Grooming can encompass different parts of your kitty such as fur, nails, teeth and ears. Some areas are little easier to take care of than others. Others may require patience and training and a dedicated owner to get it done.
Why do Cats Groom Themselves?
Cats in general are very neat creatures and would perform some aspect of grooming themselves for about 50 percent of the waking time. They learn this while growing up as kittens by their moms or other familiar cats grooming them. So if this was not experienced by the cat while as a kitten, then it may be that your cat may not be much of a groomer as others.
The grooming of kittens begins from the time they are born, when their mother licks the afterbirth from their body and to make sure that they are alive. They will continue this during the few weeks after the kittens are born. The mom will also clean the kittens’ abdominal and anal areas after their feeding as a form of encouragement for them to eliminate waste. The kittens then begin grooming themselves when they’re about 3 weeks of age and by 6 weeks they would have mastered the art of grooming just like adult cats. Kittens may then begin to groom each other, especially in those hard to reach areas like the neck, top of the head, faces and ears. This is known as allogrooming, which is a form of social grooming among cats that are familiar with each other.
The Importance of Grooming
Grooming helps a cat to maintain healthy skin. This is done as licking encourages the production of sebum, which is an oily secretion that is produced by sebaceous glands at the base of each hair. It also spreads the sebum over the fur coat to protect and waterproof the fur.
Grooming is also a form of heat regulation in the cat. The sweat glands of cats are clustered in specific areas like the paws; they do not sweat over much of the surface of their body. As the saliva spreads on the fur and evaporates, this helps the cat remain as a cool cat in hot weather. In cold weather, a properly maintained fur coat can serve as a good insulator.
Grooming as an Indicator
Grooming can be done as a form of displacement behavior. Displacement behaviors are behaviors that seem inappropriate to a situation. Grooming, in this instance, serves as a substitute activity and helps to reduce tension that arises from conflict. So for instance, a cat faced with an aggressive animal, may suddenly begin grooming, he/she may be feeling fearful and the grooming will help to reduce the tension. Or a cat that misestimates a jump may then stop and groom himself as a calming mechanism.
A cat that does not maintain its grooming which results in a sloppy appearance can actually be a sign of illness in your cat. Also, sometimes older cats with arthritis may find it difficult to groom themselves and end up with an untidy appearance.
Excessive grooming by a cat may indicate a sign of physical or emotional illness and a visit to the veterinarian may be necessary.
How Cats Groom Themselves?
Each cat will have their habit for the order in which they groom themselves, but they always groom their nose, ears. They may then lick their shoulders, chest, foreleg, flanks and hind legs. They also lick their genital area and their tail. They may then lick their forepaw and use it to clean their face, head and ears, licking it again ever so often. They will switch paws to clean the appropriate side.
The cat’s tongue is rough to the touch as it is covered with tiny spurs or hooks (called rasps) and it acts more like a comb. This enables it to catch and remove dirt, parasites, loose fur and dead skin.
Then, your cat will use his rear claws to groom the neck and ears. He will also nibble on the rear claws to keep them groomed. To keep the front claws in ship-shape, he will both nibble and scratch on objects.
Why Should You Groom Your Kitty?
Whenever a cat grooms herself, she swallows some hair and the more hair she has on her body, the more she will swallow. This hair is not digested and can collect in her stomach to form hairballs, which she may then cough up. The hairball when coughed up has an elongated shape and looks like poop. Too much of this hair can also collect in her intestines, and an operation may be required to remove it to save your kitty’s life.
So you can help your kitty by helping her groom, to minimize the occurrence of hairballs in her stomach or intestine. Also, older or ill cats that do not show any interest in grooming themselves or overweight kitties who cannot reach some or all of the usual grooming areas should be groomed by you every day, to assist them in keeping clean. Cats can grow accustom to being bathed, so if required, you can bathe your kitty with lukewarm water and cat shampoo, rinse and then dry thoroughly. Cat shampoo should be used as shampoo for humans can actually dry out a cats skin. After bathing, you should comb or brush your kitty’s hair, as she may groom herself after the bath and thus, ingest hair.
Also, grooming your kitty is a great way to spend some quality time with her. Most cats, after being groomed a few times by their owner, enjoy the grooming and willingly accept the brushing or combing of her hair by you.
It helps to build trust between you and her.
Tips for a Successful Grooming Experience
Make it an enjoyable experience for both you and kitty
Kitties, in general, love being petted and once accustom, enjoy the combing or brushing by their owner. It can also be a calming and comforting experience for you as well, when grooming your kitty. When it’s time to groom her, approach her in a friendly, calm manner and in between grooming stroke her, so that she enjoys the attention you are giving to her.
Know when to stop
While grooming your kitty be on the lookout for signs that she has reached her grooming threshold. If you are unable to groom her entire body because she starts to resist or fight, then stop the grooming. It’s better to have several calm and successful grooming sessions rather than a long strenuous session. It will also prevent your kitty from associating the grooming sessions with an unhappy feeling and will encourage her to continue enjoying the grooming you give her.
It’s okay to gently restrain your kitty while grooming her, but only if she isn’t alarmed, and best to restrain yourself and keep relaxed. While grooming, use gentle brushing/combing motions so that kitty’s hair won’t be pulled and tugged. This would help to make the experience an enjoyable one for both you and her.
Know when to get professional help
If at a point in time, you realize that the grooming process is too challenging, then it may be time to retain the services of a professional groomer. For instance, if kitty’s hair becomes matted or tangled or something gets caught in her hair and it’s difficult to groom or remove, then it’s probably best to contact your veterinarian or professional groomer. Or, if kitty decides she does not like home grooming, never mind how much you try to enlist her cooperation, then maybe an appointment can be made with a professional, once your budget allows for it.
While you are at the groomers, feel free to ask for tips on how to groom her at home as daily grooming can help prevent matting and tangling of kitty’s hair. Most, if not all, groomers would be happy to offer this advice as removing tangles can be an exasperating process for both the groomer and the kitty!