When we spend every day with our cats, it can be easy to miss subtle (and not-so-subtle) signs of the aging process. From the prime of their life to the status of mature, cats moving through the 3 to 10 year age bracket experience a number of changes to their body, and specifically to their skin and coat. Because we adore our cats, we might be looking at them through biased eyes. Upon closer inspection, see if you recognize a shift in your cat’s coat color or the elasticity of his skin.
A Time Of Change
The passage of time affects all of us. Consider the transformation a human undergoes from age 28 to 56, and you’ll begin to appreciate what’s happening to your cat during the adult life stage. Minor changes that happen gradually are to be expected, but significant variations from what is normal for your cat could indicate a health issue or nutritional deficiency. Ask your cat’s veterinarian if fatty acid supplements would be helpful.
If it seems like suddenly there are notably more clumps of fur on everything, or your cat’s coat is perpetually oily and flaky, appears to be thinning in places, or the texture is different, take notice. The outside is a reflection of what’s happening on the inside. Don’t hesitate to contact your cat’s veterinarian with any concerns. The sooner an issue is addressed, the greater the chance of healing.
If you’ve already established a grooming schedule, your cat will welcome even more of your care and attention in that regard throughout his lifetime. However, if you’re new to the concept, don’t worry. With a little practice and a steady supply of yummy treats, your cat will come to appreciate the benefits of clean skin and a de-shedded coat. In a multi-cat household, this private time is precious.
When done daily, coat and skin care often takes less than a couple of minutes. The wonderful thing about that time is the opportunity to be part of such an important bonding ritual that enriches your cat’s life as well as your own. The best method is to make grooming a pleasurable experience through positive association.
Grooming Tools To Use
Selecting the right tools for the job might seem confusing with all the options available. In my experience as a professional cat groomer, I find that a few basic tools are enough to meet the needs of most pet cats.
Short-haired cats often enjoy strokes on their back and sides with a rubber curry brush. This tool grabs loose fur and massages the skin, distributing natural oils throughout the coat. Follow that up with a few swipes from a fine-toothed stainless steel comb to grab the remnants and put the coat back in order. Finish with a chamois rub all over, and your cat will be looking fine in no time.
Many medium- to long-haired breeds have coats that tend to mat up. A few never get a tangle, but there are no guarantees. Even short-haired cats can mat so badly that their coat has to be shaved off. Avoiding the painful effects of matted fur is a priority. Once again, the stainless steel comb is your best bet for mat prevention. For the most effective combing, choose one with two spacing options — either fine/medium or fine/coarse, depending on coat density. Grooming should not hurt. If you feel resistance when working the comb through your cat’s coat to the skin, pull back a little and work through a smaller section at a time.
A favorite among many cat owners, the slicker brush is a nice option for fluffing out the tail and legs. It also feels really good to a lot of cats when rubbed along their cheeks and behind their ears. Keep in mind that the pins of a slicker brush are too short to effectively and safely remove the undercoat and dead coat that causes matting to form. Finishing with a stainless steel comb is always necessary.
Tips On Bathing And Handling
As your adult cat gets older, he may develop sensitivities around certain areas of his body. This might be due to joint pain or an injury. Be mindful of this when repositioning him and when working near those spots. If a cat fears pain, he may lash out with little to no provocation. If that happens, stop and offer reassurance. Give him a yummy treat. Tell him you’re sorry. Once he’s relaxed, you can begin grooming again.
Hopefully your cat has been bathed a few times by now. If not, it’s the perfect time to start. There are some things to keep in mind when introducing your adult cat to the bathing routine. Recognize that your energy is directly absorbed by your cat. If you’re confident and use gentle hands, he will trust you. But if you’re nervous or tense, he will reciprocate your fear. There’s nothing wrong with doing a little at a time. In fact, it’s the most effective way to build his confidence while counter-conditioning him to any negative aspect of the experience.
Less is more when it comes to handling and restraint. Cats need to feel a sense of control over themselves, their environment and their situation. Attempt to imagine what the experience is like from their point of view and adjust accordingly to make it better. Try not to rush and keep offering those treats. If your cat won’t accept them, you’ll need to up the ante. Pull out that can of tuna that he rarely gets to feast upon. Maybe he’d prefer a slice of turkey deli meat or a piece of cantaloupe. (I kid you not, some cats love fruit!) Whatever it takes to make it worth his while, that’s what you need to give him. With cats, it’s all about the incentive. If they’re not motivated, they have no reason to comply with any request that doesn’t suit them.
When it comes to grooming my own cats, I like to have them resting on a carpeted bath mat with a rubber back that I’ve placed on top of the washing machine or the bathroom counter. The height makes it easier for both of us, and the mat grips the surface without slipping around. It’s a comfortable spot (another positive!) and cats, being the highly intelligent animals they are, quickly learn that it is “their spot” for their special beauty session.
Grooming Rewards For You And Your Cat
Once we’re all done with combing, brushing and trimming claws, the real fun can begin. It’s party time! A few sprinkles of catnip on the carpeted mat and the majority of cats are happy, happy, happy. Some cats can become over stimulated by catnip, which is why I wait and offer it after grooming.
I used to groom a Persian cat named Buddy. He was not a fan of the whole “spa day” idea and had no problem fussing at me. Yet, when I would run my comb through his coat for the last time every eight weeks, he would turn around and stand up tall just waiting for his catnip. No more fussing or fighting. His focus was laser-sharp. Having that valuable commodity made it possible to groom him without sedation.
If you’re in doubt, I promise you, there’s nothing quite like a freshly bathed cat. They’re so soft — and boy, do they know they look good! A well-groomed cat can appear to be years younger. Suppose how much better they must feel, too. I know I’d prefer to have a clean cat cuddled next to me. Wouldn’t you?