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Cats are generally clean creatures, spending up to 30-50% of their day grooming and cleaning themselves. They are well-equipped to do so with their rough tongues and sharp teeth as well as being flexible enough to clean all of those hard-to-reach places! Not only do cats groom themselves to keep free from dirt, but by licking their coats they distribute natural oils which protect their fur and help prevent hairballs.
However, sometimes our feline companions need a little help, especially if they’ve gotten themselves into something particularly sticky or smelly. Also, cats that are ill or in their senior years may stop cleaning themselves altogether due to joint or dental problems. A greasy coat, matting of the fur, and food stuck to the face or chest after eating will indicate that your cat needs you to help them keep clean. In these instances bathing the coat may be necessary, but as most cats aren’t accustomed to being bathed with water and shampoo, you may need to do this slowly and in short intervals.
Schedule bathing when your cat is at their most calm to help keep stress to a minimum. Tiring your cat out by getting them to play with a toy beforehand could also make bathing easier. If you have a particularly wriggly cat, get another pair of hands to help you; one person can hold it whilst the other applies the shampoo and water.
Make sure you have all of your supplies on hand including towels, brushes, and shampoos. It is a good idea to place a rubber mat in the bath or sink where you will be bathing your cat as this will stop them from slipping and becoming frightened. Use a shower head or jug to gently apply lukewarm (never hot!) water whilst massaging cat shampoo into the coat (human shampoo is not designed for the delicate skin of the cat), and work from shoulder to tail carefully avoiding the face, eyes, and ears. Make sure you thoroughly rinse off the shampoo and conditioner with water then dry gently. To clean the face, dampen a face cloth or small towel and gently wipe clean. There shouldn’t be a need to use shampoo on the face, but if it is very dirty, dilute the shampoo and take extra care over the eyes, ears, and nose.
A clean cat is a content cat and grooming your pet can help strengthen the bond between you and them. Weekly brushing will draw your attention to any lumps, wounds, and hidden tangles so that you can see them immediately. This is especially important in long-haired breeds where these would otherwise go unnoticed.
To brush and clean your cat thoroughly you will need brushes specifically designed for your cat’s coat length as this varies from breed to breed. Brushing removes dirt, grease, and dead fur whilst stimulating blood circulation, all of which improves coat health and condition.
Your cat’s paws are as vital to them as your hands and feet are to you. It is a good idea to check them regularly for any irritation and debris that may have gotten trapped between the toes. Nail care is also important as without regular clipping, especially for an indoor cat, nails can become caught in furniture and bedding which can hurt the paws. You may find that your outdoor cat’s paws become dry or cracked. Paw salves will help moisturise the skin of the paw and protect it from the elements when your cat is out on their wanderings!