Cat Grooming Guide


Grooming your cat includes brushing his fur, clipping his claws, and sometimes bathing him. If your cat doesn’t want to be brushed or clipped you may end up with some bites and scratches. Plus, he’ll probably avoid you for cat grooming guidesome time until he finally forgives you (usually after being fed). When you adopt a kitten you can train him early by brushing and clipping on a regular basis. He’ll come to see it as a normal part of his cozy life. However, if you’ve adopted an older cat or if you’re having a hard time with your kitten you’re going to need some help.

Longhaired cats need to be brushed more often than shorthaired cats. Cats with longer hair tend to matt more often. Claws should be clipped once every two weeks, depending on how fast they grow. Even hairless cat need to be brushed! As mentioned above, you can bathe your cat. Again, starting as a kitten will help him see it as something normal, but if you’re trying to bathe an older cat who has never had a bath you’re going to need an ambulance on call and a metal armor suit. Kidding…sort of.

If your cat’s fur is so matted that you cannot brush it you need to take her to the vet so the professionals can shave off the matted and unkempt fur.

Grooming Needs by Breed Category

Basic cat grooming consists of a bath, nail clip, comb outs and clip out any mats.

Long Haired Cats: Long haired cats have a tendency to mat if not groomed regularly. It will take longer to brush these cats than short haired cats.

Short Haired Cats: Short haired cats take less time to brush and need it less often, usually about once a week.

Hairless Cats: These are the easiest to groom but they need special attention to the oil their skin produces. In the lists of hairless cats the Sphynx is one of the easiest to groom, but still must be bathed on a routine basis. With hairless cats you need to remove the oil that naturally occurs on the skin. If you do not remove it, your hairless cat can develop serious sores.

Grooming Tools for Cats

Make room in your first aid kit or use a bag of some sort to keep your cat’s grooming supplies in. You will need a nail clipper, brush, comb, and shampoo. Buy everything from your vet or a pet store. Everything must be specifically made for cats or kittens. Using something that isn’t made for cats can (and probably will) result in an injury, illness or allergic reaction.

Clipping Cat Claws

This is a specialized tool used for clipping the cat’s nails to prevent scratching of your furniture or you. Be careful when clipping to avoid injury. You mustn’t cut too short or you will cause pain and bleeding. Some clippers come with a built-in magnifying glass, which is great for seeing where the bloodline in the claw is.

When it’s time to clip have a friend or family member available just in case, but try it on your own first. Remain calm. If you’re nervous your cat will sense it. Take your cat into a quiet and relatively dark room by yourself. Set him on your lap facing away from you. Praise your cat and pet while allowing him to inspect the clipper. Hold a front paw in your hand and gently squeeze to expose the claws. At this point your cat might begin to struggle and fight a lot, and (if you can’t hold him steady) that’s when you’ll need to call in your friend with treats. Looking at the claw you will see a pinkish-reddish line that stops toward the tip. Do not cut this. This is the bloodline. Cut below this line.

If you’re too nervous about it make a vet appointment and the doctor will show you how it’s done. If you’re still too nervous about it you can simply take your cat to the vet to have his claws clipped and you’ll never have to do it.

Note: Never get your cat declawed. Declawing a cat is similar to cutting off the first third of your finger, and it leaves them defenseless. It will cause behavior problems as well.

Cat Brushing and Combing

Cat brushes and combs are easy to use and easy to clean up after. These are your primary grooming tools when it comes to cats. Kittens need a soft brush because their fur is usually quite thin. Older cats with thicker fur can have brushes with flexible metal bristles to get the loose fur underneath the top layer off.

Allow your cat to lay where he is most comfortable, and where he will stay still. Pet and praise him while letting him inspect the brush or comb. Begin brushing starting with the back. Move to the neck, sides, head, and belly making sure you get everywhere. Most cats love to be brushed. Others will need to be reassured into the routine.

Bathing Your Cat

Cats do not need to be bathed like we do. They are extremely clean animals as you will notice when they’re licking themselves for hours a day. However, many cats will enjoy a warm bath. This is a nice way to clean your cat while having a good, bonding time together. If you want to bathe your cat you can do so about once a month. Draw a warm bath and use cat shampoo to massage into his fur. Rinse him off with warm water and towel dry. Some cats will allow you to use a hair dryer to dry them off faster, and some will flip out. Give it a try. The noise is usually what he will dislike so turn it on away from him, not next to him. Let him feel the warm air and see if he likes it.

Why You Need to Groom Your Cat

We all know that cats groom themselves and unless they are too old or too fat they do pretty good job. So why is it important for you to be able to groom them also?

Heather Loesner, emergency veterinarian at Crown Veterinary Specialists in Lebanon, NJ, says, “Most health cats are fastidious groomers. A rough or oily hair coat can be a sign of illness as the desire to look beautiful is often overlooked by a cat once they aren’t feeling well. You can groom your cat by brushing them at least weekly and if their hair coat is getting dull, flaky or smelly, consider bathing your cat in the sink, using mild, high quality cat shampoo/conditioner. Fight the urge to use human shampoo on your cats as it can be irritating to their skin.”

  • Cats that are not groomed have a tendency to shed more around the house than ones that you have groomed.
  • Cats that have to do all their own grooming often end up with large hairballs.
  • Cats that are not groomed regularly are likely to develop hard to remove mats.
  • You groom your cat out of love. The more time you spend grooming and offering your cat your affections, the closer your relationship will be.

Use treats for each grooming session and enjoy the time spent with him. Keep the routine by doing it at the same time of day and same day of the week every time. Cats thrive on routine.

Photo: Thinkstock

Nicky LaMarco has been a freelance writer since 2001. Nicky is an experienced ghostwriter and copywriter. She also writes for a variety of magazines. Nicky lives in Maine with her husband, two daughters, and two cats. Learn more about her at