Brush Up on Cat Grooming

Brushing a cat
Grooming is a great way to bond with your cat.

One of the most pervasive misperceptions about cats is that they can take care of themselves. This is especially troublesome because so many common cat conditions are preventable. Between regular trips to the veterinarian for routine vaccinations, exams, and dental care, grooming is a great way to help monitor your cat’s health — and enjoy some time together. Here are a few common questions about cats’ grooming behaviors and how you can keep her skin and coat looking and feeling its best.

Why does my cat spend every waking hour grooming herself?

Grooming is an important part of cat health. It may help remove some parasites, remove scents that might attract predators (following a hunting expedition, for example), and keep their coat shiny and sleek. It’s also been reported that self-grooming can be calming to cats. However, talk to your veterinarian about any excessive grooming, which can be a medical concern.

Why has my cat stopped grooming herself?

The most common reasons are pain or illness. Pain from dental disease and arthritis, for example, can keep a kitty from her normal routine. Contact your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your cat’s typical grooming habits.

Why should I groom my cat?

Grooming your cat is a great bonding experience. Cats frequently groom each other, a normal behavior among “affiliate” cats called allogrooming, which typically involves cleaning the face and head. One of my own cats adores being brushed and will even flip on his side and show his belly when I pick up the brush.

Second, grooming your cat is an opportunity to look and feel for any evidence of parasites, new lumps, bumps, sores, wounds, or other changes in your cat’s skin or fur. If you see black, pepper-like specks in your cat’s coat, that’s likely flea dirt (flea feces). Tapeworm segments, on the other hand, look like sesame seeds or grains of rice stuck to the hairs, especially under the tail. Alert your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your cat’s skin or fur. And finally, regular grooming can help reduce the amount of hair your cat swallows during normal grooming.

How do I groom my cat?

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Choose your location wisely. Whether you groom your cat on her favorite kitty tower or in your kitchen or bedroom, make sure the surface is stable and that your cat feels safe.

Select your tools. Assemble a variety of tools, including a flea comb, slicker brush, and perhaps another style of brush. Bristle brushes aren’t typically effective in getting through the coat, but they can remove hair that’s already shedding, and many cats seem to like the sensation. Spray the implements with synthetic feline facial pheromone (available at pet supply stores), allow them to air dry for 30 minutes, and just leave them out. You want your pet to associate the tools with the “soothing” effects of the pheromone.

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