Grooming Your Cat

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

23 September 2016

Cats are famously fastidious and independent creatures but every now and again they need a helping paw from their human. How often you groom your cat and the extent of your involvement in the grooming process will depend on your cat's breed, age and tem-purr-ament.


A weekly grooming routine has multiple benefits for both you and your cat.

Benefits for your feline:

  • Helps circulation
  • Improves muscle tone
  • Spreads sebum and other natural oils through your cat's fur
  • Removes loose hairs which can reduces the size and frequency of hairballs

Benefits for you:

  • Is an ideal opportunity to snuggle down with your furry friend for some much needed one-on-one bonding time
  • Gives you a chance to identify pesky parasites and skin wounds that have the potential to cause your kitty-cat all kind of problems
  • It’s an opportunity to relieve some of your own stress - no, seriously, it’s scientifically proven that stroking your cat lowers stress levels. As if you needed another excuse!


For shorthaired cats we recommend weekly grooming your cat with a fine-toothed metal comb, followed by a natural-bristle brush or a wipe down with a hypoallergenic baby wipe to remove any dead hairs. Gently brush your cat's hair in the direction it grows. Use the bristle brush to sweep the coat up, and then smooth it down again.

For longhaired cats we recommend daily grooming your cat with a steel comb. Tease any knots out with your fingers or cut the with blunt-ended scissors pointed away from your cat. You may want to get your vet to help you as it can be difficult to see where fur ends and cat begins.

Get your cat used to the grooming process early and gradually increase the amount of time you spend grooming them. It’s a good idea to get them used to having different parts of their body, like their paws and tail, touched. Grooming your cat is best started during kittenhood but if you’ve adopted an older cat try introducing brushing to them as soon as possible so that they come to associate it with you.

If grooming is a struggle, try offering treats, stroking and talking reassuringly - the general principles of training your cat apply here. Gently start to groom as your cat’s attention turns to the treat. If your cat is still resistant to the process then stop, a cat should never be forcibly petted or groomed (or, made to do anything really).

If you notice bald patches in your cat’s fur or notice a significant loss of hair, the underlying cause may be a health-related problem and should be referred to a vet.


With the exception of some breeds like Maine Coons and Bengals, cats usually don’t take to water, so bathing can prove difficult. Thankfully, unless your cat has rolled in something particularly unpleasant, regular bathing isn’t vital for maintaining your cat's coat. Sphynx cats are the exception to this rule. You will need to sponge them down regularly to remove any oily residues and prevent sores forming in their folds.


  • Always bathe after brushing
  • Place a rubber mat in the bath or sink to avoid your cat slipping
  • Run about 5-10cm of lukewarm water
  • Wet the cat with either a spray hose nozzle, plastic jug or cup, taking care to avoid the eyes, ears and nose. If your cat is tolerant enough place a small ball of cotton wool in each ear for extra protection
  • Massage in the shampoo from head to tail
  • Rinse thoroughly
  • Dry using a towel in a warm place
  • Give plenty of cuddles of encouragement


Claws are another area that your cat can be capable of maintaining without your help. All they need, unless you’re willing to sacrifice your furniture, is a scratching post. Check your cat’s claws regularly as untrimmed claws can cause all sorts of a-paw-ling problems for your cat, including painful infections, difficulty walking and difficulty using the litter box.


  • Gently apply some pressure to the top of the foot and cushiony pad underneath to cause your cat to extend its claws.
  • Use sharp, high-quality cat nail scissors to cut off the white tip of each nail, just before the point where it begins to curl.
  • Take care to avoid the quick, a vein that runs into the nail. This pink area can be seen through the nail.
  • If you do accidentally cut into this pink area, it may bleed, in which case you can apply some styptic powder to stop the bleeding


Your furbaby may be able to hear the opening of a cat food tin all the way from its outdoor cat enclosure but those ears don’t look after themselves!

A healthy inner ear should be pale pink in color, carry no debris or odor and have minimal earwax, if any. If you find that your cat’s ears are caked with wax or you detect an odor, make an appointment with your vet.


  • Place a little bit of liquid ear cleaner (ask your vet for a recommendation) onto a clean cotton ball or piece of gauze.
  • Gently fold back the ear and wipe away any debris or earwax that you can see on the underside of her ear.
  • Lift the dirt and wax away - do not rub it into the ear. And do not attempt to clean the canal as probing inside of your cat’s ear can cause trauma or infection.


Whether they’re hunting their fluffy toys or hypnotising you into handing out a treat, your cat's eyes are one of their defining features. Taking good care of their peepers is an important part of your duties.


  • Face your cat in a brightly lit area and look it in the eyes. Sigh deeply. Now take note- they should be clear and bright, and the area around the eyeball should be white. The pupils should be equal in size
  • With your thumb gently roll down the eyelid and take a look at the lid’s lining. It should be pink, not red or white
  • Wipe away any crusty gunk from your cat’s eyes with a damp cotton ball. Always wipe away from the corner of the eye to avoid infection, and use a fresh cotton ball for each eye
  • If possible snip away any long hairs that could be blocking their vision or poking them in the eyes.


Good dental hygiene is even more important for cats than it is for humans as bacteria can enter your cat's bloodstream and cause damage to the kidneys and other vital organs.

Getting your cat into a routine pays off! It will make the process a lot easier.


  • Allow your cat to sit on your knee while you brush its teeth to make them feel more comfortable and more open to brushing
  • Try dipping your finger in some tuna water or onion-free stock and rubbing their teeth. This will get your cat used to the sensation, while the taste forms a positive association.
  • Start small by brushing two or three front teeth and gradually increased the number of teeth you brush.
  • Never use human toothpaste! Fluoride is not good for cats - use a feline friendly product instead.

Grooming is just one part of keeping your cat tip-top - check on the Healthy Cat Checklist to make sure you’re keeping up-to-date on all your duties!


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