Cutting Your Cat’s Nails

Your cat will keep it’s nails short naturally. Sadly this often involves your sofa. It’s a natural instinct for cats to scratch and claw but sometimes they may need extra help to keep their nails short, especially if their claws are hurting you, a child or your sofa.

Many cats freak out if you try to cut their nails. If you are really struggling, then it is better to take the cat to a vet.

To avoid a full blown hissing fit, take it very slowly and calmly and provide your cat with lots of breaks and tasty treats as a reward for tolerant behaviour.

Choose a Clipper

There are two main options in nail trimmers, so try them out and choose the one that you find easy to use.

  1. Guillotine –There is a small hole to place the nail through and then squeezing the handles brings the blade across the hole and through the nail.
  2. Scissors – working just like a pair of scissors but with a rounded blade to more accurately cut the nail.

Trimming

Start your trimming session when your cat is in a relaxed and happy mood. Begin by getting them used to having their feet touched and reward them with some small treats to encourage them to cooperate. It is easier if you have one person to hold the cat and another to concentrate on trimming the nails.

Gently press your finger and thumb on either side of the pad and paw, to extend the claw. Gently trim with the clipper, but watch for the quick – a pale pink blood vessel running through the centre. If you accidentally cut too high up, it will hurt and bleed profusely, so leave lots of room between the quick and the trimmers.

Cats have five claws, so make sure you trim them all. If it is easier for your cat, do one paw at a time and let them have a break to cool off and regain their dignity, as necessary.

Grooming and Hair Cuts

Although cats may be excellent at keeping themselves clean and tidy, many long haired breeds need a bit of extra help. Shaving can help keep them cool and comfortable, remove the need for brushing out their long hair or reduce the amount of shedding in your home.

There are some professional cat groomers, but it is likely to be a very stressful experience for your cat. Most vet clinics will lightly sedate them before they are shaved, which makes for a much more pleasant experience for them.

Common Cuts

  • Hygiene clip – the hair around the bottom and feet will be trimmed to avoid dirt becoming trapped, but the rest of the coat will be left. Good if you love your cat’s long fur but they are struggling to keep themselves clean around that area, or for senior cats.
  • All over clip –your cat will be trimmed all over to the same length, varying from as short as 1mm to up to 5cm. The easiest and cleanest clip, keeps them nice and cool during summer and make tick searches much easier.
  • Lion Cut – a tip on the tail, paws and lion like mane are left, but the rest of the body is shaved. You can keep some of the look of the breed that you like, without having them long all over.
  • Belly clip – the hair around the lower chest, belly and bottom is removed, but everything else is left. Common in Persians, this allows the cat to lose a bit of heat and keeps their underside clean, whilst maintaining the luxurious coat.

Ears and Eyes

A dog’s ears and eyes are extremely sensitive. It is especially important to take good care of them, to avoid infections and other problems.

Eyes

With regular checking eyes can be an early indicator of any health problems. They should be clear, bright and clean – the windows to your dog’s soul.

  • For long haired breeds, it is best to trim it away from the eyes. If your dog is peering out from beneath a fringe of hair it can be frustrating for them and if they start to try and scratch and push it away they can cause damage and irritation. It’s also an unhealthy trap for dirt and bacteria. Use round ended scissors for safety, such as PetOne Eye Scissors.
  • Crusty build up in the corner of the eyes is a normal part of being a dog. Simply washing it away with a damp cloth can keep them clean and healthy. However, if it seems excessive or happens too often it can be a sign of an infection, so a visit to the vet may be in order.
  • With many small breeds, tear staining can occur. This is the red colour that you can often see around dog’s eyes and although not damaging in itself, having the area constantly damp can result in irritation. Gently rinse daily with a cloth, and use a fine toothed comb to brush out any build up, such as PetOne fine pin comb. A tear stain remover such as Pretty Eye can also help.

Ears

The inside of a dog’s ear is a complex and fragile structure, and can often end up as a trap for bacteria. Wax is produced for cleaning reasons – it works its way up and out, taking along any nasties with it. For some dogs though such as those with allergies, floppy or hairy ears, some extra maintenance can be needed to keep them clean and healthy.

  • Clean away any excess wax or debris with a moistened cotton ball and an ear cleaner, such as epi-otic. If it’s particularly dirty, has an unpleasant smell or seems to need deeper cleaning, consult a vet for assistance. Never try to clean deeper inside the dog’s ears than just the entrance, or insert anything inside. They have a different structure to humans and it could cause irreversible damage.
  • As strange as it sounds, some breeds will grow hair inside the ear canal. This will block up air flow, trap dirt, and can make them even more susceptible to infections. Consult a vet or groomer for some help, but you will need some haemostat forceps and a gripping product such as Professional Groomer ear powder.
  • Frequent swimming or baths can lead to infections in the ears, if water gets inside. Try to dry them as thoroughly as you can after these activities and place a cotton ball in the entrance of the ear during baths.

Brushing Your Cat

Cats enjoy self grooming and will clean themselves several times a day. This means they can end up ingesting a lot of dead hair and some will develop problems with hairballs. Brushing your cat will remove a lot of that loose hair and prevent it from being either swallowed, or shed around the house. It can also help with dandruff and itchy skin and will spread their natural oils throughout the coat to keep it clean and shiny.

How Often?

How often you brush your cat will depend on the length and type of their coat. Short haired cats only need a quick brush every week or so with a bristle or rubber brush to remove dead skin, hair and dirt. They will keep themselves very clean on their own, between brushes. However, cats that are overweight may have difficulty with this. They are unable to reach along their spine and around the bottom and these areas may become dry and full of dandruff. If your cat is overweight, they may need brushing more often.

Long haired cats can become matted much more quickly and cannot keep the knots out by themselves. They will need brushing every few days, or even every day for those will a very full coat. Brushing your cat doesn’t have to be a fight. Make sure you start when you have lots of time to take it slowly and patiently and at a time when your cat is feeling relaxed and secure.

Starting At The Face

It’s a good idea to start at the front and work backwards to ensure that you don’t miss any section. Faces and ears are very sensitive and will need a very soft “slicker” type brush or a cloth.

If there are knots or tangles, don’t tug on them. Using a leave in conditioner can help to untangle any matted fur and ease the process enormously. A good tip, is to soak a wash cloth in a detangler and then use it with your fingers to massage the knots out.

Moving Down

Move down to the ruffs of fur around your cat’s neck, shoulders and chest. Brush gently with the grain to remove any knots. Then brush against the way the fur lies to remove dead hair and dirt, once there aren’t any tangles. Finally, brush down into place again.

Legs, Tummy and You Know Where

Feathers on the legs will often get tangled and full of burs and seeds. Use a comb or matt splitter such as JW Matt Removal and plenty of detangler. If your cat starts to get irritated, just do a little at a time and then leave the rest for later.

The tummy and between the legs need more sensitive treatment. Use a soft brush and don’t tug on any tangles. A grooming mitt can also be used.

Finishing Up

You can finish the process by using a leave in shine and conditioning treatment, to make them smell wonderful.  If the cat is really matted, it might be a good idea to use a groomer or vet to shave the matts off and then continue with upkeep yourself.

Washing Your Cat

Cats do a very good job of grooming themselves. They will lick themselves clean and the tiny barbs on their tongue will brush the fur into place too. This means that they don’t often need bathing and too much washing can actually strip the oils from their coat and make them dry and itchy.

However, cats with very long fur that they find difficult to keep clean, older or overweight cats that can’t reach all of themselves any more, or cats that have managed to get into something sticky, may need to be bathed.

Which Shampoo?

There are a variety of shampoos available – choose one that suits your cats needs. Shampoos with oatmeal can soothe itchy skin, whilst others will kill ticks and fleas. Make sure not to use human shampoo. It is too harsh for their sensitive skin and you can end up with an itchy, sore cat with a dry and brittle coat.

Before You Start

Make sure you have everything on hand. Most cats deeply dislike being soaked in water, so it will make the process easier if you are well prepared. You will need a shampoo, several towels, some cotton wool, brushes and combs and some tasty treats that you know your cat likes.

It is a good idea to trim their nails before you start. Place a non slip mat into the sink or bath to keep them calm and still, inside the tub.

Before wetting your cat, place the cotton wool into their ears. Do not push in it with your finger, just place it in far enough that it won’t fall out. This stops water getting into the ears and prevents discomfort or infections.

Brush First

Begin by brushing your cat’s coat. This removes lots of dead hair and dirt and will prevent tangles in long haired cats becoming even more matted, once they get wet. See our article ‘brushing your cat’ for tips on how to deal with tangles and matted fur. A good quality combination brush will help.

Washing

Next, soak your cat in warm water. Too hot and cats will find it uncomfortable, as well as it being bad for their skin. Use a small container to pour water over their coat, avoiding the head and eyes. Most cats will find this more tolerable than a shower nozzle, but use whatever works for you both. Remember, many cats will struggle more with excessive restraint, so hold them with just enough force to contain them.

Use your chosen shampoo to massage into the coat. Gently wash their bottom and genital areas. To wash their face, use a wash cloth or your hand to rub in small amounts of shampoo. Do it slowly and take extreme care not to get it in their eyes, ears or mouth.

Rinsing

Rinse your cat thoroughly with clean water. Leaving any shampoo in the coat can cause itchiness and bad skin, as well as making the coat look dull. Rinse until the water runs completely clear and then rinse again just to be sure. Use another clean wash cloth or cup your hand with water to rinse their face.

Towelling

Once they are completely rinsed, remove the cotton wool and begin to dry them with a towel. Rub them gently, starting from the bottom of their back and working forward.

Don’t use a human hair dryer on your cat. Most will be frightened by the noise and the temperature is usually too high.

Finishing Off

Many cats will want to run away and hide after a bath, so keep them somewhere safe until they have recovered their dignity. Don’t let them outside until they have completely dried and calmed down.

Spot-on tick and flea prevention products, such as Frontline, are not effective if applied up to 48 hours before or after a bath.