by Lisa Sefcik
Cat grooming can be a challenge for first-time pet owners and veteran cat owners alike. However, pet grooming is important for any furry companion's overall health and also gives you an excuse to spend quality time with your beloved pet.
Make it routine: Resolving shedding, hair balls, and matting is easy when you incorporate regular brushing or combing into your pet grooming routine. Short-haired cats require less maintenance than long-haired cats, which tend to form mats on the tender and hard-to-reach parts of their bodies. Long-haired cats may require brushing every day, while short-haired cats can get by with a once-a-week combing. However, combing and brushing should be done more frequently whenever your pet is in molt, usually when the weather gets warmer and she begins to shed her thick winter coat.
Short-hair cats: Use a fine-toothed steel comb to groom your short-haired cat. Brush in the direction of the fur growth.
Long-hair cats: When combing your long-haired cat, first brush the fur in the opposite direction and then in the direction of fur growth. Give more attention to where your cat tends to develop mats: her belly, chest, and "britches." If you find a mat, sprinkle it with baby powder and pick it apart gently with your nails. Larger mats may require removal using a special grooming tool called a mat splitter.
Prepare for clipping: Wriggly, impatient felines can make the claw-clipping aspect of cat grooming time-consuming. To help keep your pet calm, take her into a quiet area, such as a bathroom. Make sure you have plenty of light, so you can see what you're doing, and make sure that the clippers you use are sharp and the blades show no sign of rust or dullness.
Where to clip: Gently extend her claw from the base of her paw pad. You'll see a pink vein that runs through her claw from the base of the pad; this is known at the "quick," and if you cut into it, it will bleed. Clip away the part of the claw that's curled, making sure to avoid the quick. If you happen to accidentally cut into this part of your cat's claw, apply styptic powder to stop the bleeding.
Smooth finish: If your feline is amenable to her manicures, you can also choose this time to apply soft acrylic tips to her claws (this gives further protection to your furniture, if your cat likes to scratch) or buff away the jagged edges of the clipped claw with a stainless steel emery board.
Bath time: Short-haired cats may require fewer baths than long-haired cats, and indoor cats have less of a need for routine shampoos than do those who spend a lot of their time outdoors. Baths keep your cat's fur looking healthy and smelling good.
When bathing your cat, make sure that you use only warm water.
Attach a hand-held spray hose to the faucet of your bathtub and make sure that you set down a rubber mat to give her traction.
Wet her fur thoroughly, avoiding the face, ears, and chin.
Use a shampoo designed especially for your cat's fur type. Apply the shampoo to your hands rather than directly to the fur, so it will be easier to distribute.
Here's the secret to perfectly fluffy fur: Using your fingertips, rub the suds down to the level of your cat's skin, where oil is present. Mind the areas that tend to look "clumpy," such as her chest, tummy, and haunches, and don't forget the tail.
Shampooing away the grime is only part of your cat's bath: a thorough rinse that takes off every bit of soap is necessary to make your cat's fur look picture-perfect.
If you like, you can use a pet conditioner to add softness back to your cat's fur. Apply this only on the top layer of fur, without massaging it into the skin.
Have plenty of large, absorbent towels ready when your cat comes out of her bath. Towel-dry her gently until her fur is damp, then comb or brush it out gently to get rid of snags and tangles. Many pet owners simply choose to let their cat's fur air-dry. If you go this route, make sure your cat is kept in a warm, dry area until she's completely dry.