Grooming isn’t just about keeping your cat looking great – it’s also an important part of maintaining your cat’s overall health. Keeping your cat’s mouth, teeth and fur healthy and clean can be easy if you develop a few simple habits. The best way to approach this is to start early – get into the habit of grooming when your cat is still a kitten, so that he or she can get accustomed to your routines.
KEEP YOUR CAT’S NAILS TRIM
Why: There’s a chance your cat is one of the few who wear their nails down naturally during day-to-day activities, but it’s more likely that you’ll need to clip your cat’s nails. There are a lot of problems associated with nails that are too long, like discomfort, unhealthy nails and joint issues.
How-to: Make this as positive of an experience as you possibly can. Give your cat special treats and hold him or her securely. For the first few clipping sessions, only go for one or two paws, and then take a break. If at any point your cat resists or seems agitated, no worries: just try again another day.
Start by holding your cat securely and massaging his or her paws. Use nail clippers specifically made for cats – you can purchase these at pet stores – and clip the white part of your cat’s nails. The pink part of the nail is called the quick. It has nerves and veins inside, so avoid trimming too close to it.
How Often: Keep an eye on your cat’s nails, and watch out for any unwanted scratching. A general guideline to follow is waiting sometime between ten days and two weeks to clip your cat’s nails.
BRUSH YOUR CAT’S FUR
Why: Taking care of your cat’s coat does more than keep up appearances – it’s crucial for cats’ overall health to have healthy fur. Brushing can help prevent problems like dandruff, hairballs and matting.
How-to: This can be an enjoyable activity for you and your cat – approach your cat while he or she is resting, and gently stroke the fur with your hand before using the comb or brush. (Generally, combs are better for longer-haired cats and brushes are better for shorter-haired cats.) Remove dead hair by brushing first against the direction of the hair growth, and then with the growth. Keep the brush clean to avoid knots in your cat’s fur.
How Often: There are some cats that require less frequent brushing and grooming than other breeds, while other cats require weekly or even daily grooming.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR CAT’S DENTAL HEALTH
Why: Your cat’s dental health is more than just his or her teeth – it’s about the entire mouth. Taking care of your cat’s dental health will help protect against diseases like gingivitis, a common dental issue for cats that can result in tooth loss.
How-to: One part of dental health care is regularly checking in on your cat so you’ll know if there are any changes. The three things to check for are: unusual odors, gums that aren’t pink, and plaque or tartar on the teeth. If anything looks different than it usually does, it’s time to see a veterinarian.
Another part of dental health care is brushing your cat’s teeth regularly. If your cat seems comfortable with you brushing his or her teeth, buy some toothpaste made for cats at your pet store and sterile gauze strips or a soft rubber cat toothbrush.
Dip the toothbrush or a strip of gauze wrapped around your index finger into the cat’s toothpaste. Gently rub your finger or toothbrush in a circular motion on a tooth. Start with one or two teeth for the first session and increase the number of teeth cleaned per session as your cat gets used to the routine.
How Often: Ideally, you should brush your cat’s teeth every day – or at least twice weekly. If your cat resists or tries to escape when you try to clean his or her teeth, it’s okay to have professionals take care of it. Talk over a specific cleaning schedule with your veterinarian – and expect to at least take your cat in for an annual cleaning.