Most cats spend a considerable amount of time grooming themselves and seem to be proud of their appearance, so you might wonder why they would ever need any help from you. Cats that have short hair may not need so much assistance as cats that have long hair, but both will appreciate grooming from time to time.
Whether your cat is grooming itself, or you are lending a helping hand, he will enjoy benefits in addition to simply looking the best cat on the street. In hot weather, the saliva that the cat spreads actually helps to keep him cool.
There are other benefits: circulation is improved, and muscle tone also. Glands at the base of the fur are stimulated which helps to waterproof the fur, and sebum is spread which has the same effect and protects the skin and fur. The fur is also smoothed down, which helps to insulate the cat’s body.
If you have ever been licked by a cat you will notice that the tongue has a rough surface. This is because the tongue is covered in tiny bristles which have a similar effect to a hairbrush in that they can help to pull out loose fur and dirt from the coat.
As cats groom themselves, they tend to pick up and swallow some of the strands of hair, and this is especially the case with the longer haired breeds. From time to time, you may see your cat cough up a ball of fur – known simply as a fur ball. The first time that you see this may cause you a certain amount of worry, but in fact it is quite normal for a cat to get rid of excess swallowed fur in this manner. However, grooming assistance from you will considerably help to reduce the incidence of fur balls.
You should start grooming your cat from a very early age – while still a young kitten – so that he gets used to it. This also has the effect of helping to build a bond between you and your cat. Grooming should be a lifelong habit, as in later years your cat may become stiff in his old age and unable to groom himself as he once did.
Short-haired cats may only need a brush once a week or so, but long-haired varieties will need brushing/combing on a daily basis in order to avoid matting. This also reduces the possibility of knots, which can be very uncomfortable, and the incidence of fur balls.
With short-haired cats, you can use a fine metal comb once a week to remove any knots or tangles, and follow up with a bristle cat brush. Use strokes against the lie of the fur towards the head, and then brush down the other way again.
Long haired cats should be groomed using a metal comb to remove any knots or tangles, and you can also help to remove these with your fingers. Try to avoid using scissors to cut out any knots as there is always the risk of injuring your cat.
While grooming your cat, take the opportunity to check over eyes, ears, teeth, and gums to ensure that all is well.