Cat and Kitten Grooming

Cat and kitten grooming can be fun for you – and essential to help your cat or kitten maintain good health. Here are some easy techniques to help keep your kitty in tip-top shape.

Dental Health

o Sniff your cat’s breath – foul breath can indicate tummy problems or gum disease, which need vet treatment.
o Gently lift your cat’s lips and look at the gums – healthy gums are generally firm and pinkish, with clean teeth without brown staining
o Gum swellings and/or red or white colours can be due to gum problems
o Brownish or caked teeth indicate dental problems
o Also look out for dark red lines at the gum lines, or red, swollen gums; gum or tongue ulcers; pus; loose teeth; problems chewing; a lot of drooling or pawing at the mouth area.

All of these signs show the vet needs to examine your cat or kitten. Many people don’t know that gum swelling can sometimes happen during more serious illness. In any case, of itself it can lead to painful dental disease.

Cleaning a kitten or cat’s teeth

o Prevent the majority of dental or gum diseases by simply regularly cleaning their teeth.
o Check with your vet beforehand for gingivitis, which cats and kittens are very prone to. It could make tooth brushing painful for them.
o Only use a special cat tooth brush and toothpaste; ask your vet to recommend a brand for you, as human toothpaste can damage cat’s heath. Human toothbrushes are too big and harsh – again ask the vet for recommendations. Some cat toothbrushes can be worn on your finger
o Start by gently touching the gums with your fingers or a cotton bud (USA: ‘cotton swab’) several times.
o Later, allow your cat or kitten to taste the cat toothpaste, by smearing a small amount along the lips a few times.
o Gradually introduce the cat or kitten toothbrush to delicately and gently brush teeth with cat or kitten toothpaste.
o Give chew toys which promote dental health, which you can ask your vet about. These are particularly useful if you only feed ‘wet food’ (cans, pouches or non-dried-meat or fish products), although still of value for cats on dry food diets. You can also buy specific diets for cats with more severe dental problems but get your vets advice before you spend you money. Some products are endorsed by the USA’s Vetinary Oral Health Council (accepted by the British Vetinary Dental Association and the European Vetinary Dental Association).

Some tips on problems to look out for:

o Dark red lines along the gum line – especially in older cats, can be sore and even ulcerated
o Wobbly teeth and abscesses
o Inflamed mouth lining – inside of mouth looks red, tough to swallow properly Sores or swellings on the upper lip which slowly grow larger
o Swellings under the tongue (Salivary cysts)
o Mouth and/or tongue ulcers (sometimes occur during respiratory or kidney illnesses)

All of the above = immediate trip to the vets.

Brushing & Bathing

Mostly your kitten or cat is ‘self-cleaning’ but they do benefit from some help.

o Regular cat brushing removes dirt and helps distribute natural coat oils
o Use a special cat brush, you vet can recommend one for your particular cat – the needs vary by breed (or cross-breeds, in the case or our non-pedigree!).
o Brush short haired cats once or twice weekly- or of course, as specially advised by your vet)
o Brush long haired cats daily – their coat can otherwise become matted and irritate them. Don’t ignore matted hair – gently tease it untangled with a slicker brush – ask your vet to recommend one. NEVER pull the hair, as this is painful and stressful for the cat and it won’t get hardcore tangles out in any case. If the matting is in multiple ‘clumps’, or one severe ‘clump’, take your cat to the vets – they’re very very used to dealing with this problem.
o Make it a gentle, stress-free regular time with lots of cat treats.
o Choose a quiet place in your home and start by stroking then using the brush, then back to stroking and give plenty of treats – build an association that this a nice time.
o NEVER scold or punish cats or kittens that don’t take to grooming; gentle persistence is the key. They’re stressed and frightened, rather than wilfully ‘naughty’.

Hairballs

Longhaired in particular are affected by hairballs, caused by ingesting too much fur. Cats may vomit hairballs, or have diarrhoea which you’ll see contains clumps of fur. Regular grooming can prevent hairballs forming by removing old and loose hairs. For persistent hairball problems, you must take them to the vet – there are products they can recommend to stop this happening, and persistent vomiting or diarrhoea is not good for their health at all.

Bathing

This is probably only really necessary if they have been in contact with oily, greasy substances which are too much for them to handle by licking off. Gently bathe them using special cat shampoos -human shampoos as these may irritate the skin. Seek you vets advice immediately if they come into contact with chemicals (such as rolling in wet paint or wood treatment products, etc) – you don’t want them ingesting the chemicals by licking them as they clean themselves.

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