A well groomed cat is indeed a happy cat!


Nail trimming, bathing, clean eyes, ears, teeth, skin and fur healthy go a long way to ensure a healthy feline. Remember some cats do not tolerate grooming and there is a chance of injury to your cat or yourself in the bargain. Contact a professional groomer or a veterinarian to have your cat groomed.


Skin and Fur Care

Bathing


Ensure that your cat is in a mellow mood before you schedule a bath. Try to tire the fluff ball with a play session before bathing. To save yourself from being scratched, trim the claws, brush out any tangles and tuck in some cotton in the ears to keep the water out. Use lukewarm water and do not spray directly in the ears, eyes and nose. 


Gently massage in one part cat shampoo (human shampoos are a definite no-no) to five parts water, from head to tail, in the direction of hair growth, avoiding the face, ears and eyes. Thoroughly rinse the shampoo off and wipe dry gently. Wrap your cat in a large towel to dry. Once relatively dry, carefully brush the fur with a wide-toothed comb. Make sure you shower your feline with endless praise and favourite treats. It never fails. 

Brushing

So why do you need to brush your cat regularly despite their self-grooming habits? Primarily to remove dirt, grease and dead hair that leads to matted fur; but remember that just like with humans, regular brushing of hair helps remove flaky dry skin, stimulates blood circulation and helps with improving general skin health. Just once or twice a week is all it takes. Establishing this pattern will come in handy as they age and are unable to groom too well on their own. Before brushing, make sure you check for bald patches, dry skin, fleas and ticks, wounds or any unnatural bumps. 


Brushing your short-haired cat:

For the dirt and debris, use a metal comb to gently work through the fur from head to toe. Remember to always work along the direction of growth. You can also use a rubber brush to remove dead hair.

Brushing your long-haired cat:

If your cat is mostly indoors, your long-haired feline will shed all year long and needs grooming every few days to remove dead hair and prevent matting. If there are knots in the hair, sprinkle a little talcum powder and tease out the knots with your fingers gently. 

Skin Problems

Your cat’s overall health is discerned by the condition of the skin. When there is a skin condition, your cat will scratch excessively, chew the irritated area or continually lick to ease the discomfort. Skin problems may be caused by external parasites, allergies to seasonal changes, stress or a combination of these. 


Symptoms of Skin Problems

The symptoms of skin problem in cats are constant scratching, licking and chewing at the skin (mostly around the head and neck), scabs, redness or inflammation, round scaly patches on the face and paws, dry flaky or otherwise irritated skin, hair loss, bald patches, hairballs, rashes, swellings, lumps or skin discolouration, drainage of blood or pus. 



Ringworm: This is a highly contagious fungal infection resulting in skin inflammation, dry scaly patches and hair loss. There may be obvious lesions on the head, ears and paws or no visible signs whatsoever.
Fleas: These mites not only irritate the skin, but some cats have an allergic response from flea bites. The obvious signs are excessive scratching, thinning of hair just above the base of the tail, crusts, reddish raised skin lesions. Most common flea treatment products like flea collars may cause redness and irritation for some cats. 
Other external parasites: Ear mites cause itching and redness around the ears leaving dark residue like coffee grind in the ear canals. Lice produces intense itching. Mange mites cause scaling and flaking of skin. 
Seasonal allergies: If your cat is constantly scratching, it could well be from common tree allergies, mold or even grass. 
Food allergies: At times the cat’s immune system reacts adversely to foods such as beef, milk, poultry, corn leading to itching and rashes.
Grooming products: Certain grooming products and shampoos may also irritate your cat’s skin.
Seasonal changes: Like most humans, cats too may get dry and flaky skin in the winter.
Environmental factors: Exposure to the sun, excessive cold weather, contact with certain chemicals or even fabrics at times causes skin irritation in some cats.
Bacterial or yeast infections: These usually follow other skin disorders.
Tumours: Skin growths (most commonly called tumours), either benign or malignant, can also develop in cats.
Stress: Is your cat prone to anxiety? That would explain the excessive licking and chewing that could lead to hair loss.

Prevention
A healthy, balanced meal plan without fillers and artificial ingredients is the best bet against skin issues in cats. Regular brushing, use of natural and hypoallergenic soaps and shampoos, a vet recommended flea treatment programme and clean surroundings are equally helpful in maintaining your cat’s skin hygiene.

Ear Care

Cats need your help to keep their ears clean. Monitor ear hygiene once a week for wax, debris and infection.


Outer Ears
A healthy cat’s ear flap has a layer of hair on its outer surface with no bald spots, and its inner surface is clean and light pink. If there is any discharge, redness or swelling, have it checked out by the veterinarian.


Inner Ear 

Inner ears are tricky to check or clean. Settle your cat in a quiet area of the house. Set the mood so to speak to avoid stress. Healthy inner ears will be pale pink in colour, odourless and with minimal wax. 

Cleaning 101
Daub a little liquid ear cleaner onto a clean ball of cotton. Fold back the ear flap and gently wipe away any wax or debris. Make sure you are wiping the stuff outwards and not into the  inner ear. Do not even attempt to clean the ear canal, you could land up causing trauma or infection.

Signs of Ear Problems

  • Persistent scratching and pawing of the ear area
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Head tilting or shaking
  • Loss of balance and disorientation
  • Redness or swelling of the ear flap or canal
  • Unpleasant odor
  • Black or yellowish discharge
  • Accumulation of dark brown wax
  • Hearing loss
  • Bleeding
Ear disorders

Tell tale signs of an Ear mites infection are excessive itching of the ears and debris that may look like coffee grounds. Do keep in mind that these are contagious and easily spread to other pets in the household, if any.

Bacterial or yeast Ear infections as also foreign debris trapped in the ear canal, causes severe discomfort. They could also be indicative of allergies, hormonal abnormalities or hereditary disease. 

Blood blisters (hematoma) are the result of blood accumulation in the ear flap. They’re often caused by infection, ear mites, fleas or trapped debris that causes your cat to scratch her ears or shake her head excessively.

Paw and Nail Care

Healthy Paws

Surely as a cat lover, you adore their famed acrobatic landings. One thing one must keep in mind is that cat’s need healthy feet to scratch and climb too. One easy way to ensure that is with regular examinations for clean and wound-free paws.  Gently wipe down their paws at least once a day with a damp cloth making sure to check between the toes and paw pads. Check for cuts, splinters, sores, swelling or debris. Reach out to your vet if there is blood, pus or unusual odour that you cannot figure out. 


Note, your kitty’s paw pads are sensitive. Especially during extreme hot or cold weather, make sure to moisturize them with a vet recommended product. Also, as best as possible, make sure the feet do not stay in contact with freezing outdoor surfaces, hot sidewalks or any other uncomfortable surfaces. If you come across your cat limping or favouring one leg or obsessively cleaning the paws, do check. 


Manicures


Do you struggle to clip your cat’s claws? Here are some useful tips-

  • Cats are skittish by nature; you can help them get used to the clippers before you take them to the nails. Sounds and smells help build up trust. Treats are a great way to make them comfortable.
  • Nail trimming is a must every 10 days or so. If you face hard resistance, a visit to the vet or groomer would be money well spent.
  • Don’t try to trim all the claws at one sitting. Stagger out the manicure sessions over multiple short sessions to keep their trust.
  • Remember, the pink part of the nail is where the blood vessels and nerves are. You have to snip only the white part. It is safer to cut away less of the nail than risk hurting the sensitive pink area.
Dental Care

For all toothed mammals, dental hygiene is primary to overall health. Any damage to the teeth, tongue, gums or palate leads to health risks in felines. 


Watch out for a strong foul mouth odour which is indicative of poor digestion or a gum condition called gingivitis. If the gums are firm and pink, without any swelling or tartar deposition in the teeth you can rest easy. Your checklist for problems in your cat’s mouth - 


  • Dark red line along the gums
  • Red and swollen gums
  • Ulcers on gums or tongue
  • Loose teeth
  • Pus
  • Difficulty chewing food
  • Excessive drooling
  • Excessive pawing at the mouth area
Other dentine related problems that will require veterinary care are-

Gingivitis: Mostly seen in senior cats, this gum inflammation may start as a dark red line along the teeth border. Untreated, it leads to sores and ulcers. It could well be a sign of FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) or some other infection.
Periodontitis: Caused if gingivitis is left untreated, allowing it  to invade the tooth socket. The tooth may become loose forming a painful abscess. 
Stomatitis: Being natural explorers, you may never know what your cat tried to get a taste of. If there is inflammation of the mouth lining it may be a result of a foreign body in the mouth, a viral disease or dental problems. Symptoms are difficult to eat and the inside of the mouth appears red.
Rodent Ulcer: A slow growing sore or swelling on the upper lip.
Salivary Cyst: When the salivary glands or ducts become blocked, a cyst may form under the tongue.Mouth Ulcers: Ulcers on a cat’s tongue and gums are sometimes caused by feline respiratory or kidney disease.

Eye Care

Be clued in to any tearing, crust, cloudiness or inflammation of the eyes with regular home eye exams.

These are a few simple tips to keep your kitty-peepers bright and healthy:
  • They may not care much for it, but look closely in your cat's eyes. Bright and shiny is always a good sign. 
  • As best as possible roll down the eyelids and check for the healthy pink we talked of earlier, not red or white
  • Keep the eyes clean of crust with a damp cotton ball, a fresh one for each eye
  • Avoid eye drops or eye washes unless prescribed by your vet.
Check closely and regularly for discharge, watering, red or white eyelid linings, crusty gunk in the corners of the eye, tear-stained fur, closed eye(s) cloudiness or change in eye color or visible third eyelid. At times, their body language may also alert you to distress like constant squinting or pawing at the eye area. Always consult your vet if you find any of the above symptoms. 

Common eye-related disorders

Conjunctivitis: Red and swollen eyes with or without discharge.Third eyelid protrusion: If the third eyelid is visible your cat may have a wound or is suffering from diarrhea, worms or a virus.
Keratitis: Cat’s cornea becomes inflamed making the eye look cloudy and watery.Cataracts: Seen in elderly and diabetic cats, the eyes become gradually opaque.
Glaucoma: The cornea becomes cloudy and the eye enlarges due to an increased pressure in the eyeball.
Bulging eye: An accident, trauma or an eye tumor may result in bulging eyes.Retinal disease: When light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye degenerate, partial or total vision loss can happen 
Watery eyes:  When the fur around your cat’s eyes is stained with tears it is usually because of blocked tear ducts or an overproduction of tears.

Please do not attempt to treat your cat without consulting your vet. The best prevention would of course be to have all the vaccinations up to date and home checks regularly to look for abnormalities