Keeping your cat healthy means paying regular attention to bathing, grooming and brushing. Even cats with short hair will benefit from this often overlooked aspect of his health. Grooming does more than just make your cat look and smell nice. Here are the top medical reasons why regular grooming will help your cat stay healthy and feel better.
The Better To See You With
Keeping your pet's face free of long hair that can irritate the eyes will make him feel more comfortable and prevent eye problems. Longhaired cats have hair that may hang in the eyes causing irritation and damage to the cornea. Check your pet to see if there are hairs lying on the eye. These should be trimmed by a groomer to keep your cat's face clean and clear. NEVER use scissors or sharp implements around the eyes.
Some cats have a problem with drainage from the eyes, which may have several causes. Check with your veterinarian to help rule out any medical conditions that can be treated. If the drainage is persistent, make sure you keep it wiped away. Skin and fur that stays constantly moist can discolor and become infected.
My, What Big Ears You Have
Ear infections and ear mites can be frustrating and aggravating to you and your cat. Learn how to keep your cat's ears clean to help prevent these problems. Your veterinarian can show you how to clean them properly and advise you on the use of an ear cleaning solution. A healthy ear should look and smell clean. Any foul odor, discharge or excessive scratching should be investigated immediately.
Dental disease is common in cats. Checking your cat's mouth and teeth will help you spot trouble before it becomes a big problem. Your veterinarian can show you how to keep your cat's teeth clean with brushes and toothpastes designed specifically for cats. Your older pet may not think too much of dental care. If you can't get him to accept having his teeth brushed, make it a regular habit to check his teeth for tartar, chipping or excessive wear, or any lump or bump that looks suspicious. Dental disease can be very painful and serve as a source of infection for the rest of the body, so check those teeth and tell your pet's doctor if you find a problem.
Everybody Into the Tub
Some cats may need a bath. Others go their whole life without ever needing a dip in the tub. This need will vary depending on your cat's lifestyle, breed and any skin problems he may have. Cats sometimes stop grooming as they age, or become too heavy to groom those "hard to reach" places. Bathing helps remove old hair, dirt and oil from the skin. The physical action of being washed is pleasant to most pets and it may make you aware of a lump or bump that may have appeared or changed suddenly.
This is also a good time to check for parasites such as fleas and ticks. There are a lot of different shampoos and conditioners for every type and color of pet. Your groomer or veterinarian can advise you if your pet has special needs. Be sure to protect your pet's eyes with a little mineral oil or eye ointment before bathing.
Break out the Brushes
Between baths, brushing your pet will help keep the coat clean and free of hair mats. Mats can be irritating and cause skin disease under the hair. Brushing will help keep your cat from ingesting so much hair while grooming and reduce the incidence of hairballs. Longhaired cats require everyday brushing to keep their coats healthy. Most pets enjoy grooming and often wait eagerly to be combed. If your pet's fur is badly matted, he may need to be shaved. This is a job for a groomer. NEVER attempt to cut off hair mats with a scissors; you may cut the skin as well. As your pet's hair grows back, begin with daily brushing to keep the new hair soft and tangle free.
By far, the most dreaded grooming chore is trimming your pet's nails. If you have a young cat, touch her feet and toes often to get her used to having her feet handled. Older pets often are very frightened by the chore of nail trimming and may be completely uncooperative. Despite their protests, nail trimming is a must if you don't want your furniture shredded or nail problems to occur. And, nail trimming is an excellent alternative to declawing. Your veterinarian will show you how to trim nails and claws properly.
Mentioning the Unmentionable
Don't ignore your pet's rear end. Most pet owners don't make it a habit to check their pet's bottom but it is an important place to look. Longhaired animals can get feces trapped in the hair surrounding the anus causing an obstruction. Have your groomer keep this area clipped short. Situated on either side of the anus are two anal glands. These glands manufacture a foul smelling material that is normally expressed when your cat has a bowel movement. These glands can become painfully blocked and infected. Learn to recognize the sign of infection. Scooting is often a giveaway. Your veterinarian can help keep these sacs empty.
And lastly, and most indelicately, your pet's rear end is a place to attract parasites. It is easy to see fleas here, and those awful signs of a tapeworm infection, small white worms that look like grains of rice or cucumber seeds. Even the nicest pets can get them. Have your veterinarian look at any suspicious life forms you find.