Cat Grooming - More Than a Good Licking   
by Shari Hearn

Cats are magical, aren't they? They're graceful. They can leap tall armoires in a single bound. They can clean themselves without any help from us humans.

Okay, maybe not all cats are graceful. And maybe not all cats can leap tall armoires in a single bound. But, they can clean themselves without our help, right? Right? Actually, while our feline friends spend a great deal of time grooming themselves, once in awhile they really do need our help sprucing up. And, a good brushing once a week helps remove the loose fur that eventually can cause hairballs in your cat's stomach as she licks herself clean.

Let's take a look at some areas where you can help in your cat's hygiene.

Your Cat's Coat
You can either use a brush or grooming glove purchased from a pet store to brush your cat's fur. Some pet combs with teeth set closely together also help to remove fleas from your cat's coat. Be sure to use soft, gentle strokes while brushing, so as not to harm her skin.

Short-haired cats are generally easier to brush, while some long-haired cats may need extra attention, especially if the fur is matted. I've heard of some people using baby powder (or other powders designed for cats) to make the fur smoother for brushing out mats. You can also break up matted cat fur with scissors, and then brush them out, starting on the outside of the mat and working your way inward. For severely-matted fur, it's best to take your cat to a professional groomer or your veterinarian.

Should you bathe your cat? Normally it's not necessary, but if your cat is unusually dirty it may be necessary. If you don't know by now, most cats don't like taking baths, so it may be something you want to leave to a professional groomer. If you want to take on the task yourself,  however, just be sure to use a shampoo specially formulated for cats. And, avoid getting water in your cats face or ears. Cats don't like that. And, you know what happens when cats don't like something. That's right...they have claws.

Your Cat's Claws
We're all familiar with our cat's claws. In a word, they're sharp. And, they need regular grooming, every two weeks, particularly if you want to lessen scratches on you and your furniture. I happen to be squeamish when it comes to trimming my cat's claws; therefore, I leave that task to my vet and his assistants. But, if you don't mind the challenge,

just be sure you follow some safety rules.

1. Buy a pair of nail clippers designed for cats. Don't use the type of clippers meant for humans as these can split your cat's nails.

2. Become familiar with the two parts of your cat's nail. The thin part with the point at the end, and the thick, pink part near the paw (the "quick"). Clip only the thin part, not the thick part. The thick part contains blood vessels and nerves. (See why I'm squeamish?) You can also look at the nail and clip beyond the point where it starts its downward curve. Remember that cat's claws are retractable, so you will have to extend the nail by squeezing the toe between your forefinger and thumb.

Your Cat's Teeth
Should you brush your cat's teeth? Absolutely, and the sooner you begin the habit with your cat, the better. You can use a child's toothbrush, a finger brush, or one designed for a cat. Be sure to buy a toothpaste designed for cats, as human toothpaste may be harmful to your cat. If you're just beginning to brush your cat's teeth, you might want to start slowly with one or two teeth, working up to the whole mouth. Brushing your cat's teeth is a good habit to get into, and can help save on dental bills later in your cat's life. It's also good to have your cat's teeth checked once or twice a year by your veterinarian.

Practicing good hygiene with your cat not only makes your kitty look good, but also makes her feel better. And, if she feels better, you feel better.

About the Author
Shari Hearn is a writer and creator of www.cattraining411.com, where you can learn about such things as choosing the best litter box
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