Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Steps to Keep Your Cat's Coat Healthy

Pet Column for the week of May 31, 2010

Related information:

Services - Dermatology

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Ashley Mitek
Information Specialist

The chore of giving your cat a bath is probably not on your list of priorities, and it's likely your feline companion is happy about that. Thankfully, cats seem to do fairly well at keeping relatively clean, and bathing is usually not necessary.

Dr. Catherine Metry is a dermatology resident at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana. She mentions that, "cats do a pretty good job of taking care of themselves." But that doesn't mean a little grooming every once in a while is a bad idea.

Short-haired cats may require less upkeep than their long-haired comrades. For example, Persians may need a good brushing each day to prevent their long locks from matting up. But no matter what type of cat you have, experts suggest that you do your best to make grooming sessions a positive experience. You can reward them with food for standing still, or just a soft reassuring voice. One bad experience can make grooming impossible later on in life.

After time, and with the right brush, your cat will hopefully come to enjoy being groomed by you. Just be cautious of brushing sensitive areas like the neck and belly. At the least, Dr. Metry recommends that, "it is a good idea to brush cats a couple times a week," to remove dirt and dead hair.

When it comes to nail clipping, such a task might be best left to your veterinarian depending on the cat. Many will resent having their paw grasped and manipulated in the way necessary. If you are able to safely clip your cat's nails, be careful not to clip too close to the claw and hit the blood vessel, or "quick." Doing so is painful and, like an elephant, a cat won't forget that experience the next time someone tries to clip its claws.

If you do have the opportunity to adopt a cat at a young age, it is a good idea to get it accustomed to people holding its paw and manipulating its claws. Doing so when they are young will make life much easier when it comes to nail clipping later in life.

In some breeds, normal discharge from the eyes should be cleaned frequently to prevent any irritation. To do so, you can use a warm washcloth to gently loosen and wipe away any debris. If there seems to be more discharge than usual contact your veterinarian to rule out any ocular disease.

In the end, most cats do fairly well on their own, but a twice weekly brushing can help keep them in tip-top shape. For more information or questions on cat grooming, contact your local veterinarian.