Grooming tips, a kitty makeover

Cats normally take care of their own grooming needs but there are many reasons why you might want to groom your cat. Holiday vistors, photography, or even just because. For me, Thursday night before a show is grooming night. First I trim toenails. This is not usually a very popular task. Cats work very hard keeping long sharp toenails and this undoes all their hard work. To insure I don't arrive at the show with scratched up hands and arms I use a technique my Bengal mentor taught me called "Kitty Burrito". You take a large bath towel and wrap it around the cat’s neck snuggly but not too tight, tucking it in like you would when wrapping a towel around your waist. This makes a nice little kitty straight jacket that will insure that no one is injured. This also works well for when you are administering medicine. Hold the cat securely in your lap and talk gently to them to reassure him or her, you don’t want to be struggling with a fight or flight response while trimming nails. Reassurance from you will make this less traumatic on the cat and easier on you. Carefully remove one foot from the open end of the "Kitty Burrito" and trim just the sharp tips off of each toe being SURE to miss the live quick of the toenail. If you hit even a little bit of the quick it will hurt the cat, like a bad toothache, and it can even bleed. You might want to have a styptic pencil or swab available just in case. I use a small pair of cat toenail clippers that also insure I don't accidentally get paw pad skin while trimming a wiggler cat’s nails. Repeat the process until all four feet are done, pausing to reassure the cat between feet. Don't forget the dewclaws on the “thumbs” of the front feet.

Before releasing the cat, you may want to clean his or her ears while you have them restrained. A small bottle of glycerin and some cotton swabs work well. Get a small amount of glycerin on the swab, don’t soak it, soaking will make the glycerin run in drops down the cats ear, this will tickle and they will struggle. Gently swab the inside of the ear starting from the outside edges and slowly working your way into the center of the ear. Change cotton swabs regularly as they become dirty. Talk gently to the cat during the process to reassure him or her.

Next take a break. It’s important to give the cat time to de-stress before moving on to the bath phase. This also gives you time to warm up the bathing area for the next phase.

Some cats deal with bath time better than others. Mine don’t enjoy baths though they both play in water whenever it's their idea.

I must admit, I'm a purist, and nothing will truly replace a good old wet bath. You can use the sink or the bathtub. I use the bathtub. I start by setting up a space heater in my bathroom 30 minutes early to get it all toasty warm. I put two buckets in the tub and fill them with nice warm water like what I would use for my own bath. Water that's too hot or cold will make the experience worse for the cat. I then add my soap agent to one of the buckets so I'm not fighting foam. My mentor uses plain old Dawn dishwashing liquid for its grease cutting power. I use Simple Green because it's biodegradable, non-toxic, and the cats are familiar with the smell because I use in on kennels and litter pans. It deodorizes and sanitizes. You may want to try a couple soaps until you find one you like. I know one breeder who uses fancy salon shampoo on her cats and she has more cats with Supreme titles than anyone I know so it obviously works for her. It's important to wash the cat thoroughly, rinse thoroughly, wash a second time, and do a final extremely thorough rinse. Talk gently to the cat as you slowly lower him or her into the bucket, once again reassurance is critical. For the final rinse I use a tablespoon of white vinegar in thirty-two ounces of water to chemically break down any soap residue. Then I dry the cat thoroughly and leave him or her in the bathroom with the space heater to dry. I put a couple towels down on the floor to take drainage and speed the process.

If a wet bath is too traumatic for you and the cat you may try using a kitty wipe or baby wipe. This is quick and painless, though not as thorough as a wet bath. Using a scented wipe can also lightly perfume the cat for a polished presentation.

Another way around a wet bath is to do a dry bath using ordinary cornstarch. My silver Bengal girl thinks this is a fun kitty game. I use a small cheese shaker filled with cornstarch to sprinkle down the length of her body, then I rub it in affectionately, she wiggles and rolls and coos while I do it. The cornstarch absorbs the oils in the fur you are trying to remove while bathing. Now thoroughly brush the cat to get as much of the cornstarch out as possible. I use a standard wire flat brush then move on to a rubbery "zoom groom" brush. When I'm done brushing I buff her with a clean dry towel, rubbing down the length of her to insure that all the contrast of her coats stands out well. I then inspect my work and correct anything that needs touching up. A slightly damp washcloth may help increase the contrast on individual spots that seem diminished. This also works well for a quick touch up of cats when you have someone coming over to visit kittens. I use this step the morning of the show to insure the cat's coat is in peak condition for the judges.

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