Online Veterinary Education Library
Our team of veterinarians and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with their health. Please use our educational library to learn more about health problems and treatments available for your pet. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.
- Small Animals
To handle an adult cat, put one hand beneath the chest and use the other to support the cat's hind quarters. For kittens, be sure to support theirs legs and feet at well.
Please note: Never lift or pull on a kitten's tail or legs. Don't lift a kitten by the scruff of its neck, either.
Grooming gives you a great way to engage with your cat. You'll want to establish a routine for grooming within the first week you bring it home. This allows your cat to get comfortable with being handled and begins building positive associations that will make it easier to groom in the future. Regular grooming requirements include brushing, nail clipping, bathing, tooth brushing and ear cleaning.
Brushing is an important way to help keep your cat's coat clean, untangled and healthy. The frequency depends upon your cat's natural coat. Short-coated cats need to be brushed at least once a week, while long-coated cats many need brushing every day. For short-coated cats, start at the head and work your way down to the tail. For long-coated cats, begin with the belly and legs and brush to untangle mats or knots. Then use a bristle brush to brush the hair upward. To brush the tail, divide the fur down the middle before brushing. In all cases, be sure to avoid your cat's eyes and ears, but do brush the tail on long-coated cats. If your cat has tangles, use a slicker brush to untangle it or remove any mats and a bristle brush to eliminate dead hair. When you first begin grooming your cat, make the time periods short â€” no more than five to 10 minutes. Slowly over time, as your cat adjusts to your handling, you can extend this time period to accommodate all your grooming activities. Cat owners often find brushing leads to quality time together.
Before discussing nail management, you need to understand the issues associated with declawing your cat. Some people feel declawing a cat keeps it from being able to defend itself and limits its ability to climb effectively. Neither of these statements is true â€” cats can continue to defend themselves and climb after declawing. However, most people aren't aware that declawing does not simply remove the claws. The traditional process actually involves amputating the first joint on each toe. This can be a very painful and stressful experience for cats. Some research indicates that cats experience phantom pain long after declawing. Most veterinarians and pet experts today consider declawing to be inhumane. One alternative is a tendonectomy, which cuts the tendons to the claws and prevents the cat from grabbing. However, there are limits on the effectiveness of this strategy as well. The best way to deal with scratching is to give you cat something productive to scratch, like a scratching post, and to keep the cat's nails trim to protect humans from cuts. If scratching becomes a serious problem, there are nail covers that your cat can wear to blunt the nails and prevent scratching.
Cutting a cat's nails is a simple process. Getting the cat to allow you to cut its nails is another matter entirely! Part of the problem is that many cats aren't touched on their feet very often, which leads to stress. The best way to prevent a negative reaction to nail clipping is to be sure to touch your cat's paws, feet and legs from the start. Rub your hand up and down each leg. Take a paw in your hand and press down on the toes gently to separate them. Early touch will help overcome your cat's sensitivity and will make nail clipping much more acceptable. For cats that remain sensitive, many owners find it helpful to try nail clipping when their cats are tired, or even asleep. Keep the activity to short periods of time â€” no more than about five minutes. If needed, you can simply cut one nail a day.
The only supplies you'll need for nail clipping are a sharp nail clipper (available at most pet stores), a styptic powder (to stop bleeding) and an emery board. Begin by taking one of you cat's paws with one hand. Press down gently on the toes to separate them and clean out any dirt or residue. Then place the clipper parallel to the nail and on a slight angel. Clip the nail up to the point where it begins to curve. Be careful not to cut too deeply; cats have a vein running through the base of their nail and cutting it will cause bleeding. If it does bleed, apply the styptic powder to stop the bleeding.
Cats spend a lot of time keeping themselves clean every day. Most of the time, their techniques succeed and your cat will remain relatively clean. But over time, or with an outdoor cat that is exposed to lots of dirt, you may need to bathe your cat. You can wash your cat in a tub or sink. Just make sure you place a nonskid surface inside to keep the cat from slipping. You'll also need a mild cat shampoo (available at pet stores) and a towel.
First, brush your cat to get rid of any dirt and surface residue. Next, place your cat on a nonskid surface in a tub. Using lukewarm water, hose your cat down or pour water from a container over your cat until it is thoroughly wet. Massage the shampoo into the coat everywhere, working gently from the head to the tail. Be careful not to get the shampoo into your cat's eyes, ears or mouth. Rinse the shampoo out thoroughly. Dry your cat with a large towel. You can use a blow dryer on your cat, but be sure it doesn't heat up.
Keeping your cat's teeth clean is important to its overall health. Plaque build-up can lead to deterioration of the gums and other tooth problems. Because chewing is so important to cats, maintaining strong teeth and jaws is needed at all times. Brush your cat's teeth daily using a soft toothbrush and toothpaste made for cats. You can also use a fingerbrush if your cat is frightened of the toothbrush. Once again, starting this activity the first day you bring your cat home will allow it to get accustomed to the activity and prevent problems later on. Be sure to brush the fronts of all your cat's teeth, including the molars on the top and bottom. You don't need to brush the insides of the teeth; the cat's tongue takes care of that part. If your cat is particularly resistant to brushing its teeth, look for chew toys and kibble designed to help remove plaque.
Periodically, you will need to clean your cat's ears to eliminate any dirt and keep the ear canal open. You can use commercial ear cleaning products or olive oil to accomplish this task. You'll also need cotton balls, a medicine dropper and clean water for rinsing. Start by placing the ear cleaner or olive oil in a pan of hot water to heat it to the cat's body temperature, which typically ranges from 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Place your cat on a table. With the dropper, put a drop or two of the warm liquid in one ear near the opening to the ear canal. Massage the base of the ear for one minute to help the substance work its way around the ear and into the ear canal. Then do the same thing in the other ear. Now leave your cat alone for about five minutes. You'll notice that the cat will shake its head, trying to get the liquid out of its ears. The shaking helps dislodge dirt and move it to the outer ear. After five minutes, use a wet cotton ball to wipe away the dirt and oil from each outer ear.