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Feline Grooming Tips

All cats need to groomed to some extent, depending on their coat and habits. The basics of grooming are aimed at providing a clean coat of pleasant and appropriate texture, clean ears, and a  peasant or absent odor. If grooming is forgotten the cat will suffer for it. Eyes need to be kept clean or bacteria will build up causing infection or ulcerations. The cat needs to be bathed monthly and combed daily otherwise the hair will mat up. Nails also need trimmed weekly. These simple things will help to maintain a happy, healthy cat. Cats with longer fur, like Persians, especially need to be kept well groomed and require more frequent grooming.

Eyes

Cats have a full inner-eyelid, or nictitating membrane. This inner-eyelid serves to help protect the eyes from dryness and damage. When the cat is ill, the inner-eyelid will frequently close partially, making it visible to the observer. You can tell a cat's mood by looking into its eyes. A frightened or excited cat will have large, round pupils. An angry cat will have narrow pupils. The pupil size is related as much to the cat's emotions as to the degree of light. 

All cats tear. Cats sometimes have trouble with the tears draining because of a narrow or crimped nasolacrimal duct and a shallow tear lake at the inner corner of the eye. Those that have an overflow of tears because of this need to have their faces washed daily. The best way of cleaning the face is with a warm wash cloth. There are commercial cleaners that can be bought to clean eyes and remove any stains such as Diamond Eye by VitaCoat or Opticlear by Tomlyn. You can also buy an unbuffered or unpreserved saline solution made for contact lens wearers. The following is a recipe taken from The New and Natural Cat book written by Anitra Frazier with Norma Eckroate and it is to make your own Normal Saline Solution.

1/2 cup boiling water
1/8 teaspoon salt ( sodium chloride or sea salt)

Dissolve salt in water; cool and store in covered container in refrigerator. Keeps for a week or so. Before using, heat to warm bath temperature by standing the container of solution in a bowl or pan of hot water.

You can wet a cotton ball with one of these solutions and wipe the eye area. If excessive brown tearing or yellowish or creamy matter comes from the eyes the cat needs to see a veterinarian.

Coat

Cats have true fur, in that they have both an undercoat and an outer coat. 

A clean coat feels and looks good, and the hairs separate and do not stick together. The Persian coat is to be of a thick density and long length. This leads to a lot of combing and more frequent bathing to keep in a manageable state, but all cats need to be bathed regularly. Some particular bloodlines have a more silky texture while others have a very thick and cottony texture. Some colors have a tendency  to have their own particular texture and benefit from different shampoos. Each cat is an individual and might need more or less combing/bathing than suggested below.

During shedding seasons (spring or fall) or as a kitten is maturing (usually between 7 months to a year), cats will go through a rather heavy shed. If this dead hair isn’t removed mats will result. 

This is a good plan to start with: First you will need to have a metal greyhound-like comb (these will have teeth at one end that is medium and the other that is more fine) and a more coarse comb (the teeth are longer and are wide spaced). Brushes with long metal pins (without balls on the tips) are OK to use but for maintenance only. Slicker brushes will not work on maintaining the thick coat of a Persian though. Slicker brushes can be used on getting mats out as long as the mat is exposed and you work at it gently. Combing should be done on a daily basis paying close attention to the hair behind the ears, in the ruff (around the neck) and the hair in between and around the legs. This seems to be where the first signs of matting will occur. If a mat is found it will need to be removed. You can first try to pull the hairs apart with your fingers. If this doesn’t work try to use the greyhound comb using the medium side and gradually go to the finer end of the comb as the mat is being worked out. The best thing to do is to try and split apart the mat into smaller sections with the comb or your fingers. This will save pulling on the cat and also save as much of the hair as possible. In some cases shaving the belly of the cat is a good idea. You can either do this yourself or take to a groomer to have this done. If matting is excessive shaving is necessary! Mats will gradually get bigger and pull on the skin causing much discomfort with your cat. If severe matting or matting that goes to the skin and can't be combed out occurs, consult a veterinarian or a professional groomer right away!

Bathing is needed to keep the hair a manageable texture and sometimes for odor control. Hair that is oily or a cat that has fleas will mat. Bathing should be done once a month. Some more oily coats might need to be bathed twice a month. This will not hurt your cat. If your cat really protests a bath they should be bathed more often to get them more accustomed to them. Unaltered (not spayed/neutered) Cats generally have a more oily coat and often more odor in their urine so spaying/neutering will help in keeping your cat clean also.

If bathing the cat at home several things will be needed: a large towel, shampoo & conditioner, cotton balls and a hair dryer.  A double and deep kitchen sink helps as the cat can put it's paws on the ledge that separates the two sinks and feels more secure. It is  convenient to have a small carrier to dry the cat in. For shampoo in an adult you can use Dawn dishwashing liquid (be careful not to get into the eyes) and baby shampoo or a commercial cat shampoo (tearless) around the eyes. Dawn is a good degreaser. Then you want to follow up with an actual shampoo. In most kittens and cats with fine coats, a shampoo for "fine hair" works well. Many cat shampoos are available, some with color enhancers and others for the particular type of coat. First put cotton balls inside the ears so water doesn’t get down in the ear canal. Then wet the cat down with warm water. Start with the Dawn (diluted down 1 tablespoon to 2 cups of water) and work all over the body being careful to avoid the face.

Then rinse until there are no more suds and then rinse again. Then you need to use a shampoo to wash again. Repeat the rinse cycle being sure to rinse completely. Then take conditioner (diluted 1 teaspoon to 2 cups of water and well shaken) and rub this through the hair. Leave on for a minute then RINSE COMPLETELY. Adequate rinsing is VERY IMPORTANT.

Squeeze the water out with your hands and wrap in the towel. Pat with the towel and remove the cotton balls.

For drying have your dryer on the coolest setting possible. Turn the dryer on while pointing away from the cat to get the cat use to the noise. Then slowly take up to the cat and start blowing on your cat. Some cats like it better if you start on the back and work from there. After a lot of the dampness is gone you can comb the hair as you dry it. You don’t want to comb through the coat when it is very wet. It is much easier if you have a small carrier and can prop the hair dryer up on some folded towels so the back of the dryer isn’t covered and it is blowing up in the carrier. Only do this with a dryer that has a cool setting though so the cat doesn’t overheat. When the cat is dried or mostly dry you can take out and comb him out. There are stand dryers available in a variety of prices which leave both your hands free to work on the cat. These can be very handy if you don't have someone that can help you with a cat that likes to wiggle. If your cats feet are still damp and you use clumping litter you may want to take the litter up until the paws are completely dry so clumps of cement don’t form on the bottom of the paws.

Fleas can be common in certain locations, especially if the cat has been exposed to other cats or dogs. They can easily be treated with medicines or shampoos best bought with the advice of your veterinarian.

NOTE: Cats with white fur and skin on their ears are very prone to sunburn. Frequent sunburns can lead to skin cancer. Many older white cats need surgery to remove all or part of a cancerous ear. Preventive measures include sunscreen, or better, keeping the cat indoors. 

Ears

After the bath or after drying is a good time to clean the ears out. That way you can be sure they aren’t wet after the bath. You will need clean cotton balls or Q-Tips (being very careful not to get inside the ear canal). Take cotton or Q-Tip and fold the ear back and gently wipe the ear including in the folds where wax can build up. If there is any crusty look, foul smell or excess of debris a vet needs to be consulted. Ear mites can be common especially if the cat has been exposed to other cats or dogs. They can easily be treated with medicines best bought from your veterinarian.

Nails

Cats have five toes on each front paw, but only four toes on each back paw, and their claws are retractable.

Nails should be trimmed weekly for optimum maintenance. This will protect furniture from being used as a scratching post or damaged during play by sharp claws. Nail trimmers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Either a cat nail scissors or human fingernail clippers works as well. When clipping nails, take the paw in hand and take one toe at a time and squeeze the toe between the thumb and the finger, making the nail extend out. Locate the pink area which is called a quick. You do not want to trim back to the quick, but right in front of that area is ideal. Take the trimmers or nail scissors and clip the nail back. If the quick can not be seen then clip the nail before where the underside of the nail starts to curve down since this is generally right before the quick.

If the quick is accidentally cut into, take a cotton ball and hold on the nail for a few minutes (more to prevent blood spots around the house than to control bleeding as bleeding generally stops by itself) or you can use a styptic (for shaving cuts) to stop the bleeding.

Plenty of scratching posts with sisal or cardboard are very important in keeping your pet directed away from clawing the furniture. These help in keeping nails trimmed down too. Cloth stereo speakers are almost impossible to keep cats away from if the access to them is not limited, as they provide the "feel" of a good scratching post.

 


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