Close-up of a grey cat being groomed with a white comb, focusing on cat grooming care.

A Guide to Cat Grooming: Tailored Tips for Every Breed

We all know that cats love to look good. They spend most of the time they’re not sleeping or eating making sure every piece of fur is in place. They’re pretty good at what they do too: keeping the fur on fleek, and grooming away the grime. That’s not to say they don’t need a hand from you, though. And different cat breeds will need varying levels of intervention to keep them looking, smelling and feeling fresh. There are also varying needs for those too young, too old, too sick, or too injured to do a proper job themselves. I’ve got the low-down for cat parents on who needs what, when; and how to go about it! Brushing (fur and teeth), bathing, trimming and clipping are things that need to make their way onto your cat care schedule quick-smart, if they’re not there already, of course!

Why grooming your cat is important


Cat owner gently brushing her grey fluffy cat. Understand why grooming your cat is important.

The importance of grooming, to a cat, cannot be overstated. They spend between 15 and 50% of their waking hours taking care of their fur and skin. And it’s not just for getting rid of dirt and debris. A usual grooming regimen will see them licking to remove excess fur (hello hairballs…), pulling out mats with their teeth and scratching on surfaces to remove old nails or sharpen new ones. A cat’s barbed tongue stimulates glands on the skin that produce oil, which is then distributed over the coat. This oil cares for their skin, and also allows them to thermoregulate in warmer weather. The process helps them to get rid of fleas and ticks too.

Grooming can also act as a soothing behavior when your cat is stressed, where they can focus on the task at hand, and ignore whatever is causing them stress. Being able to groom and keep themselves clean is important for a cat’s psyche, too. This is why it’s important to help an injured or older cat pick up the slack. Same goes for the less flexible geriatrics, or cats with mental issues. When it comes to implementing a grooming schedule, though older kitties may need some treat-training to let you take on the role of grooming assistant, you’ll have an easier time of it if you start them young. Kittens expect to be groomed by their mothers, as they’re not super great at it at a young age, so will very quickly grow accustomed to the handling and holding involved. This helps to create a strong bond between pet and pet parent too, while reducing the dander left around the house that can trigger allergies. And a benefit for you is that it allows you to check for any new bumps or lumps, tender spots or irregularities, and get on top of any health concerns quickly.

How to groom a cat

The first thing to consider is what is even meant by ‘grooming your cat’. At a basic level, it’s brushing them all over. If you’ve managed to start with a kitten, that’s great, and this will all be fairly easy for you. If you’re wrangling an adult, just take it slowly. Allow them time to get used to the sensations of brushing with a soft brush first, and target areas that need it but are more accessible, like the back, hind legs and under the chin. Once you’ve won their trust and compliance (treats for every session!), you can graduate to the belly and underarms, perhaps using a stiffer brush that can penetrate the layers of fur.

Their ears need a bit of attention too, with a cotton swab being good for gently cleaning the insides of their ears, and only the surface areas. Get some clippers you are comfortable using too, to gently trim the sharp ends of claws when necessary, especially for indoor cats whose lifestyle doesn’t naturally wear them down. Ask your vet on whether your cat needs its nails trimmed, and how to do it, if you’re uncertain.

To make slipping into a grooming session easier, keep some treats and your grooming tools next to where your cat normally has a nap. This way you can gently introduce aspects of grooming when they are in a relaxed state, and reward them quickly for their cooperation. This last bit is important as rewards need to be instantaneous for the cat to connect the behavior with the positive outcome.

The tricky customers - long-haired cats


Professional groomer carefully trimming a long-haired cat's fur in a salon. Learn how to properly care for your long-haired cat’s fur.

These are the big fluff-balls with the long fur. They don’t necessarily shed a lot more than a short-haired cat, but it’s the tangles that can develop when they do! Taking care of the fur of these pretty kitties is a daily event.

Long-haired cats are the most prone to developing hairballs, which are made up of fur ingested when grooming. These delightful items then will either be regurgitated on your best rug, or will require medical intervention. A daily brushing helps prevent this fur being ingested, and therefore stop a hairball from being developed.

It’s important to stay on top of your grooming with this lot, as a mat can easily develop that can then be painful, time-consuming and stressful to remove. If a mat does form close to the skin, then it’s best to let a professional groomer deal with it. Cats’ skin is very elastic, so they very easily suffer the consequences of careless clipping or snipping. Rather than scaring your furbaby off ever letting you groom it again, just let the pros handle it and everyone will be happier!

If your long-haired cat allows semi-complete grooming, but you suspect you’re not getting everything, then make a monthly appointment to ensure that no stone or mat is left unturned. A groomer is also a good idea if your cat is simply resistant to your help. There’s no need to strain your relationship over grooming, when there are those who are highly experienced in the art.

If you live in a warm part of the country, or world, then you should talk to your groomer about getting their fur trimmed in summer, or an undercut along the belly to help keep them cool.

Breeds that will need this kind of frequent treatment are Burmese, Himalayans and Persians, and others of that appearance and fur type.

Cat breeds that are almost as needy, but can occasionally skip a day at the home salon are the long-medium haired crew, such as Ragdolls, Norwegian Forest Cats, Maine Coons, and the like.

The low maintenance team - short-haired cats


Groomer combing a tabby cat's fur, showcasing the importance of regular grooming for a cat

A short-haired cat’s fur is a bit easier to take care of, granted, with the lower chance of mats forming. They do still require attention though, to remove the excess fur that will otherwise be flying around the house (or their digestive tracts). It’ll mean less fur on the sofa, too, as an extra bonus. And another reason is just the bonding time that grooming allows you. It can become a really special part of your day where your cat gets all your attention and affection (and a treat!).

Short-haired cats need brushing once a week, like Burmese, Siamese, Bengals, and their ilk. Up to monthly is fine with the really short-haired ones, but for consistency, and so as to maintain the normalcy of such treatment to your cat, I recommend it be done more frequently.

It’s not just the length of the cat’s fur that determines its grooming needs, but its coat type or shedding tendencies too. A few breeds with this low-shed characteristic are the Devon or Cornish Rex, Abyssinians, and American Wirehair, among others.

Should you bathe a cat?


Wet ginger Persian cat having bath time

I know what you’re thinking: Cat + Water = Chaos, right? Well, yes and no. Baths aren’t necessary often, as cats do such a great job at taking care of themselves. They are, however, an optional but recommended addition to a grooming regime. An occasional bath helps to remove excess oils, saliva and dirt and are especially useful if your cat has come in contact with something unpleasant their regular DIY grooming can’t manage.

As with all new things, starting them young is the easiest, though some cats will be water-averse, no matter how young you start. Have everything all ready beside your bathing area - an enclosed shower cubicle is good - before you begin. A key point I’ll mention here is to ensure that you only ever use special cat cleaning products, and don’t sub in a dog product. Dog products are formulated differently for their size and constitutions and may be harmful to your cat.

Brush your cat before any water meets their fur. Then use warm water - never hot - from a jug cup to gently pour over their back and legs. Don’t get the water near their face or ears, and don’t use a shower jet. Pour a little cat shampoo into your palm and lather, before gently massaging it into their fur. Rinse the same way, with the jug, using warm water. Dry your cat with a towel afterwards, and then have a warm room with another dry towel to lie on, and a heater to sit in front of. If your cat is exceptionally brave, you can use a hairdryer, though these often rank up there like vacuum cleaners as noise-making devil machines.

It’s important that they get properly dry, especially older or very young cats, as their fur is how they regulate their temperature, and their small size can mean they get chilled very quickly when wet through. Even outside, they’ll shelter from the rain, or their fur won’t get wet on the under layers, the way it will with a bath.

This is a good time to brush them thoroughly again and remove the excess fur that can be loosened in the bathing process.

Cats with very short hair, or no hair - such as a Sphinx -, can use more frequent baths. Their skin produces oils that have no place to go, so a weekly bath can prevent clogged pores (and staining of your furniture).

You can also get cat bathing wipes for spot cleans and to sub in for a bath every now and then.

Recommended grooming tools

Investing in the right tools for grooming is important. Different tools serve different functions. For brushes, one of the best on the market is the Furminator. This brush goes beneath the top coat to remove loose fur in the undercoat, where irritation can happen or mats can form. It is safe and easy to use, and has more of an impact that brushing over the top coat. They have a range of products that perform the different purposes of keeping a cat well-groomed, with brushes alongside deshedders.

For lighter jobs, or dense topcoats, a comb may be a good option as it is easier to pull through and to focus on particular areas of trouble. Combs are good for spots like the underarms and beneath the chin.

If you’re going to take on the nail-clipping yourself, then get yourself a pair of Boshel clippers, which are well renowned and easy to use without hurting your pet.

Grab some cotton swabs for cleaning around the ears, and finally a dental kit, with specialist cat toothpaste and brushing equipment (your finger is also a good option!).

Wrapping it up


Elegant white long-haired cat with captivating green eyes looking at the camera showing a shiny coat because of proper grooming by its owner

With all that attention, your cat will have the snazziest coat in town. While it’s no crime to forget every now and then, try to stick to a solid routine when it comes to grooming. Your cat will remain accustomed to the treatment, it’ll bond you more deeply, and you’ll be assailed with flying fur to the nostril far less often. Happy grooming!

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