You don’t have to be a cat lover to realist that these delightful furry creatures appear to spend half their live grooming and the other half asleep – recovering from the exertion! Experts will tell you that they spend about 15% of their time grooming and this effort isn’t just to maintain a shiny coat. It is in fact an inbuilt habit that has multiple health benefits.
If you’ve watched your cat closely you’ll see that he’s actually giving himself a bath and a massage; during which process he is assessing his body. He may spend some time nibbling and removing his old claws so that the new ones underneath are revealed, or simply lick his paws. So what’s the reason for all this action and why does it appear to take so much time?
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Why do they go to all this trouble?
- Well it’s not just a straightforward wash and brush up; licking and grooming not only cleans and straightens the fur it also regulates the body temperature. Although cats do have sweat glands in their faces, paws, and anal area they don’t keep a cat very cool so it’s the evaporating saliva from their coat that cools them down in hot weather.
- Conversely, a well-groomed coat is a great insulation when the weather gets cold in winter.
- If a cat sustains an injury it will automatically lick the troubled area and the antibacterial properties in the saliva will help to combat infection.
- Grooming can also help to reduce stress; it stimulates their circulation and improves muscle tone.
- For a cat, a good grooming session is as pleasurable as a great massage is to its owner.
Grooming follows a set pattern
Not only that, but a cat has its particular favourite pattern. He may like to begin with his face, ears and nose and gradually move through to his tail. Alternatively, he may lick his paws first and polish the bits his tongue can’t reach.
His tongue is like a piece of rough sandpaper, covered with tiny rasps that act like a comb – removing dirt, loose fur, dead skin and even parasites. He then proceeds to swallow this debris which is normally dissolved by the acid in his stomach. However, if he swallows too much hair it may form a hairball. If you are concerned about this you can dab some hairball ointment on his front paws and let him lick it off.
Sometimes Cats Groom Each Other
It’s instinctive for a mother cat to groom its newborn kittens as this ensures that they begin to breathe properly and it also clears away the birth fluids. This grooming and washing continues throughout the first weeks; licking the abdominal and anal areas after they have been fed encourages the new born kittens to pass waste and also teaches them to clean and groom themselves.
As they grow, cats and kittens may continue to groom each other as a show of affection. They often rely on a sibling or partner to groom the ‘difficult to reach’ areas.
Do you need to help?
- Daily brushing will help you to bond with your pet and many cats enjoy this brushing sensation.
- Brushing helps to remove some of the hair that they would otherwise swallow; this may help to avoid fur balls especially in the molting season.
- Cats with long hair will probably need your help to keep their fur free of knots and avoid matting
- If your cat is getting old or is ill they may have little interest in keeping himself clean or may be unable to reach the places he wants to wash.
- If your cat has rolled in something unmentionable, you may need to bathe him in warm water and special cat shampoo. Make sure you rinse and dry him thoroughly.
Do you need special tools?
A stainless steel comb with rounded teeth is an essential part of your cat’s grooming kit. The teeth should be set far enough apart to be able to untangle knotted fur and remove dirt. You will also need a flea comb; this has teeth very close together so that they will trap the fleas. Finally a brush that will remove dirt and dirt and help to stimulate the skin to produce natural oils which will help to keep the skin and hair healthy.
Use these simple tools to groom your cat…
- Every day if he has long hair or unable to take care of himself
- Two or three times a week if he has short hair.
Trim the claws every two weeks with a proper clipper – or ask the vet to do this if you think your cat will not co-operate.
The alternative is to take him to a professional groomer, but this may be out of your budget and may raise serious objections from your cat.