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Even a cat that compulsively cleans itself can benefit from a little grooming from her owner. Cats rarely need a bath, but frequent brushing removes a lot of loose hair which would otherwise end up either shed around your home or swallowed by the cat, creating constipating hairballs. Grooming your cat on a regular basis also helps you monitor her health and make her easier to handle.
Long-haired cats should be brushed and combed daily; short-haired cats only need grooming about once per week. While brushing your cat's coat, keep an eye out for lumps and skin irritations. Brush along your cats back, from head to tail with firm pressure. Repeat this several times, and then switch to one side. You should brush each area 4 or 5 times Always remember to brush in the direction of the hair growth.
If you find places where hair is missing, watch your cat for the next week to determine if she is over-grooming these spots, or if the hair loss could be a skin condition that requires a vet's attention. Be sure to watch for fleas and remove them immediately using a flea comb. If you notice rice-like particles around her anus (or in her bed), she probably has worms and needs medication from a veterinarian.
The grooming session is a good time to check your cat's ears, eyes, teeth and claws. If your cat is a young kitten, be sure to frequently manipulate these areas to get her used to handling. By the time she is an adult, looking inside her ears for mites will be a non-traumatic event. If your cat is an adult, proceed at her pace. If she will let you touch her ear, but not fold it back to look inside, that's fine. Each time you groom her, try going a little farther with your examination, praising her with words, strokes, and treats for letting you handle her. If she struggles, it is best to let her go, and try again another day.
You can use a cotton ball slightly dampened with warm water to clean the inside surface of your cat's ears. Never put a cotton ball or swab into her ear canal. If she reacts and jerks, you could injure her. Dark, coffee ground-like flecks inside her ears indicates possible ear mites. If you also notice her shaking her head or scratching at her ears a lot, or notice a strong odor in her ears, have your vet take a look.
A healthy cat's eyes are bright, clear and free of discharge.
Lift her upper lip to check her gums, which should be pink, and take a look at her teeth. If you choose to brush your cat's teeth, be sure to use toothpaste made for cats, as human-type toothpaste can be toxic to your pet. Pet supply stores carry a variety of cat toothpastes, as well as toothbrushes designed to be gentle and easy to use.
When you start to clean your cat's teeth don't even use a toothbrush. Stroke the outside of her cheeks with your finger. When she becomes comfortable with that, add a little toothpaste to your finger and let her taste it. C.E.T. poultry flavored toothpaste can be used to start as cats like the taste. When the cat is comfortable you are ready to introduce the toothbrush. With a small amount of toothpaste on the brush, brush two teeth and the adjoining gum line with a slow circular motion. This will get your cat accustomed to the feel of the brush. You will then be able to gradually increase the number of teeth brushed.
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