In addition to making your cat look and smell nice, regular grooming can help your feline buddy avoid painful medical issues.
Keeping your pet’s face free of long hair that can irritate the eyes will make him feel more comfortable and prevent eye problems. Longhaired cats have hair that may hang in the eyes causing irritation and damage to the cornea. Check your pet to see if there are hairs lying on the eyes. These hairs should be trimmed by a groomer to keep your cat’s face clean and clear. Never use scissors or sharp implements around the eyes. Some cats have a problem with drainage from the eyes, which may have several causes. Check with your veterinarian to help rule out any medical conditions that can be treated. If the drainage is persistent, be sure to keep it wiped away. Skin and fur that stays constantly moist can become discolored or infected. To clean the eyes use a soft washcloth or cotton square dipped in warm water. Hold your cat’s head and wipe the damp cloth gently across his lower eyelid. Be careful not to rub the eyeball directly. Let the moisture soften the eye matter and then go back and wipe again. Make sure you use a fresh section of the cloth each time.
Ear infections and ear mites can be frustrating. Your veterinarian can show you how to thoroughly clean your cat’s ears and advise you on the proper use of an ear cleaning solution. Cats have long ear canals and improper cleaning can result in a ruptured eardrum, pain or lacerations of the canal. You can clean your cat’s ears safely if you follow these steps:
- Restrain your cat. Wrap your kitty in a large thick towel with just her head exposed. This will keep her from wriggling out of your grasp or scratching you.
- Clean the ear lobe. Using a cotton ball moistened with water, gently rub the large pieces of dirt, wax and debris off the ear lobe. Repeat on the opposite ear.
- Clean the cartilage of the ear. After most of the debris has been removed with the moistened cotton ball, use a cotton swab, moistened with water, to gently remove the pieces of debris trapped within the cartilage of the ear. Be very careful not to place the swab down the ear canal.
A healthy ear should look and smell clean. You should talk to your veterinary immediately about any foul odor, discharge or excessive scratching.
Dental disease is common in cats. Checking your cat’s mouth and teeth will help you spot trouble before it becomes a big problem. Your veterinarian can show you how to keep your cat’s teeth clean with brushes and toothpastes designed specifically for cats. Also be sure to ask them about special dental diets that are designed to help prevent tartar. “Pets can live longer, healthier lives if oral health care is managed and maintained throughout their lives,” says Daniel S. Aja, DVM, AAHA past president. Your older pet may not think too much of dental care. If you can’t get him to accept having his teeth brushed, make it a regular habit to check his teeth for tartar, chipping or excessive wear, or any lump or bump that looks suspicious. Dental disease can be very painful and serve as a source of infection for the rest of the body. Regularly check those teeth and tell your veterinarian if you find a problem. Changes in eating habits or weight loss can be signs that your cat is experiencing pain in his mouth.
Baths and Brushes
Some cats may need to be bathed. Others go their whole life without ever needing a dip in the tub. This need will vary depending on your cat’s lifestyle, breed and any skin problems he may have. Cats sometimes stop grooming as they age, or become too heavy to groom those "hard to reach" places. Bathing helps remove old hair, dirt and oil from the skin. The physical action of being washed is pleasant to most pets and it may make you aware of a lump or bump that has appeared or changed suddenly. This is also a good time to check for parasites such as fleas and ticks. There are a lot of different shampoos and conditioners for every type and color of pet. Your groomer or veterinarian can advise you if your pet has special needs, such as tearless shampoo. AAHA suggests avoiding the face, eyes and ears during the actual bath and using a wet washcloth to clean those areas instead. Between baths, brushing your pet will help keep the coat clean and free of hair mats. Hair mats can be irritating and cause skin disease under the hair. Brushing will help keep your cat from ingesting too much hair while grooming and reduce the incidence of hairballs. Longhaired cats require everyday brushing to keep their coats healthy. Most pets enjoy grooming and often wait eagerly to be combed. If your pet’s fur is badly matted, he may need to be shaved. This is a job for a groomer. Never attempt to cut off hair mats with a scissors; you may cut the skin. As your pet’s hair grows back, begin with daily brushing to keep the new hair soft and tangle free.
By far, the most dreaded grooming chore is trimming your pet’s nails. If you have a young cat, touch his feet and toes often to get him used to having his feet handled. Older pets often are very frightened by the chore of nail trimming and may be completely uncooperative. Despite their protests, nail trimming is a must if you don’t want your furniture shredded or nail problems to occur. Nail trimming is also an excellent alternative to declawing. Your veterinarian will show you how to trim nails and claws properly.
You can’t ignore what’s under your cat’s tail. Most pet owners don’t make it a habit to check their pet’s bottom, but it is an important place to look. Longhaired animals can get feces trapped in the hair surrounding the anus causing an obstruction. Have your groomer keep this area clipped short. Situated on either side of the anus are two anal glands. These glands manufacture a foul smelling material that is normally expressed when your cat has a bowel movement. These glands can become painfully blocked and infected. Scooting or rubbing his backside along the ground can be a sign of infection. Your veterinarian can help keep these sacs empty. Your pet’s rear end is a place to attract parasites. It is easy to see fleas, signs of a tapeworm infection or small white worms that look like grains. Have your veterinarian look at any suspicious life forms you find.
Copyright © 2009, American Animal Hospital Association
Reprinted with permission from the American Animal Hospital Association.