by Mary Oquendo
So, you want to groom your own cat. As a professional holistic cat groomer, I take a different approach to cat grooming. One that takes into consideration the physical and mental well-being of cats. Not every cat is a candidate for grooming. They must be fit and healthy.
Factors to consider include:
• Is the cat lethargic or are their gums pale? Both can indicate inadequate blood flow.
• Will I manipulate already painful joints on an arthritic cat?
• Cats have a difficult time calming down, especially if you make the situation worse by insisting on doing an activity they don’t like. A cat, whose stress levels are rising, is at risk for a heart attack. Signs of stress include: dilated eyes, heavy panting, unusual vocalizations, and/or ears pointed backwards. Dilated eyes are when the blacks of the eye are larger than normal.
• An angry cat can become a stressed cat in short order.
• Older cats skin may become thin and papery. The reason this is important is because thinner skin will scratch easier. Unlike dogs and people, cat skin is not attached to muscle. A slight nick has the potential to become a large tear.
Next gather equipment and supplies. Check the integrity of your equipment before you use it. Damaged tools may cause injury. You will need:
• Cat safe shampoo. Cat safe labeling is strictly up to the manufacturer to make that determination. There is no state or federal agency that oversees it. Instead look for full ingredient listing. Some pet manufacturers may list categories instead of ingredients, such as earth-based shampoo base and coconut derived cleansers. What you want to avoid are essential oils, as well as flea shampoos that use toxic chemicals. Essential oils may not be listed on a category based ingredient lists. Cats cannot metabolize most essential oils or toxic chemicals. They are stored in their livers and kidneys. Over time, it may cause chronic medical conditions.
• Rubber curry brush for short-coated cats.
• Pin brush and standard metal comb for longer coated cats. They can vary in price. The cheaper brushes and combs will have sharper edges because they do not round the tips. Run the brush up your arm, if it scratches you, it will scratch the delicate skin of an older cat.
• Cat comb. This is a particular style of comb that alternates long and short tines. It is more effective at removing undercoat than a standard comb.
• Nail clipper. I prefer the scissor-action to the guillotine-action type of clipper. The guillotine-action pulls on the nail as it cuts, which may cause discomfort to your cat.
• Hand held adjustable clipper for shaving out small mats. This clipper has a lever on the blade that changes the size from 9 to 40 in 5 increments. The 9 is a short shave and the 40 is a surgical shave. They are lightweight, low vibrating, and quiet. The larger professional clippers may be too noisy, as well as have a higher oscillary rate which causes a vibration that may irritate your cat.
• Handheld dryer. These dryers can become dangerously hot very quickly. Monitor the heat flow while in use so as to not burn your cat.
Set the mood. Reduce the stimuli as much as possible. Turn off the TV and play soothing music such as classical or pop. Remove noisy children and other pets. Make this one-on-one happy time between you and your cat. Have plenty of their favorite, yummiest treats and be generous with them.
If you choose to begin by bathing, half fill your sink with lukewarm water. The body temperature of cats is higher than that of people. What feels warm to us may be too hot for them. Place towels in the sink. Your cat needs something soft to grip. Fill an empty 16-ounce soda bottle with about 2 inches of shampoo and fill with water. Shake well. Place your cat in the water and thoroughly wet by gently moving the water over your cat. Most cats will not like water sprayed directly on them unless it is a very gentle flow. Once you are certain the bath will not stress your cat, take the pre-mixed shampoo and work it into their coat. Use a washcloth on their face. Use the water in the sink to remove as much soap as possible. Drain the water, and refill the sink. Repeat this until all the soap is removed. Towel off and dry with a handheld dryer. Toss out any unused, diluted shampoo, as it will begin to collect bacteria.
Once fully dry, you can begin to comb, brush, or clip your cat. Most cats do not respond well to being scruffed on the neck. Scruffing is when you grab your cat by the loose skin at their neck. Instead use a gentle touch on their body or cover your cat entirely with a towel. If you towel your cat, expose only the part that you are working on. The brush is used for loosening up the coat, while the coat is for finishing. Your comb should move easily through the coat starting at the skin outwards. If you meet resistance with the comb, go back to the brush to loosen the coat.
Always work with their pace and tolerance. Cats respond better to shorter, consistent, and more frequent rather than sporadic, longer grooming sessions. At the first indications of stress, stop the grooming and try again another day. There is a possibility you will need to stop during the bath with un-rinsed shampoo on still on your cat. If this occurs, allow your cat time to relax. Then, using warm, wet towels gently wash the shampoo off.
One of the best benefits of regularly grooming your cat, is you will know their physical condition and can spot irregularities sooner. Early detection means early intervention. The sooner you attend to any health concerns, the better the outcome. And don’t forget that your cat will feel good, and look better with regular grooming care. But recognize when cat grooming is beyond your capabilities and hire the professional.
Mary is a holistic pet groomer from Danbury, CT. She is a nationally recognized speaker and writer within the professional pet industry. Mary is a Reiki Master and Advanced Crystal Master whose focus is on the animals.