Cat Grooming and Bathing
Although most cats spend a lot of time grooming themselves, they still benefit from the additional grooming you can give them. Your grooming helps keep your cat healthy and looking good, reduces shedding and damage from scratching, and give you a chance to check in regularly with your pet’s condition to detect any physical problems like fleas, ticks or tumors.
Brushing and combing
Frequency of brushing or combing depends on the type of cat you’ve got – a Persian requires it every day, but your shorthaired tabby tomcat may only want to see a brush every other week or so. In either case, use a good, soft cat brush to keep kitty’s fur from matting and reduce excess shedding. The skin beneath the fur is sensitive, so make sure the bristles are not too stiff or harsh. As an alternative to a brush, you mightconsider a grooming glove, which you wear on your hand to “pet” kitty’s coat – it will massage your cat's skin and remove loose hair; some cats prefer this method. If you encounter any small mats, comb gently through them with a steel cat comb, taking care not to rake the skin with the comb’s teeth. If the mat is too severe to respond to gentle combing, cut it out carefully with scissors then comb the area gently until all traces of tangles are removed. Bear in mind that mats can be quite painful, (especially to a longhaired kitty) so be very patient and gentle as you work, and if your cat decides abruptly that the grooming session is over, don’t press the issue – you can resume your mat removal efforts the next time.
You’ll also want to trim kitty’s nails periodically to keep them healthy and reduce household damage from overly sharp claws. Read more on nail trimming.
Most cats can thankfully keep themselves quite clean and may never require bathing (short of a headfirst fall into a bucket of paint), but for the rest, bathing will keep the coat clean and reduce parasite infestation or other skin problems. For cats who will be bathed, get them used to the bathing process as kittens for best results.
Make sure you’re working in a warm, draft-free room – kitty’s coat is not designed for wetness, and any cool air will cause your skinny, wet little pet to shiver from the exposure. Give kitty’s coat a good brushing before the bath to brush out any loose hairs. Then, fill the sink with warm water and partly submerge him until the water is around his shoulders. Speak gently to him all the while, as kitty will probably be horrified at first by what you’re doing. Always maintain a firm hold on the cat and be prepared in case he tries to make a break for it when he feels he’s had enough. If kitty has particular skin issues or has a very greasy coat, you can ask your vet to recommend a shampoo that fits your cat’s coat description. Otherwise, any mild, tearless cat shampoo will do.
Start the shampooing on kitty’s head; putting a small amount of shampoo on a wet washcloth, gently wash around the edges of the face, taking care not to get any shampoo or water in the eyes or mouth. Rinse the cloth and go over the same areas to remove the soap – don’t get any water in the cat’s ears, and never pour water over the head.
Next, shampoo the cat’s body; when it’s time to rinse, you’ll be draining the sink and refilling it with fresh warm water. You may want to remove kitty while refilling the sink; some cats are terrified by being too near to running water.
Use a cup or dish hose to thoroughly rinse off the shampoo with clear warm water, staying away from the head and eyes. Repeat the rinsing process at least two or three times or until all soap residue is gone.
Next, towel-dry him gently; a single-coated or dense shorthaired cat only needs a good towel-drying and can be kept in a warm room until he’s completely dry. A longer haired cat needs to be combed out and (ideally) blown-dry. If the prospect of blowdrying is too terrifying for the both of you, just allow longhaired kitty to air dry and brush him out gently once more when fully dry.
If kitty makes the bathing process absolutely impossible, cat shampoo is available in a powder or foam form, which makes bathing easier since these options don’t require any water. Either of these are a good choice if your cat refuses to be bathed, although the cleaning (or medicating) benefits are limited compared to an old-fashioned warm water bath.