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Grooming Your Cat

By: Kitty Angell

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Believe it or not, most cats need a little help with their grooming – and owners should pay attention to their cats' eyes, ears and coat.

Whether purebred or mixed breed, a key to good grooming lies in the length of a cat's coat. A cat with a very short, single coat similar to the Siamese, Burmese and Cornish rex needs very little grooming. The dense-coated shorthaired cats like American shorthairs, British shorthairs and Scottish folds require a monthly grooming session. Semi-longhaired cats resembling Maine coons should be combed and bathed even more regularly. Cats with long, flowing coats resembling the Persian should be combed and have their faces cleaned at least every other day, and they should be bathed weekly or bi-weekly. Their ears should also be cleaned.

Combing and Brushing Your Cat

The coat is the biggest grooming hurdle and can fall prey to shedding, a greasy consistency and mats (clumps of matted hair that are anchored to your cat's coat). Remember to comb gently from front-to-back and reassure your cat with a soothing voice. Do this as much as needed to keep shedding and knots to a minimum. The proper combs and brushes can help.

Belgian greyhound combs or just "greyhound combs" are the best to use with longhaired cats. Many of these combs have a coloured anti-static coating and goes through matts very easily. www.greyhoundcomb.com. Sometimes vendors at cat shows carry them. Peak Pro Tech combs can be ordered from veterinary catalogs and are comparable to the greyhound comb. The best size to use with longhaired cats and cats with dense coats is a 7.5-inch-by-one-inch comb that has both coarse and fine teeth. Combs that are 4.5 inches by one inch are good for all breeds. Those come in "fine/fine," "coarse/coarse" and "coarse/fine" teeth.

Pin brushes are good for longhaired coats, as are boar's hair bristle brushes. Boar's hair bristle brushes work well with dense-coated shorthaired cats also. The type of brush used depends on how well it does with the individual coat. A rubber curry brush is best for single, close-coated cats.

Taking Care of Mats

The dreaded mat can form on even the most well-groomed cats, especially during seasonal shedding. If you find these clumps of dried, tangled hair in your cat's fur, never try to cut them out because you could slip and cut your cat's skin. It is better to work out a mat with a grooming comb.

With one hand, try to hold the hair as close to its base as possible without pulling directly on the cat's skin. Hold the grooming comb in your other hand and use the tip to pick at the mat gently until it begins to loosen up. As it starts to break apart from the coat, it can easily be combed out. Repeat as necessary.

Cleaning Your Cats Eyes

Eye matter can be a problem in big-eyed, short-nosed cats – breeds like the Persian that have that "mushed-in" look to their faces. The large eye openings and the small distance from the tear ducts to the nose in these cats create an area for more tearing to occur than usual. Rather than pooling into tear ducts, the tears spill over the lower eyelids. Once the tears come in contact with air, they are "oxidized" and turn brown, staining the area below the eyes and creating a glue-like substance that needs to be cleaned out to keep the area healthy and the cat comfortable.

To clean the eyes use a soft washcloth or a cotton square dipped in tepid water. Hold your cat's head and wipe the damp cloth gently across her lower eyelid. Be careful not to rub the eyeball directly. Let the moisture soften the eye matter and then go back and wipe again. Make sure you use a fresh section of the cloth each time.

Bathing Your Cat

Sometimes greasy coats, allergies and plain old dirt require a cat to have a good bath. This can be tricky because cats usually don't like water. It is best to introduce a cat to bathing as a kitten so that baths become less stressful with time.

The process requires a medicated baby shampoo and a good animal shampoo manufactured by a company such as Lambert-Kay, Ring 5, Tomlyn or Vita-coat. Experiment with various brands to see what works best for your kitty. It is also a good idea to buy mild eye drops or ointments from your veterinarian to guard against soap getting into your cat's eyes. You may also need a wetting agent, a de-greaser and a conditioner to release the tangles in your cat's coat. Use a sprayer attachment for rinsing and keep towels nearby. To bathe and dry your cat, follow these steps:

  • Apply mild eye drops or ointment to the eyes to protect them from soap.

  • Fill the sink with tepid water and, if possible, add around three capfuls of a wetting agent like Shaklee's Basic H (which is non-toxic). Place your cat in the water. Using a plastic cup, pour this water mixture over the cat's body until the hair starts to part and the hair shaft becomes wet all the way to the skin. Do not get water in your cat's ears and never pour water over the head

  • Drain the water from the sink. To cleanse kitty's head, use a mild tearless baby shampoo only. Put a small amount on a wet washcloth and gently wash around the eyes, mouth, cheeks and forehead. Then rinse the cloth and go over the face to remove the soap.

  • If your cat has an extremely greasy coat, this is the time to apply a de-greaser. Fast Orange is a non-toxic de-greaser that can be found in supermarkets. Spread it liberally throughout the coat and then rinse it out.

  • Choose the shampoo that works the best for your cat's coat and apply and rinse off at least two or three times.

  • Rinsing is extremely important. Fill the wash basin with two or three inches of water until the bottom part of the cat's fur starts to float in the water. Keep rinsing until there is no residue. Use a cup to scoop the basin water over the cat's body and keep doing it until the coat is free of shampoo. Empty the soapy water from the sink and refill with clear water as needed.

  • If the cat's coat needs a conditioner, this is the time to apply it. Then rinse with water again.

  • A final rinse of a half cup vinegar to two quarts water will remove any traces of soap residue.

  • Rinse with tepid water a final time.

  • Clean the ears with a soft Q-tip dipped in otic solution, which you can purchase from vet catalogs.

  • Blot the fur with a dry towel. A single-coated or dense shorthaired cat can be towel dried and placed in a warm bathroom until he is completely dried.

  • The longer the coat, the more important it is to use combs and brushes at this point.

  • Dryers are a matter of preference, but it is nice to have one for a longhaired cat. Oster makes a table dryer that many breeders use. A Superduck Dryer is a little less costly and works well.

  • Dry the upper body by blow-drying backward against the lay of the hair. Work along the sides, forward to the front legs and up the neck. Each section should be totally dry before moving on or the hair will curl. The tail, belly and back legs should be done last because cats tend to have a lower tolerance in these areas. This way, if there is going to be a disagreement, it will come at the end of the grooming session.

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