While most cats are very capable of keeping themselves clean and presentable, some need a little help from us, their human companions. Before we start, please bear in mind that not all cats enjoy or appreciate being handled so intimately and intrusively by humans. Go slowly, be careful and don’t push your friend into scratching or worse still, biting you.
All cats should have their nails clipped, especially if they live indoors or are caged. A cat’s nails grow constantly and they need attention every 10 days or so. If your cat has outdoor access, then DO NOT clip the back nails. This is so that they can climb and escape incase some dominant neighbourhood cat or rming dog decides to take an unfriendly interest in your cat.
A cat’s nail is very distinctive and you will be able to see where to clip, Look at the picture above taken from softpaws.com and then look at your own cat’s nails. White nails are very much easier but with pratise you will be able to do it easily and safely. Remember to cut less rather than too much and risking cutting the quick. That is very painful and your cat will most likely reciprocate by making you bleed too.
If you are blessed with a short haired cat, then life just got easier. Your choices range from goats hair brushes, rubber mitts to simple metal combs. Whatever you choose, the aim is to remove the dead hair (best done with a fine toothed metal comb or one of those rubber mitts) and then enhancing the sheen of her coat. If you intend to bathe your cat, do this (sheen enhancing) last.
If you have chosen to take on a long haired cat, get ready to pay attention. There are generally three types of long coat. A cat’s coat is made up to two types of hair, a strong straight and shiny hair, usually called a guard hair or a fine fluffy and often dull type of hair commonly known as undercoat.
Most Persian type cats eem to have mostly undercoat and this type of hair requires the most work and it tangles easily and discolours too. Comb with a wide tooth comb EVERYDAY, especially around the back legs, under the stomach and the armpits and behind their ears. be patient as these coats are fragile and the hairs break and tear easily. Once you are done, reeat entire process with a finer comb. Lift the hair in one inch clumps as the short cut way of combing the top only leads to matting underneath and a potentially matted cat.
Cat’s with a combined coat will require raking to thin out the undercoat (which is usually short) and combing with a medium toothed comb to maintain the gaurd hairs. Maine Coons are a good example of a cat with this type of coat. Raking also enhances their markings but don’t go overboard as removing too much undercoat can lead to a flat look coat. Combing shuold realistically be done twice a week to prevent matting.
Some cats have long long guard hairs and not much undercoat. These are usually Persian crosses with lots of DSH blood. While they don’t look as glamourous, this type of coat is the easiet of all the long hairs to care for. Just comb with a medium to fine toothed metal comb. As guard hairs are more resilient, they rarely matt and tangle. Combing serves mainly to remove dirt and debris from ther long hairs. These cats require only weekly attention.
NOTE: All long haired cats should use NON CLUMPING litter and NEVER CLAY. See this excellent post by Kate Benjamin of ModernCat for more information.
Most cats dislike water. Intensely.
Lots has been said about bathing cats but our advice is this. Prepare your shampoo by diluting it with water. Usually 1 part shampoo to 15 parts WARM water is about right. Use more shampoo is your cat is very dirty. This step allows you to skip the wetting the cat stage :) If you have a long haired cat, do not attempt to wash the hair like a humans and scrubbing it with your fingers. Pour the shampoo on and smooth it into the coat. Keep the hairs as straight as possible of you will tangle it up badly! Once your cat is all lathered up (properly), then rinse. Having someone to hold your cat while you do this is nothing to be embarassed about. Again, use warm water on a gentle spray. Be careful around their eyes and ears.
NOTE: Cats and dogs have skin that is more sensitive that that of newborn human babies. Sadly, most pet shampoos smell really good (to us but awful to our pets) but do not list the ingredient lists. Furthermore, they use extremely harh surfactants like SLS which can also be used to clean barnacles of boats! If you can, use a certified organic or natural product designed for babies on your cat (or dog). They and the environment will thank you in the long run. We like Buds for Baby.
Use a chamois towel to remove as much water from your cat’s coat as possible. A chamois towel is what you use to dry your car. The best ones are very expensive but worth every penny. This step really reduces the trauma of blow drying. If you have a short haired cat, then you can get away with leaving her to her own devices after a good pat down with this type of towel.
However, a long haired cat should be placed in a carrier and then blow dried on COOL setting. This can take anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour depending on the profuseness of the coat, the thickness fo the undercoat and how thorough you were with the chamois towel.
NOTE: When using the towel, do not rub your cat like a child. Pat and squeeze gently but never rub as you risk damaging the hairs or worse, getting it tangled!
I hope this helps. And remember each cat is individual. Some hate bathing but allow nail clipping. Some are OK with their nails being handled but cannot abide water. Project calm assertive energy and be firm but gentle. Start as young as posible and be confident. We’ve bathed over 300 different cats and have only had to sedate on and turn 5 away. Pretty good going. And Olly and I have luckily escaped with only a few scrathes and a couple of nips. So far :)