One of the great selling points of cats is how low-maintenance they can be for owners. Obsessed with cleanliness, cats constantly self-groom to stay clean. But that doesn’t mean you’re totally off the hook. From brushing your cat’s teeth to grooming its hair and more, we’ll tell you about the cat cleaning tasks that are your responsibility, why they’re your responsibility and how to go about doing them.
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WHY SHOULD I BRUSH MY CAT’S TEETH?
If you go half a day without brushing your teeth, you probably start to feel uncomfortable about how dirty your teeth feel and how nasty your mouth tastes. Many cats live their whole lives without brushing their teeth, so imagine how that would feel? But, of course, brushing isn’t just about comfort. Dental health is important for overall health, and oral diseases can lead to more significant diseases that are serious or even deadly. That’s true for humans and cats alike.
HOW DO I BRUSH MY CAT’S TEETH?
Start as early as possible. The younger your cat is when you start brushing its teeth, the more normal it will seem to the animal, and less like a new and unpleasant invasion. At any age, you can make your cat comfortable with tooth brushing by introducing the habit in stages. Start by just massaging its gums with your fingers for as long as it will tolerate you. Over time, try to do it longer and longer until your cat will accept a toothbrush in its mouth. Once your cat becomes used to the brush, you can actually introduce toothpaste into the mix. Read our guide to cat dental health for more information.
WHY SHOULD I CLIP MY CAT’S CLAWS?
First, lets make a distinction between claw clipping and declawing. Clipping your cat’s claws is the equivalent of trimming your own nails. Declawing is the equivalent of cutting off your fingers at the first knuckle. Declawing is cruel, but clipping your cat’s claws is about cleanliness, maintenance and comfort. Your cat may not need its claws for hunting when it’s living a cushy life in your apartment, but it will still use them in play and communication. Your cat will scratch in order to maintain its claws, but with a combination of regular clipping and focusing your cat’s scratching behavior in appropriate places (i.e., scratching posts), you can save your home from destruction.
HOW DO I CLIP MY CAT’S CLAWS?
To make things easy on yourself and get the best results, you may want to obtain a pair of claw trimmers specifically designed for clipping a pet’s nails, but the human nail clippers you already have in your medicine cabinet will get the job done. The technique is the same either way. Chances are good that your cat won’t love the process and may struggle. Having an extra pair of hands to hold the cat steady while your cut its claws can help. Some people like to trim their cat’s claws when the cat is napping, because it will be too groggy to cause much of a fuss. And it may be a good idea to trim just a few nails at a time so your cat doesn’t feel too traumatized. Gently squeeze the paw to extend the nails out. Clip the tip of the claw, being careful not to cut the quick. If you do draw blood, don’t beat yourself up about it. Grab some styptic powder to stop the bleeding.
WHY SHOULD I BRUSH AND COMB MY CAT’S COAT?
Cats are notoriously fastidious, and spend large portions of the day grooming themselves, so many cat owners may assume brushing their cats would serve no purpose. They’re wrong. Brushing and combing a cat removes dirt and dead skin that your cat doesn’t remove on its own, making the cat’s coat cleaner, shinier and healthier. It also keeps the coat from forming mats and tangles, a particular concern for longhaired cats. And lastly, it reduces shedding, so your home won’t be so completely covered from top to bottom in hair that you didn’t brush out.
HOW DO I BRUSH AND COMB MY CAT’S COAT?
For the most part, brushing or combing your cat is fairly intuitive. Be sure to always brush in the direction of hair growth, never against the grain. If there are tangles you have difficulty working out, applying a little bit of talcum powder may help. Whether you use a brush, a comb, a rubber grooming tool or any combination of these will depend on your preference, your cat’s preference and your cat’s coat type. Research your cat’s breed for some insight into what’s best for its coat. Also consult our guide to cat grooming products for more ideas.
WHY SHOULD I GIVE MY CAT A BATH?
Yes, cats hate baths, and yes, they clean themselves, so you probably won’t need to bathe your cat very frequently. But there are times when you will need to dunk Fluffy, especially if she’s an outdoor cat, or if she gets herself into a sticky or smelly situation. Since water baths are so unpleasant to most cats, make a plan ahead of time to get through it as painlessly as possible.
HOW DO I GIVE MY CAT A BATH?
The actual act of bathing a cat is fairly straightforward. Place the cat in a small tub or a sink filled with lukewarm water (not hot) and shampoo, massage the soapy water into the cat’s fur and skin while avoiding delicate eye and face areas, then rinse it off with a hose or a pitcher. The complicated part is how much your cat may struggle throughout all of this. To make things easier, try bathing the cat immediately after it wakes from a nap, or immediately after an intense play session. If your cat’s claws could use a trim, clip them before the bath. That’s for your sake. Your cat will probably use its claws trying to escape the bath. After the bath, dry your cat
thoroughly with a towel. You can use a hair dryer on the lowest setting if it doesn’t freak your cat out. And for crying out loud, give the poor cat a treat when it’s all done.
WHY SHOULD I CLEAN OUT MY CAT’S LITTER BOX?
Because your cat likes it clean. You flush your toilet after you use it, don’t you? You’d probably be disgusted if someone in your house didn’t, and rightfully so. Just like you like your toilet to be clean, your cat wants its toilet “flushed” too. That shouldn’t be a surprise since we know what neat freaks they are in general. Still, many cat owners are either too lazy to clean out their litter boxes regularly, or they don’t realize they’re supposed to. (We know one new cat owner who thought she was supposed to do it weekly instead of daily!) And if your cat’s comfort isn’t enough motivation for you, you should know that if it you don’t clean the box, your cat is likely to stop using it and start using your floors and carpeting instead.
Next: How to Clean Up Yours Cat's Messes!
HOW DO I CLEAN OUT MY CAT’S LITTER BOX?
Scoop the box at least once a day. Most cat litter is made to clump, so sifting out poop and clumps of urine is pretty simple. Put the sifted matter in a plastic bag, tie the bag up and throw it away. Wash your hands when you’re done! Your cat will probably scatter some litter when it uses the box. This is normal. You can help contain that mess with litter liners and mats, and my making sure your cat has a box that is an appropriate size. Boxes with high sides not only cut down on scattering, but also boost your cat’s sense of privacy in the box. Lastly, you should entirely change out the litter in your cat’s box once a week. Take the time to wash out the box with soap and water when you do.