A clean cat is a happy cat!! From nail trims to bathing, a little maintenance goes a long way. There are cats that won’t tolerate being groomed. So if your cat fights the grooming process and there is potential that injury could occur to you or your cat, please make an appointment with a groomer or your veterinarian.
Bathing Your Cat
With her built-in grooming tools (tongue and teeth), your fastidious feline is well-equipped to tackle her own hair care needs. But if she is very dirty or gets into something sticky or smelly, you may need to give her a bath. Follow these steps to ensure minimal stress and maximum efficiency.
- Schedule baths when your cat is at her most mellow. A play session with a cat dancer or other toy of choice can help tire out even the friskiest of felines.
- For your own protection, we recommend trimming Fluffy’s claws before bathing.
- Give your cat a good brushing to remove any loose hair and mats.
- Gently place some cotton in her ears to keep the water out.
- Place a rubber bath mat in the sink or tub where you’ll be bathing your kitty so she doesn’t slip. Fill with three to four inches of lukewarm (not hot, please!) water.
- Use a hand-held spray hose to thoroughly wet your pet, taking care not to spray directly in her ears, eyes and nose. If you don’t have a spray hose, a plastic pitcher or unbreakable cup works great.
- Gently massage your pet with a solution of one part cat shampoo (human shampoo can dry out her skin) to five parts water, working from head to tail, in the direction of hair growth. Take care to avoid the face, ears and eyes.
- Thoroughly rinse the shampoo off your cat with a spray hose or pitcher; again, be sure the water is lukewarm. Take good care that all residue has been removed, as it can irritate the skin and act as a magnet for dirt.
- Use a washcloth to carefully wipe your pet’s face. Plain water is fine unless her face is very dirty—in which case, we recommend using an extra-diluted solution of shampoo, being very cautious around her ears and eyes.
- Wrap your cat in a large towel and dry her with it in a warm place, away from drafts. If your kitty doesn’t mind the noise, you can use a blow dryer—on the lowest heat setting. If your pet has long hair, you may need to carefully untangle her fur with a wide-toothed comb.
- Reward your cat with endless praise—and her favorite treat—for a successful bathing session.
Brushing Your Cat
Brushing your cat not only removes dirt, grease and dead hair from her coat, but it helps to remove skin flakes and stimulates blood circulation, improving the overall condition of her skin. One or two brushings per week will help kitty to keep her healthy glow—and you’ll find that regular sessions are especially beneficial when your cat ages and is no longer able to groom so meticulously on her own.
- Before brushing, check out the condition of your kitty’s coat. If it’s healthy, her hair will have a natural gloss and spring back under your hand when you touch it. There shouldn’t be any bald patches or signs of fleas and ticks, and her skin should be free of wounds and unusual bumps.
- For short–haired cats: With a metal comb, work the brush through your cat’s fur from head to tail to remove dirt and debris. Work along the lie of her fur, brushing in the direction the coat grows. Brush all over her body, including her chest and abdomen, concentrating on one section at a time to remove dead hair and tangles. A rubber brush can be especially effective for removing dead hair on cats with short fur.
- For long–haired cats: Long-haired cats who live indoors shed throughout the year and need grooming sessions every few days to remove dead hair and prevent tangles. Start with her abdomen and legs, gently combing the fur upward toward her head. Comb the neck fur upward, toward her chin. Make a part down the middle of her tail and gently brush out the fur on either side. You can sprinkle talcum powder over knots and gently use your fingers to tease them apart. If the knots don’t come out by hand, try using a mat-splitter.
- During your weekly grooming sessions, run your hands along your cat’s body, checking for wounds, bumps and hidden tangles. Check for ticks and flea dirt, black specks of dried blood left behind by fleas. Sneak a peek under her tail to check for faeces attached to the fur that may need to be snipped away with scissors. It’s also important to check around your cat’s anus for tan, rice-sized objects – these may indicate the presence of tapeworm.
- Neglecting to brush your kitty’s coat can lead to painful tangles and a bellyful of hair. You’ll know if your cat is suffering from hairballs when he coughs them up onto the floor or expels them in his faeces. If, despite regular brushing, your cat continues to suffer from hairballs, there are several remedies available. Please ask your vet to recommend a solution.
The condition of your cat’s skin is an indication of her overall health. When a skin problem occurs, your cat may respond with excessive scratching, chewing and/or licking. A wide range of causes – from external parasites and allergies to seasonal changes and stress, or a combination of these – may be affecting your cat’s skin and should be investigated. Skin problems are one of the most common reasons pet parents seek veterinary care.
Symptoms of Skin Problems in Cats
- Constant scratching, licking and chewing at the skin, especially around the head and neck
- Redness or inflammation
- Round, scaly patches on the face and paws
- Dry, flaky or otherwise irritated skin
- Hair loss, bald patches
- Swellings, lumps or skin discolouration
- Drainage of blood or pus
One of the following may be causing an abnormality with your cat’s skin and should be investigated:
- Ringworm: This highly contagious fungal infection can result in inflammation, scaly patches and hair loss. Lesions are most commonly seen on the head, ears and paws, but sometimes no signs are seen. You’ll want to have your veterinarian treat it immediately to prevent other pets and people in the household from becoming infected.
- Fleas: Not only do fleas irritate the skin, cats can have an allergic response when exposed to them. Symptoms commonly include excessive scratching, thinning of hair above the base of the tail, crusts and red, raised skin lesions. Some cats may also be sensitive to flea-treatment products; certain flea collars, for example, may cause redness and irritation around the neck.
- Other external parasites: Ear mites usually cause itching and redness around the ears, and a dark, coffee ground-like material can be seen in the ear canals. Lice can produce intense itching, and mange mites can cause severe flaking and scaling.
- Seasonal allergies: Your cat’s constant scratching may be due to her sensitivity to common allergens from trees, mold and grasses.
- Food allergies: Many foods (such as beef, milk, poultry and corn), fillers and colorings can be seen as foreign by your cat’s immune system and can lead to itching and rashes.
- Grooming products: Certain shampoos and grooming products can irritate your cat’s skin.
- Seasonal changes: Many cats, like people, get dry, flaky skin in the winter.
- Environmental factors: Contact with certain chemicals or fabrics can cause skin irritation, as can exposure to the sun or excessive cold.
- Bacterial or yeast infections: These infections most commonly follow the onset of another skin disorder.
- Tumors: A variety of benign and malignant skin growths can develop in cats.
- Stress: Anxiety may cause cats to excessively lick and chew, causing hair loss.
You should visit your vet for an exam as soon as you notice any abnormality in your pet’s skin, such as excessive hair loss, flaking and scaling, redness and bald patches, or if your pet begins to excessively scratch, lick and/or bite areas on his fur.
After obtaining a history and performing a thorough physical examination of your cat, your vet may perform some of the following diagnostic tests in order to find the cause of your cat’s symptoms:
- Skin scraping with findings evaluated under a microscope to check for mites
- “Tape test” to check for parasites
- Individual hair examination under a microscope
- Bacterial culture and sensitivity tests
- Skin biopsy
- Food and other allergy testing
- Blood tests to assess your cat’s overall health
- Microscopic evaluation of cells to establish if bacteria or yeast are present
Which Cats Are Prone to Skin Problems?
Because of the wide ranges of causes, cats of all ages and breeds are susceptible to issues involving skin. Young, elderly, immunocompromised and cats living in overcrowded, stressful environments may be more susceptible to skin problems than others.
To Prevent Skin Problems
- Use natural, hypoallergenic soaps and shampoos recommended for use on cats.
- Brush your cat regularly to prevent matting of hair.
- Feed your cat a healthy, balanced food without fillers or artificial ingredients.
- Implement a flea-treatment program recommended by your veterinarian.
- Thoroughly clean and vacuum your home (and remember to always throw away the bag).
- Provide calm living conditions for your cat.
- Your vet may prescribe skin creams and/or oral medications to prevent skin problems.
To Treat Skin Problems
Ask your vet about the following treatments:
- Topical products, including shampoos, dips and sprays, to prevent and treat parasites
- A balanced diet to help maintain healthy skin and coat
- Antibiotic or anti-fungal medications
- A dietary supplement containing essential fatty acids
- Corticosteroids and antihistamines may be prescribed to control itching.
- Hypoallergenic diet for food allergies
Shedding is a cat’s natural process of losing dead hair. Indoor cats can shed all year-round. Regularly grooming your cat and vacuuming hair from your house should minimise the inconvenience of shedding. However, if you see bald patches in your cat’s fur or notice a significant loss of hair, the underlying cause may be a health-related problem and should be investigated by a veterinarian.
A variety of medical, dietary and stress-related issues can cause your cat to lose more hair than is normal. If you notice he’s losing an excessive amount of hair or has bald patches, please consult your veterinarian immediately. Your cat may be suffering from one of the following health issues:
- Bacterial infection
- Hormonal imbalance such as hyperthyroidism
- Poor diet
- Certain medications
- Pregnancy or lactation
If your cat obsessively licks, bites or scratches, OR if he’s losing patches of hair or stops to scratch or bite the same few spots persistently, then it’s important you take him in for a veterinary exam. There may be a medical, dietary or stress-related issue that needs immediate attention.
If your cat sheds a lot and your veterinarian has determined that there is no underlying medical cause, there are a few things you can do to minimise his hair loss:
- Feed him a healthy, balanced diet.
- Groom him regularly.
- Examine your cat’s skin and coat during your grooming sessions. Checking for hair loss, redness, bumps, cuts, fleas, ticks or other parasites will be a fast way to determine whether you need to go the vet to solve your pet’s shedding.
If your cat’s shedding is normal, the worst you may end up with is a hairy wardrobe and home – your cat, however, may suffer from hairballs if she isn’t groomed regularly. If her shedding is due to an underlying medical cause, including allergies, parasites, infections or disease, her health may continue to worsen if you don’t seek veterinary care. Additionally, cats who are not groomed appropriately can become matted – this is especially true for long-haired cats. Matted hair can be painful and lead to underlying skin problems.