Most cats will spend a significant part of their day grooming themselves. Their bodies are so flexible and supple, they can reach all parts with ease. They also have backward pointing spines on their tongues – basically a built in comb!
Moulting occurs in cats throughout the year and grooming helps remove this loose hair. However, much of the hair is actually swallowed by the cat. This then becomes impacted and either passes through the digestive system or is vomited up as a hairball.
Grooming performs the following important functions for a cat:
- Removes loose hair
- Regulates temperature in hot weather as the saliva on the coat evaporates and causes cooling
- It helps spread the oils and therefore helps keep the coat waterproof
- The cat also gets vitamin D from these oils
- The cats scent is spread all over the body
- Rids the coat of parasites
- It maintains strong social bonds when cats (or human/cat) groom each other.
If you get involved and brush or comb your cat on a regular basis, your cat, regardless of coat length, will reap these benefits:
- Improved muscle tone
- Stimulate the skin to produce oils and make the coat shiny
- Less fur will be swallowed
- The whole process can be very therapeutic for both owner and cat, and a positive way of nurturing the bond between you
- Gives you an opportunity to do a quick physical health check on your feline friend. Look at the eyes, ears, teeth and gums (by just raising a lip on each side). Look at the nails and check for any signs of parasites. Ticks and fleas are particularly active during spring and summer. Run your hands gently over your cat, under its chin, around its body and down each limb if they will let you! You can pick up lumps and bumps this way and little bean shaped ticks which burrow into your cats skin. For further advice on removing ticks >
So, back to the grooming!
Start grooming as young as you can. If you have a kitten, use a soft brush to begin with so your kitty gets used to the sensation. Always give your cat a reward after it has tolerated a brush stroke. He will soon learn to associate the brush with something nice. Build the time up gradually. Your moggy will let you know when they’ve had enough, but don’t push it! It’s always best to end the session on a good note.
Once a small soft brush has been accepted, you can experiment with what type of brush and comb suits you both best. Cats are individuals and some will like one type and some another. Here is a list of some of the types you might try:
- Narrow or wide toothed metal comb
- Rubber groomer with large spaced prongs
- Plastic tipped wire brush
- Rubber mitten with pimples on it
Short haired cats as we have mentioned will still get all the above benefits from you grooming them, but if they won’t tolerate it they will manage without. It is essential, however, to groom longer haired cats to stop their coat getting matted. A matted coat leads to skin irritation and disease long term, and is very uncomfortable and debilitating for your cat.
GOLDEN RULE: Deal with any matts when they appear and are small. Once they get too big, they become much more difficult to sort out.
A note about older cats
As cats get older, they can get arthritis just like the rest of us. This affects their flexibility and ultimately their ability to groom themselves all over. Without the help of their owner, even short haired cats will develop matts which can cover large areas of the skin. It is not always possible to tease out these matts and sometimes we do have to use a sedative in order to clip the matts off. This is much less painful and avoids tearing the skin.
If you notice any matting of your cat’s fur that you cannot deal with yourself, please speak to your vet who will be able to discuss options for grooming with you. The other thing that happens to our older felines, is that they lose their ability to keep their nails short. The outer layer grows thick and the claw can eventually dig into the flesh of the toe itself causing infection and pain. If you notice this happening you must seek veterinary attention and make a note that your cat’s claws will need to be clipped every 6 weeks from now on.
Don’t forget, members of the Healthy Pet Club receive free nail clipping as part of their membership, plus many more benefits. Find out more here >