Cat GroomingCat Care > Cat Grooming
Most cats are very clean and will groom themselves fastidiously as part of their daily routine, often on waking after a sleep or following a meal. The cat does this by using its tongue, which has a roughened surface as a result of the presence of numerous minute, backward-pointing projections called papillae. The papillae collect lose hairs and particles of dust and dirt, and because they point backwards, the cat invariably swallows this material rather than spitting it out of its mouth. Hairs are effectively caught up on the papillae and are not easy to dislodge accept by swallowing. If present in large quantities they may combine together to form fur balls or hair balls in the stomach, and these are especially likely to occur in long-haired cats. The most important reason for grooming a pet cat is to remove dead hair and to reduce the likelihood of the formation of fur balls.
A cat uses its tongue to lick and groom all the parts of its body that it can reach, wetting its fur with saliva as it does so. For the inaccessible places out of reach of its tongue, such as the head and ears, the cat licks its paw and cleans vigorously, rubbing until it is satisfied that no traces of dirt remain. A mother cat grooms her offspring in this way for the first three weeks of life, but kittens also soon begin to do this for themselves, becoming quite accomplished by about six weeks old. Kittens and cats also groom one another as part of their interactions with each other and as a means of cementing relationships.
A kittens or cat should be groomed regularly by its owner from the time it arrives in its new home, and both a comb and a brushes are needed for this purpose. Short-haired types of cat need to be groomed once or twice a week and more often when they are moulting. Long-haired varieties need more frequent attention, but grooming is essential to prevent the formation of matted lumps of fur. A steel comb is the most suitable type to use and its teeth should be rounded to prevent scratching of the cat's skin.
It is best to start combing at the head and neck and to work gently down the body, teasing out tangles in the fur until the comb can be pulled through easily. Small sections of fur should be worked on each time, if the cat is a long-haired type, as otherwise there may be painful tugging on its skin. The tail should be included as well and also the fur on the underside. After being combed, the fur should be brushed to remove dislodged, dead hairs, and a brush with natural bristles are the most suitable kind to use. Suitable combs and brushes can be purchased at a pet shop at a fairly modest price. A final stroking with the hands or a glove or clothe will help to produce a shine on the coat and reward the cat if it has been well behaved during grooming.
It is all too easy for the fur of a long-haired cat to become impossibly tangled and matted. Breeds such as the Himalayan and Persian require much effort and attention if their coats are to be kept in good order. The situation is not helped by the fact that some cats strongly object to being combed and brushed, and it is necessary to be firm and to persevere.
Usually, if regular grooming is started when the animal is a kitten, it learns to accept the procedure, and some really enjoy the process and the attention they receive. An adult cat that has not been accustomed to grooming may resent it and fight to get away. This can present considerable problems, especially -with a long-haired cat that has a tangled coat. In these circumstances, it may be possible to brush the cat gently while it is being stroked and petted, and, all going well, it will learn to accept the procedure. A stronger approach is gently but firmly to grasp the cat by the scruff of its neck and to try to make sure that all its paws remain in contact with the surface on which it is placed while grooming is carried out.
If lumps of matted fur are found during grooming (usually in a long-haired cat), an attempt can be made to prise them apart with the fingers and then comb them through. If this is not possible, however, or the knots are large, they should be raised with the comb and cut off using round-ended scissors. A cat with a severely tangled coat may need to have the knots clipped off under general anaesthetic at a veterinary surgery. Unfortunately, this situation tends to arise with cats that habitually bite, scratch and fight when any attempt is made to groom them so that this is abandoned because it is too traumatic both for the animals and their owners.
Cat grooming provides an ideal opportunity to check the cat for skin disorders, cuts or bites and cat fleas that may not be apparent and can easily be overlooked at other times. At the same time, the ears can be looked at to ensure that there are no signs of ear mites in cats and the eyes examined to ensure that they are bright and clear.
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