Cats are famous for their self-grooming rituals. Cats use their paws to reach those places they can’t reach directly with their tongue. They lick the paw, and immediately use the wet paw to groom their head and ears. There is something meditatively soothing about watching a cat meticulously and thoroughly licking its own body.
So, should you even groom your cat? Can’t the cat just take care of its own grooming needs without any human intervention?
While feral cats and cats living outdoors can often manage their own grooming needs to some extent, we do actually have an important role as owners. There are several good reasons for you to establish a grooming routine, involving your cat’s coat, claws, teeth and sometimes ears and eyes as well.
1. Getting the cat used to being touched and handled
Grooming procedures require tactile interaction; you touch your cat extensively and frequently as you groom her. Brushing or combing the coat is fairly similar to petting, yet clipping claws, brushing a cat’s teeth, or cleaning their ears, require a different kind of handling. Getting your cat used to that kind of handling could help you in the future, should you need to medicate the cat or otherwise handle sensitive areas.
2. Checking your cat for changes and abnormalities
Grooming gives you the opportunity to take a close look at your cat and feel her over. It allows you to notice early changes in coat condition, tooth and gum disease, dirt inside the ears, increased sensitivity in a paw or a limb, or a suspicious lump or swelling. Early detection is key when it comes to many kinds of cancer and other medical conditions.
3. Enhancing the feline-human bond
One of a cat’s earliest experience is that of being licked over by the Mother cat right after birth, and from then on on a regular basis. Cats often groom each other to show affection and reinforce social bonds. In fact, many cats will lick back when the mood strikes them, especially in response to petting, and some cats go as far as grooming a favorite person’s hair. By the same token, when you groom your cat’s coat, you are creating a sense of closeness and trust.
4. Preventing excessive shedding in your home
Yes, cats can groom themselves, but you can minimize the amount of loose fur in your household by grooming the coat with a good cat brush or comb. This is especially important in the springtime, when cats tend to shed more.
5. Special Needs cats need special grooming attention
Paralyzed cats, or those with motor problems, may rely on human grooming to keep them in the right condition. Arthritis can prevent a cat from properly stretching to groom those hard to reach places too. For the same reason, obese and senior cats may require more assistance in grooming from their caregiver as well.
6. Special breeds with special needs
While all longhair cats could use additional combing and brushing, some purebred cats have more specific grooming needs. If you own a purebred cat, or plan on getting one, you should take the time to study the breed and its specific grooming routines. Flat-faced Persians, Himalayan and and Exotics, for example, often need help with keeping their eyes clean. Some shorter coats may need special care too, with occasional combing for dense coats.
7. Claw and tooth care
Living indoors-only and feeding on processed foods indicates special claw and tooth care, which applies to most if not all pet cats. Claws don’t get as worn out as they would in a feral cat living outdoors, and thus may need trimming. Teeth may accrue plaque unless cleaned, and we now know that feeding kibble does not solve that particular problem.
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