A healthy cat makes for a happy cat. Did you know your kitty's coat and dental conditions are some of the best indicators of overall health? To help you maintain your cat's coat healthy and clean, here is your guide through cat coat care.
Grooming your cat will benefit your cat's overall health in a number of ways and it will give you an opportunity to keep a close eye on their coat and skin condition.
RELATED: A Guide Through Feline Dental Care
Why is cat coat care and hygiene so important?
Cats are notorious for their pristine grooming habits. However, more often than not, they need a little bit of help from us. Most of the time simple combing will do the job, but in some cases, bathing and trimming may be in order as well. You should commit to brushing your cat a few times a week (or daily if your cat is long-haired), while bathing and trimming can be done only as often as needed.
Why is grooming so important? Regular grooming will help get rid of any loose fur, dry skin, dirt, and dust that may be embedded in your cat's coat, thus leaving it cleaner, stronger, shinier and untangled. It will also help stimulate blood circulation, help tone muscles, and reduce the chance of developing hairballs. Grooming smooths the fur, which helps insulate your cat's body more efficiently, and stimulates the glands which secrete oil and make the coat waterproof.
Furthermore, when you groom your cat, you have the purrfect opportunity to inspect her for fleas, ticks and other parasites, as well as signs of wounds, lumps, scabs, inflammation, allergic reactions or any other skin problem. Once your cat gets used to the grooming process (if she hasn't already), she may even start enjoying it, which will provide you with some unique bonding time during your grooming sessions.
How to recognize skin and coat problems in your cat?
Healthy skin should be clear of rashes, discolorations, and any other abnormalities and it should be supple rather than dry, flaky or greasy. The most common skin problems seen in cats are skin infections, skin parasites (fleas, ticks, lice, and ear mites), alopecia (hair loss), feline acne, sunburn, and skin tumors.
To learn more, read about these seven groups of feline skin problems. A healthy coat, on the other hand, should be smooth, thick, shiny, clean and untangled. It should not be brittle, dull, dry or thinning. A dull coat appearance or excessive shedding may occur due to certain nutritional allergy deficiencies, stress or perhaps a deeper health problem altogether.
This is why it is important to consult with a veterinarian if you notice any unusual changes in your cat's skin or coat.
How to groom your cat
If done regularly and gently, grooming can make your cat not only look great but feel great as well. If your cat hasn't embraced the thought of being combed and handled yet, make sure to make the experience enjoyable for the both of you. Here are a few tips to help you teach your cat to enjoy grooming:
1. Choose the right time. Groom your cat only when you are both relaxed and keep the first grooming session short, 10 minutes or less. Be patient and give your kitty some time to get used to being handled before you can start with longer sessions.
When you see your cat is becoming frustrated, don't force them to stay put. This would make them think of grooming as a terrible experience, so instead let them leave and try again when they've relaxed, or perhaps the following day. Over time, with some treat motivation and patience, your cat will be calmly cooperative for longer periods of time.
2. Choose the right brush/comb. There are many brushes and combs available on the market, and you should find one that's just the purrfect fit for your cat. Choosing the type of brush mainly depends on your cat's size and the type of coat they have. Most cat brushes are generally smaller than those for dogs, and the most common types are bristle brushes and pin brushes.
Bristle brushes have many soft bristles and are typically used for shorthaired cats. Pin brushes have metal pins instead and they are a better suited for longhaired cats because they move through the coat better than the bristle brushes. Some pin brushes have round balls on the tips of the metal pins in order to protect the skin from being scratched, but clean pins may be better for untangling a matted coat.
Aside from brushes, you can also find a number of feline grooming combs. Most commonly used combs are wide metal combs and flea combs.
Metal combs are typically used after brushing to make sure there are no remaining tangles. They are usually not suitable to be used before the initial brushing, since pulling on matted fur is quite uncomfortable, if not painful for cats.
Flea combs have finer teeth and designed for pulling fleas directly out of the coat. Flea combs are also used after the coat has been brushed thoroughly. Your cat's groomer can help you find the best brushes and combs for your cat.
Cat coat care
3. Reward good behavior. Treating your cat with her favorite treats will not only motivate her to push through, but it will also help her associate the experience with something pleasant. Over time, your cat will realize that after she's been so selflessly patient during the grooming session, she will be rewarded with a bit of tuna, which may make her a bit more cooperative.
4. Make it feel good. Grooming doesn't have to be something unpleasant. In fact, many dogs and cats LOVE being groomed! It just takes a bit of time to realize this. This is because a lot of the time, we don't get to the grooming until that coat has already gotten matted at which point the grooming, sure enough, becomes unpleasant or even at times painful.
Therefore, groom your cat as often as possible and start with the areas your cat enjoys being petted and rubbed. Give her a little pet with the brush on top of her head or on the back near the tail, wherever your cat love spots are. This will help her realize that the brush isn't her enemy and that it can feel quite nice. Reward her when she handles it well, and with time and patience, she will let you comb the less pleasant spots as well.
Most of the time, brushing and combing will be enough, however, sometimes some shampooing and trimming may be necessary. Here's a great video on How to Bathe a Cat from Cole and Marmalade's hooman Chris Poole. If you don't feel comfortable bathing and trimming your cat, you can also visit a local groomer and get professional help.
Attention to cat coat care and skin hygiene is just as important as tending to all their vaccinations, parasite controls, dental care, and their overall health status. Help your cat maintain clean, strong and glossy fur and keep them be healthy and happy for many years to come.