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Pet Health

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General Grooming of Cats

Grooming plays a very important part in caring for your cat. The grooming requirements vary from breed to breed, some requiring daily brushing and combing others less often. Most cats spend a large part of their day grooming themselves. However as they get older they find it harder to reach certain areas, so it is best to try and help your cat by assisting in the grooming process.

You should get your kitten accustomed to being groomed from a very early age. Gradually build up the amount of time you spend grooming your kitten until it is quite happy to allow you to brush it. Eventually the kitten will enjoy being groomed and will come to see it as part of its daily routine. If you approach grooming as a chore then so will your cat. It may even put up a bit of resistance resulting in grooming becoming a task you put off. When, as a kitten, your cat is used to being handled it makes it easier for the veterinary surgeon to carry out an examination. Your cat will know what to expect and there will be no nasty surprises. It also makes any visits to the surgery less stressful for both you and your cat.

When you are grooming your cat it is also an ideal time to check it over for any lumps and bumps. You can also check the skin, by parting the hair, to see if your cat has any skin problems such as fleas or any red, sore or inflamed areas that may require treatment. Also remember to check the cats eyes, ears, mouth, nose, feet and nails.

When checking the feet make sure the hair between the toes and pads is not matted. This hair can collect all sorts of debris, for example, mud, and even chewing gum has been found here. Obviously these must be removed as your cat will be very uncomfortable. The cat's claws should also be looked at, and if they are long they will need clipped. If you cat goes out this will not be necessary as it will probably keep them in trim itself, also outdoor cats need longer claws for protection and to be able to escape from certain situations. You should still check them though. Indoor cats should be provided with a scratching post for them to keep their claws short, it can help keep them off furniture and walls too. If their claws are too long they can catch on the carpet and other furnishings, sometimes the claw can be torn which is painful for the cat.

A cat's hair can be long or short with various degrees of coat type within these two classes.

Long coats need a lot of attention, grooming on a daily basis. Cats with this type of coat need to be brushed at least once a day. Use a wide toothed comb, this will remove any dead hair. When you encounter a matt or knot in the hair, tease it apart, using your fingers, gently and slowly from the root up. Try not to use scissors, but if you have to cut into the centre of the matt and try to tease it again using your fingers. If the cat becomes very matted you may have to have the cat shaved. This procedure is carried out by the veterinary surgeon as the cat will probably have to be sedated or even given a general anaesthetic. Long haired cats look very nice and fluffy but they do require a lot of grooming help from their owners. So if you decide that a long haired cat is for you then make sure you will have the time to put into it. All too often these cats have to attend the vet's because their coats are matted. This can be stressful for both cat and owner.

Short haired cats do not need as much time spent on their coats as the long haired varieties. You may only need to comb the cat thoroughly once a week. That said it may be better to spend a few minutes daily grooming your cat, than making it an issue once weekly. For shorthaired cats use a short toothed comb or a rubber brush to remove the dead hairs. Some of these short haired cats have delicate coats and skin so be careful when using combs and brushes that you are not damaging the cat in any way.

Before you actually start using a brush or comb on your cat, use your fingers to loosen the dead hairs, by going through the coat in the opposite way to the hair growth. Just like a massage. This helps to stimulate the natural oils in the skin that help to give a nice, healthy shine to the coat. After doing this then you can use the grooming equipment best suited for your cats' coat type.

Not all cats need a bath, in fact some will not tolerate it at all. Most cats are only bathed if they are going to be shown, or if on a shampoo treatment from the vet.

However if you must bath your cat it should be groomed first. By grooming first you will remove any unwanted hair and matts which will prevent the shampoo from getting through the coat. Also if you wet hair with knots it only gets worse and can be quite sore for the cat. Knotted hair twists and becomes more knotted, pinching the skin as it does so.

Bathing should not be done too often as this removes the natural oils from the skin. If you use shampoos not suitable for cats then you may damage the coat and skin. The oils that are in the coat are there for a reason, to help in  waterproofing and insulation.

If you are bathing your cat use the kitchen sink or bathroom basin. Make sure you put a non-slip mat on the bottom. Not only does this stop your cat from slipping and sliding, it also protects your sink or basin from being scratched. If your cat is wearing a collar remove it before bathing.

Remember to use shampoo that is suitable for your cat's skin. Do not use household soaps and cleaning liquids use a special cat shampoo. These cat shampoos also lather less and make it easier to rinse from the coat. This is a godsend if your cat doesn't like standing in the water for too long. The water for bathing your cat in should be the correct temperature, the same as the cat's body temperature. Make sure you wet the coat thoroughly before adding the shampoo. When wetting the coat you can help to steady the cat by gently putting your hand under the chin. Even then they may not stand too well: if that is the case them gently hold onto the two front legs with one hand while bathing with the other.

Talk to the cat to reassure it, it helps to keep everyone calm. Start shampooing at the top and work down. Firstly along the back and neck area then the tail and bottom, next the legs and feet. Lastly wash the head area, most cat shampoos don't cause much irritation if they get into the eyes, but do try to avoid doing this if possible. Sometimes it is easier to leave the head until the cat is out of the water. Use a facecloth and gently wash the face using clean, warm water and no shampoo.

Once you are sure that you have washed the cat all over then it is time to rinse. Again top to bottom. Repeat the rinsing process until you are sure that all the shampoo has been washed from the coat. Using your hands to gently squeeze the coat to get rid of the excess water.  When doing this pay particular attention to the parts that have more hair, legs and tail.

The next step is to dry the cat. Some cats will tolerate a hairdryer, but only if they have been accustomed to it from a very early age, others will have to be towel dried. If using a hairdryer remember to set it at a low heat and move it around, do not concentrate on one place for too long at a time. After drying one last groom will finish off the whole process of grooming and bathing your cat. If you are towel drying the cat then please keep it in a warm place until it is completely dry. Once the cat is completely dry, comb through the coat again, this will remove any hairs that were missed before bathing.

Bathing can be quite traumatic for all concerned and may need more than one pair of hands and a lot of patience. If you groom your cat regularly, and it has a healthy balanced diet, there should be no need for bathing as the coat will be glossy and healthy.

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