, preventing tangles and matting, and avoiding itching on the skin.

Combing a Shorthair Cat

You only need to comb shorthair cats once a week. You will need a metal comb to comb the fur from head to tail. While combing, go in the direction of the hair. The hairs of a cat usually flow downwards, so you should move the comb in a downward direction as well.

Brushing a Shorthair Cat

While brushes are made of many materials, a metal brush is best to remove any dead and loose hair. You need to move the brush in the opposite direction to the hair flow. If the hair are flowing downwards, the brush needs to be moved in an upward direction. Be gentle and slow with the brush, and if it gets stuck where hair are clumped together, do not pull it with force. Doing so will only hurt your cat and make it aggressive. A shorthair cat needs to be brushed only once a week.

Cats generally dislike being touched on their bellies and tails, so be extra gentle when combing or brushing there.

Combing a Longhair Cat

A longhair cat needs to be brushed every day. Combing every daywith a metal comb will go a long way in preventing excessive hair fall around the house. Even hairballs will be reduced. Matting can become a big problem if longhair cats aren’t combed regularly as they are very painful to the cat and accumulate dirt as well. The comb needs to be moved in the same direction as the hair flow, which is usually downwards.

Brushing a Longhair Cat

Longhair cats can be brushed once or twice a week. Using a metal brush, move in the opposite direction to the hair’s natural flow. This will help in getting more of the dead and loose hair. Be gentle when brushing the belly and tail areas, and never pull the brush with force if it gets stuck.

If matting (clumping of hair) does occur, use your fingers to gently and slowly untangle the hairs. This can take a while depending on how mush area is affected. If it is taking too long and your cat isn’t used to sitting in one place for extended periods of time, give the cat breaks and untangle the fur little by little. Remember, the cat needs to be comfortable while grooming, or else it won’t allow you to groom it the next time.

Bathing Your Cat

Since cats are generally clean creatures, they can be left without bathing for a few weeks at a time. However, there are certain situations when you will need to bathe your cat. I’ve mentioned situations when you need  to bathe your cat here.

Bathing is an integral part of your cat’s grooming routine. I’ve written a detailed guide on how to bathe your cat over here.

Skin Problems in Cats

Your cat’s skin is an indication of its overall health. If there is an issue with the skin, your cat will start scratching itself, licking or chewing its skin. There are many things that can affect your cat’s skin – external parasites, stress, allergies, and dirty skin, to name the most common issues.

Symptoms of Skin Issues in Cats

  1. Constant scratching, licking or chewing the skin.
  2. Scabs, scaly patches, redness or swelling on the skin.
  3. Dry and flaky skin. Cats can get dandruff too!
  4. Cracks on the skin, from which blood or pus is coming out.
  5. Excessive shedding of hair.

If you can see these symptoms, your cat could be suffering from one or more of the following. It is best to show your cat to a vet, the information given below is just for you to get an idea of what could be wrong. Don’t try to diagnose or treat the issues on your own.

Ringworm: Despite its name, it has nothing to do with worms. It is a highly contagious skin infection that causes scaly patches and hair loss. Sometimes no signs are seen, but usually lesions can be seen on the head, ears and paws.

Fleas: Fleas are tiny insects that live on the skin of cats and dogs. They can spread from one cat to another, or from digs to cats and vice versa. Symptoms include excessive scratching, thinning of hair and crusty skin. If it is confirmed that your cat has a flea problem, and you have other cats or dogs in the house as well, you will need to treat all the cats and dogs simultaneously.

Other external parasites: Apart from Fleas there are other external parasites that are quite common. These include Lice, Ear Mites and Mange Mites. Lice cause intense itching, Ear Mites live in and around the ears and cause itching and redness in that area. Mange mites cause itching and flaking.

Allergies: Cats can be allergic to dust or excessive pollution. They can also have seasonal allergies, from mold, pollen, or certain trees and grasses. Or, they could be allergic to certain foods, just like humans. Many cats’ skins get dry and flaky in the winter. They could be allergic to some ingredients like Aloe Vera or some chemicals in grooming products.

Bacterial and viralinfections: Cats are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections, just like humans.

Tumors: There are different types of tumors that can affect cats. A lump in the skin could be a tumor.

Anxiety: A stressed-out cat will probably lick of chew on its skin and hair.

How to Prevent Skin Problems in Cats

Perhaps the most underrated way to avoid any health issues with cats is to keep them in a calm and comfortable environment. Cats are great at hiding illnesses and uneasiness, so by the time it is showing you behavioural signs, the issue could have gotten serious. Use soaps and shampoos that are specifically recommended for use on cats. Prefer the ones that contain natural ingredients, as opposed to chemicals. Comb, brush and bathe your cat regularly to prevent dirt and grease from building up on the skin.

Feeding your cat a healthy, balanced diet is also important. Don’t just stick to one brand of cat food. Feed a variety of cat food from various reputed brands, and also offer meat once in a while. Deworm your cat and treat for external parasites regularly, even if you don’t see any symptoms. Keep your cat’s surroundings clean and free from dust. If your cat prefers to sit / sleep on a specific couch, bed or rug, clean and vacuum it more often.

I’ll say this again. If you notice any of the health issue symptoms, take your cat to the vet first! It is easy to misdiagnose an issue, and potentially give the wrong medicine, which will cause more harm than good.

Clipping Your Cat’s Nails

Cats love to scratch things – they will scratch your furniture, curtains, the scratching posts that you give them, and even your pants! Since you want to keep your furniture / clothes safe and be safe from scratches yourself too, you should clip the nails of your cat. Just to be clear, I am not talking about declawing. Declawing should never be done as it causes unnecessary pain to your cat. It’s like removing the top part from your finger.

Nail clipping, on the other hand, is just like cutting your nails. When done properly, it is over quickly and doesn’t hurt at all.

How to Clip Your Cat’s Nails

If you’ve never clipped your cat’s nails before, you will need to get it used to being touched on its feet. Spend some time every day cuddling with your cat. While cuddling, rub your hand and fingers on the feet and paws. Gently press each digit on each toe. There are 5 digits on each front leg, and 4 on each rear leg. Keep playing with its legs every day for a week, and your cat will allow you to clip the nails without being fussy.

You can buy nail clippers specially designed for cats and dogs, or even use a human nail clipper. Just be sure to buy a new one and don’t use the same clipper that you use for hygiene purposes. The human nail clipper will just have to be held vertically, instead of horizontally.

Gently press the digits on the paws one by one. The claws will get extended, and you can work on them easily. The nails (claws) of a cat are curved like hooks. They have a fleshy part called ‘quick’ inside their claws. As you can see in the image above, the quick is the pink part that can be visible through the claw. This part should never be cut, as it is very painful to the cat and will cause a lot of bleeding. You need to cut the part of the claw after the quick ends. If you’re not sure where the quick ends, just cut the very tip of the claw.

If you are going to bathe the cat or take it to a cat show, clip the nails 2 days prior. This is because when you clip the nails, the part of nail that remains also has jagged edges. When the cat will play and scratch the scratch post over 2 days, the jagged edges will get filed down and become smooth.

How to Check Your Cat for Health Issues While Grooming

You can easily check your cat for any apparent health issues while cuddling and playing with them every day. If you notice any of the below mentioned symptoms, you should show the cat to a vet before trying to give any medication. Here is a quick guide on what you need to look for:

Ears

Look in and around your cat’s ears for dirt, excessive wax build-up, bleeding, pus, other discharge, redness or sores. It can be difficult to see ear mites themselves, but they produce a reddish-brown liquid in the ear, which may also be smelly. Cats with ear mites also scratch their ears a lot.

A small amount of earwax is fine, but it should not be smelly. You can also check for any tears, marks, swelling or redness in the ear’s interior.

Eyes

A cat’s eyes must be clear and have an alert look in them. There shouldn’t be any excess discharge or swelling around the eyes. A small amount of discharge is normal.

Nose

Look for any ulcers, marks or wounds on the nose. Minor wounds should be healed in a week or so. You can also touch the nose and feel for any bumps or swelling. A healthy nose is moist and smooth. Excessive discharge could also be an issue.

Mouth

The teeth need to be white, clean and without any chips or cracks in them. The gums should be pink and of an even colour. If your cat will allow you to, look at the inside of the mouth. Check for any swelling, ulcers or unusual markings.

There shouldn’t be any bad odour coming from the mouth. You can use toothbrushes that are specially made for cats and finger toothbrushes to clean your kitty’s teeth. Special toothpastes are also available for cats. Don’t use toothpaste meant for humans.

Before attempting to brush your cat’s teeth, first get it comfortable with you putting your fingers in its mouth. Or else, it will most likely bite you. While cuddling, stroke the mouth area every day for a few days. Then, place the toothbrush inside the mouth and move it around slowly for some time a few days. After about a week or 8-10 days, you cat should be comfortable with the toothbrush being placed in its mouth. Then you can begin brushing its teeth.

Respiration

You can also sometimes notice respiratory issues just by observing your cat. The breathing should be effortless and in a pattern. Erratic breathing, wheezing or seeming to be short of breath are potential alarm bells.

Body

Check the skin for lumps, swelling, wounds, scaling, or redness. Rub your hands all over the body while cuddling. If your cat screams in pain or shows any other signs of pain when you touch a specific area, it is obviously a problem. Keep in mind, however, that most cats dislike being touched on the tail and tummy. So they might make a sound to warn you even if it’s not hurting them.

How to Clean Your Cat’s Ears

There are many liquid ear cleaners available that are specially made for cats. Your vet will help with choosing an effective brand. Pour some of the liquid onto a small cotton ball or piece of gauze. Hold the cat’s ear upright and use the wet cotton / gauze to clean all dirt from the ear’s interior. Be careful not to go too deep into the ear though, as that can cause damage to the ear. Use an outward motion to sort of ‘pull’ the dirt outwards. Going too deep will only push the dirt inside.

Syed Baseeruddin Hyder

I’ve been keeping fish and invertebrates in aquariums for over 5 years. Over the years, I’ve kept more than 15 different species of fish and invertebrates. Through ParadiseInATank.com, I hope to guide new and experienced fish keepers alike with as detailed information as I can get.

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