Cat Grooming Tips – Bathing, Brushing, & More

Contributions from Catster


When it comes to grooming, cats are pretty low maintenance. Why? Because cats do most of their own grooming. Cats like to stay clean, and they will groom themselves regularly. But even the cleanest cat needs grooming help from her owner every now and then.

Some cats require more grooming than others. Generally, the more fur a cat has, the more grooming she will need. Senior cats require more grooming because they groom themselves less meticulously. If you acclimate your cat to the grooming process as early as possible, grooming can be incident-free. If your cat simply won’t allow you to groom her, find yourself a professional groomer.


Have you ever seen two cats grooming each other? Or has your cat ever tried to lick your hand? When a cat initiates grooming another cat or person, she is being affectionate with them. So as long as your cat enjoys being brushed, when you brush her she will consider it a sign of affection from you.

Many cats love to be brushed. It’s often calming for a cat, and they enjoy the attention and affection. Frequent brushing is essential to keep your cat from getting hairballs, which can sometimes require surgery to remove. Brushing also promotes circulation and gives her a shiny, healthy-looking coat.

If you have a kitten, get her used to being brushed early by using a soft nylon brush. Brush shorthaired cats at least once weekly with a fine-toothed comb or slicker brush.

For longhaired cats, brush at least every other day with a wide-toothed comb or wire-bristle brush may be necessary to prevent tangles and mats. When the warm weather hits in the spring, you may need to groom more often as your cat sheds her winter coat. Some cats, like Persians, have dense undercoats and need daily brushing to remove loose fur. Senior cats, particularly those over the age of 12, are prone to arthritis, which can impair their ability to groom themselves.

A de-shedding tool is especially effective at removing hair, but care should be taken when using it. Don’t start by enthusiastically raking your cat’s backbone. Gently stroke her, then draw the brush across the very top of her coat without catching any hair in the teeth or bristles. Brushing should be positive, calm, and enjoyable for your cat. Keep your first few brushing sessions short, and at a time when your cat is relaxed.

Develop a grooming routine, brushing at the same time of day and same location each session. This helps teach her what to expect, so she grows accustomed to it. You can brush your cat on your lap (you may want to put a towel down first), or upon a table. Gently brush or comb from head to tail, removing loose hair from the brush and her coat with your other hand. Also, use this opportunity to inspect her skin, eyes, ears, and paws for any medical concerns. Observe her reaction as you work. If she starts to walk away or act irritated, don’t restrain her. Just try again later. When you finish brushing, reward her with playtime or a treat.

Don’t assume that what works for one will work for all. You may have to try several different brush or comb types before finding one that works well on a particular cat.


Removing Mats

Mats are painful to your cat and can restrict movement, so they should be removed as soon as you notice them. If you brush your longhaired cat every other day, it will obviate the need to remove mats. But inevitably, every longhaired cat will develop them, and you’ll need to be adept at removing them without harming your cat.

The safest way to remove mats is with clippers. Have a helper hold the cat still while you shave away the mat.

If your cat has a number of mats, it’s much easier and safer to take her to a professional groomer.



Some cats rarely need baths; others, like members of the Sphynx cat breed, need weekly baths.
Bathing is easier if the cat has been accustomed to bathing since an early age. If she is not a frequent bather, you may need to prepare for battle.

If your cat truly needs a bath, enlist the help of a kind soul and gather your supplies:

  • Cat-safe shampoo (NOT shampoo for dogs or humans)
  • Towels
  • A comb or brush
  • Washcloth
  • Cotton balls
  • A cup for rinsing

Before the bath, brush or comb your cat’s fur to remove tangles and mats, and check that her nails are trimmed. It may be best to bathe her in the bathroom, so you can close the door.

Place a towel or rubber mat at the bottom of a sink or basin so your cat won’t slip. Partially fill it with warm water, and then have your helper place your cat in the water. While your helper holds her, wet her fur with the warm water as you talk to her reassuringly. Be careful not to get water or soap on her face. Lather her body with the shampoo, following the instructions on the bottle.

Using the cup, rinse with clean warm water. Wet the washcloth, and carefully wipe her face and ears. Once all the soap is rinsed away, lift her out of the water and towel-dry her as thoroughly as you can. As long as your home isn’t chilly or drafty, your cat can finish drying on her own. Should you decide to blow dry your cat, watch for signs of stress and use low heat to avoid overheating. Last but not least, use cotton balls (never cotton swabs!) to wipe her ears.

If your cat really needs a bath, and you aren’t sure you’re up for the task, find a well-reputed professional groomer who has experience with cats. You may be surprised – some cats love baths!
But if yours is not a fan, it may be easier on both of you to leave that job to a professional.

Just remember: if you’re patient, consistent, and loving in your approach, your cat will love your grooming sessions together. Be respectful of her limits, and this time together will deepen your bond.

For more advice on how to give your cat a bath read How to Survive Giving Your Cat a Bath.


Nail Clipping

If your cat’s nails get too long, playtime could get a little painful. If they grow too long, the nails can actually curl under the paw and rub the skin, causing painful sores. You can prevent this by regularly trimming your cat’s nails, and by providing scratching posts to allow your cat to file her own nails.

As a general rule, you should trim your cat’s nails at least monthly. The key to stress-free nail trimming is to handle your cat’s paws early and often. Inspect and touch your cat’s paws during brushing sessions, so she becomes comfortable with them. Start slowly, keeping the initial trimming sessions short. If needed, just trim a couple of nails each time, until your cat becomes accustomed to it.

If someone is available to help, have them hold your cat still and comfort her while you trim. If your cat isn’t wild about this procedure, wrap her in a towel to immobilize her, exposing one paw at a time. With your cat’s paw between your fingers and thumb, gently squeeze it to extend her nails. Using pet nail clippers, trim only the white tips of the nails, avoiding the pink “quick”, which contains nerves and blood vessels. Don’t forget your cat’s “fifth nail”, which is located further up her leg on her front legs (cats only have 4 nails on their back paws). Like with brushing, a play session or treat afterward can help reinforce that nail trimming is a good thing.

As you look at the claw, you’ll notice a triangular pink area, which is quick. Avoid cutting into this area, as doing so will cause bleeding and pain. To start, hold a paw and press the toe pad to extend the claw. Talk to your cat in a calm, soothing voice while you clip the tip of each nail. Clip straight up with a vertical cut, not diagonally across the nail. This will keep the nail from splitting.

Many cats only need their front claws trimmed, so don’t feel you need to trim the rear claws if they don’t require it. If you snip the quick, don’t panic. Use a styptic to stop the bleeding, and calm your cat with a low soothing voice.


Ear Cleaning

Check your cat’s ears twice a month for dirt and wax buildup (and ticks if your cat spends time outdoors). Some breeds produce more wax than others and require more frequent cleaning.

To clean your cat’s ears, enlist the aid of a helper to restrain her. Wrapping her in a towel will help. Clean the ear lobe using a cotton ball to gently remove dirt, wax, and debris.

Only clean the parts of the ear that are visible. If there appears to be debris inside the ear canal, have a vet remove it.