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How to Groom Your Senior Cat: What You Need to Know

Extra attention should be given to grooming as cats enter their golden years. Here, our Santa Clarita vets explain grooming basics for both dogs and cats, and offer advice on at-home pet grooming.

Should I Groom My Senior Cat?

As cats age, it can be more difficult for them to groom themselves for a variety of reasons, such as arthritis and other potential health conditions. Keeping your cat well-groomed is essential since an unkempt coat can lead to painful matting in their fur. Matts are even more painful for cats that don't have as much excess fat or muscle, which is fairly common among senior cats. Your feline friend's skin will also lose elasticity as they enter their senior years, which will increase their discomfort as matts grow and leave them more prone to various injuries including bruising and tearing. 

It's always preferable to be proactive about your senior cat's grooming, as it saves them from experiencing unnecessary pain and discomfort. It also makes the task easier and more pleasant for both of you. 

Why Do Older Cats Get Matted Fur?

Have you noticed that your senior cat is not grooming themselves as often as they used to? Perhaps their fur is becoming matted. If this is true for your four-legged friend, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian. Insufficient grooming can point to an underlying medical issue that should be quickly addressed. Because cats are very good at hiding pain, it may not always be easy to tell if they are suffering from a painful condition. 

Some reasons your cat may not be grooming themselves as often or as efficiently include:

  • Increased skin oil production 
  • Dental issues
  • Obesity
  • Osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease

Geriatric cats can face a higher risk of developing the conditions listed above. If you see your senior cat's fur becoming more matted or they aren't grooming themselves as well as they used to, your vet will likely be able to diagnose and treat the underlying cause. 

How To Brush Your Senior Cat

As indicated above, it's critical to keep your senior cat's fur well-groomed to avoid matting. Here are some tips on how to brush your senior cat's fur:

  1. Pick a comfortable place, such as a soft mat, to sit and brush your cat. 
  2. Begin by petting your cat from head to tail, checking for any problem areas that may be sensitive. 
  3. Brush them in the same pattern switching between brushes, including a rubber brush to collect loose fur, a pin brush to detangle fur (especially if your kitty has long fur), and a metal comb to help brush through mats.
  4. First, brush your cat with the rubber brush and work your way to the metal comb.
  5. If you find mats on your cat's fur DO NOT try to cut, pull, or yank them because you can hurt your kitty. Instead, you can try to gently loosen the mat with your fingers or apply a bit of cornstarch to the mat and brush it through. If it's too hard to brush the mats out by yourself take your cat to a professional groomer.
  6. Pay extra attention when brushing around your cat's hips, underbelly, and hind legs because these areas can be sensitive for older cats.
  7. If you notice any lumps, bumps, or sensitive-to-touch spots on your cat's limbs or joints call your vet so they can give your kitty a checkup. 
  8. Give your feline friend lots of calming praise and some treats during the process. You can also help distract your cat by giving them some of their favorite food to munch on.

The frequency you have to brush your cat depends on what type of fur they have because every cat is different. Typically, long-haired cats should be brushed once a day, if your senior cat has shorter hair they can benefit from being brushed one day a week. Remember the more often you brush your cat the easier it will be. Your veterinarian will also be able to provide you with advice on the best types of brushes and equipment to use and can inform you how often you should brush your kitty.

How To Clean Your Older Cat's Fur

Most people know that cats don't like water, so it's normal for them to hiss, struggle and try to fight when you go to bathe them. You must stay calm and talk to your cat in a soothing calming voice during the entire process. You should also keep the door closed to keep them from running away.

Here is how you can bath your senior cat:

  1. Fill a large plastic bin or your bathtub with enough warm (not hot) water to cover their underbelly.
  2. Make sure you brush your cat first and that they are free of any mats or tangles.
  3. Gently place your furry friend into the tub, reassuring your cat by giving them praise and petting them.
  4. Carefully wet your cat's fur with a cup full of water or a wet cloth. Keep your cat's head and face dry to prevent any irritation to their eyes, ears, and nose.
  5. Lather your kitty in a special cat shampoo (do not use human shampoo) avoiding the head and face.
  6. Using a cup or a detachable showerhead rinse the soap off of your cat. To prevent any irritation make sure all of the soap is rinsed off (this could take several rinses).
  7. Wrap your cat in a clean, dry towel and pat them dry. Don't use a hairdryer because it can burn their sensitive skin.
  8. Until your cat is completely dry keep them in a warm area.

Every cat has different needs, your primary care veterinarian will be able to tell you how often you should bathe your senior cat. However for a guideline, to keep long-haired cats clean it's best to bathe them once a month, short-haired cats or senior kitties will only have to be bathed as needed when they are dirty or smell bad to guard them against infection.

Maintaining good grooming practices with your pets is essential to their health. If it's time for a professional grooming session, contact our Santa Clarita vets today.

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Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients! Our friendly and experienced vets are passionate about the health of Santa Clarita companion animals and horses. Get in touch today to book your four-legged friend's first appointment.

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