Grooming is a matter of health just as much as it is a matter of looks. All cats will benefit from grooming, regardless of the length of their coat. Although the longhair breeds require daily attention, the shorthair varieties will benefit from a good brushing twice a week. Most cats shed their coat in spring and fall, but dry heat in winter, sickness or stress also can cause a cat to drop coat. Grooming the cat during the shedding season will help to remove the dead hair. It will also lessen the risk of hair balls, which can form in the cat’s stomach and intestines if it swallows hair when licking itself.
It is especially important to groom kittens daily, because often their coat is of a cottony texture that mats and tangles very easily. The kitten will quickly become accustomed to being combed and brushed.
Assemble all your grooming tools: a good steel comb that has teeth of two sizes, a fine-toothed or flea comb, nail clippers, a grooming brush made with natural bristle, and baby powder. Before starting, run your fingers through the entire coat. Longhair cats will enjoy this sensation and relax. Then run the wide-toothed section of the steel comb lightly through the fur from head to tail. Comb under the chin, chest, stomach, inside the legs, and under the tail. Occasionally, add a sprinkling of baby powder. Then use a small-toothed or flea comb for the fine fur around the face and ears, combing forward carefully toward the nose. If for some reason the coat has become badly matted, the only answer is to take the cat to the vet, who can give it a tranquilizer, and clip the cat down to the skin.
A fine-toothed or flea comb will remove most of the dead hair. All the shorthair breeds will appreciate hand-grooming. Stand the cat on a table and stroke the animal briskly from head to tail with your bare hands, finish off the grooming with a rubdown.
There are shampoos and conditioners that will enhance the different coat textures in the various breeds, it is wise to try out various brands to see how the coat will react. First, assemble all your grooming equipment, plus shampoo, conditioning or white vinegar, two large towels, a washcloth, and a hair dryer. Before you start the bath, clip the claws on all four feet, being careful to remove only the very tip of the claw. You will see that a vein runs through the claw; it will be most painful for the cat if you cut it. Wash the cat’s face first before the bath, cleansing the eyes and inside the outer ear with a washcloth wrung out in a mixture of warm water and a little baby shampoo has been added. Rinse by wiping several times with warm water only. If a medicated or flea shampoo is used, a small amount of Vaseline or mineral oil should be put in the cat’s eyes as a precaution. Dry the face with a towel and proceed with the bath.
Half fill the laundry tub or sink with warm water. Then, holding the cat’s two front feet in one hand and supporting body with the other hand, gently lower the cat into the water. Many cats are afraid of the sounds of water rather than the water itself, so avoid unnecessary splashing. You may find that the cat will feel more secure if it stands with its front feet over the edge of the tub. Wet the coat thoroughly all over, except the face, being careful not to get water in the eyes or ears. Remove the cat from the sink and stand it on a small table or counter top. Next, apply the shampoo and work the lather through the coat. Rinse thoroughly, using a sink hose or by pouring cups of water over the coat. If a conditioning is used, dilute it first with warm water for easier distribution. Rinse again until the coat is squeaky clean, then gently squeeze out the excess water and wrap the cat in a large towel. Blot the coat with the towel and do not rub, since this will tangle the hair. Change towels and blot dry again. Set the hair dryer for medium heat, holding the hair dryer about a foot away, keep it moving over the cat as you start to dry the coat, being careful not to blow air in the cat’s face and ears. Using the wide-toothed end of the comb, flip the hair up and out from the body as it dries. Keep the cat out of drafts. It can take up to 24 hours to dry completely. It is essential to keep your pet’s coat free from fleas and other parasites, and an occasional bath with a good flea shampoo may be necessary. Read the label, to be sure that is safe for cats.
After the bath, check the ears to see that they are dry and that there is no sign of dark, crumbly residue, since this could be a sign of ear mites and would necessitate a visit to the vet. Clean the ears with a cotton swab but do not go deeply, since this can cause damage.
White cats can quickly develop yellow stains and may require extra attention. It’s better to clean the problem areas daily than to have a buildup of stain that can be difficult to remove. The areas around the eyes can be cleaned by washing the cat’s face with a damp cloth. Front paws and bib area, may be rubbed gently with cornstarch to absorb the stain, then brushed off. For urine stains under the tail and stubborn stains, make a paste of cornstarch and peroxide, being careful not to get any of the paste near the eyes and nose. Wash the cat off and dry it.