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Cat Home Grooming Tips

Learn what grooming cats need at home.

In many ways, cats are self-grooming. In fact, a lot of them spend many hours every day licking, chewing, and rubbing their fur to get it just right. Still, there is some grooming that you'll need to do for your kitty. The amount and exact nature of what you'll need to do can vary between cats based on their age and breed, but here are some general things to know about at-home cat grooming.

Bathing: Do Cats Need It?

Generally, the answer to this is no. Most cats handle their bathing quite well on their own and, in fact, bathing a cat too often can lead to pH changes in the skin that might trigger or worsen skin problems.

However, if your kitty gets into something dirty, stinky, or toxic, you will need to give him a bath. Additionally, some cats with very thick fur coats or who can't groom themselves well might need baths periodically.

If you do need to bathe your cat, use a mild pet shampoo or one prescribed by your vet. Don't use human shampoo, which can result in skin problems for your cat. Don't use any flea, tick, or otherwise medicated shampoos on your cat unless specifically recommended by your vet. Remember that some flea and tick products are highly toxic to cats.

Brushing: All Cats Need It

When you brush your kitty, several things happen.

  • You remove loose fur that your cat would otherwise probably ingest while self-grooming. Brushing your cat decreases hairball vomiting.
  • Brushing helps remove grease and dirt from your cat's fur, also decreasing the amounts of those things your cat ingests.
  • Brushing helps distribute good skin oils over the entire coat, which helps keep it healthy.
  • Brushing helps to increase the circulation in the areas brushed.
  • Regular brushing helps you catch problems like fleas, ticks, skin infections, wounds, and lumps earlier than you otherwise might.
  • When you brush your kitty regularly, the chances of him developing painful mats decreases.

Never use scissors to remove mats or tangles from your cat. The way the fur is attached to your cat's skin, especially when matted, gives you a very high risk of lacerating the skin. Instead, use clippers if possible or have a professional groomer remove the mats.


Most cats need to be brushed a couple times a week. However, kittens might need more before they are up to speed on doing their own grooming well. Also, older cats often stop grooming as well or have spots on their bodies that they can't groom because of aches and pains so they might need extra brushing too.

Claw Trimming: All Cats Need It

A cat's claws grow continuously. They have several layers, like an onion, and the outer ones shed to reveal sharper, healthier layers beneath.

Trimming your cat's claws keeps them from growing around and into the paw pads. It also makes them less likely to catch on things like carpet while they're walking.

Some cats dislike having their claws trimmed. Get your kitty used to the process as early in his life as you can.

Learn more: "How to Trim Your Cat's Claws."

Toothbrushing: All Cats Need It

All cats need routine toothbrushing to keep their gums as healthy as possible. This is another thing that many cats dislike having done, though, so once again, it pays to start as earlier in your cat's life as you can.

Don't use human toothpaste, which may contain cat-toxic ingredients or irritating surfactants. Use an enzymatic cat toothpaste and a soft children's brush or a finger brush.

Start slowly by letting your cat lick the toothpaste and sniff the brush. Over time, gradually get your kitty used to having his lips pushed up and his teeth brushed gently.

Daily brushing is best, and you can make a routine of it that your cat will enjoy. Give a treat (like a CET chew) when you're done, and always make it a positive experience.

While you are brushing your cat's teeth, keep an eye out for any problems, such as redness on the gums, loose teeth, rotten-looking teeth, or masses or wounds on the soft tissue structures in the mouth. Visit the vet if you see anything unusual.

General Cat Home Grooming Information

Remember that any time you are performing grooming activities on your cat, you should be calm and positive. Always reward your cat with praise and treats for cooperation. If your cat doesn't cooperate, try again later and go more slowly.

Of course, you should never risk being bitten. Go as slowly as necessary.

If you aren't sure how to perform any home grooming technique or you have questions about how often your individual cat needs something done, ask your veterinarian's staff. They will be happy to demonstrate techniques and give you guidelines.

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Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.