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

Your cat will lose the ability to effectively groom themselves as they get older. Today, our Phenix City vets, share how you can help groom your senior cat and prevent issues like matted fur.

Grooming a Senior Cat

As cats continue to age it can get more complicated for them to groom themselves for many reasons including arthritis. You need to make sure your older cat stays well-groomed, as an ungroomed coat could lead to painful mats in their fur. Matts are even more painful for cats that don't have as much excess muscle or fat, which is relatively common in senior cats.

When cats get older, their skin also loses elasticity, increasing the discomfort they experience when they get mats, making them more prone to various injuries such as bruising and tearing.

It's best to be proactive when it comes to grooming your senior cat because it keeps them from experiencing unnecessary discomfort and pain, and makes the task more pleasant and easier for both of you.

Matted Fur in Senior Cats

If your kitty isn't grooming themselves as regularly as they used to and their fur is matting, you should call your vet to make an appointment because it may be a sign of an underlying health problem that needs to be addressed quickly. It can be hard to tell if your cat is suffering from a painful condition as they are talented at hiding their pain.

Here are several reasons why your senior cat may not be grooming themselves as efficiently or as often:

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

Geriatric cats could be at a higher risk of developing the conditions listed above. If you notice that your senior cat's fur is becoming more matted or they aren't grooming themselves as well as they used to, call your vet so they can diagnose and treat the underlying cause.

Brushing Your Senior Cat

As stated above it's essential to keep your senior kitty's fur well-groomed to prevent matting in their fur. Here, we share how you can brush your senior cat's fur:

  • Brush your cat in a place where they will be comfortable such as on a soft mat.
  • Start by petting your cat from head to tail, looking for any problem areas that are sensitive to them.
  • 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.
  • First, brush your cat with the rubber brush and work your way to the metal comb.
  • 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.
  • Be extra careful when brushing around your cat's hips, underbelly, and hind legs because these areas can be sensitive for older cats.
  • If you see any lumps, bumps, or sensitive-to-touch spots on your cat's limbs or joints call your vet to schedule a checkup.
  • 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.

How often you need to brush your cat depends on the type of fur they have, because every kitty is different. Generally, if you have a long-haired cat you should brush them once a day, if your kitty has shorter hair you can brush them one time a week. Remember the more often you brush your cat the easier it will be. Your veterinarian can also offer you advice on the best kinds of brushes and equipment to use for your cat and can tell you how often you need to brush your furry friend.

Bathing a Senior Cat

Most people know that cats don't like water, so it's normal for them to hiss, struggle, and tries to fight when you go to bathe them. It's very important that you 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 are some tips on how you can bathe your senior cat:

  • Fill a large plastic bin or your bathtub with enough warm (not hot) water to cover their underbelly.
  • Make sure you brush your cat first and that they are free of any mats or tangles.
  • Gently place your furry friend into the tub, reassuring your cat by giving them praise and petting them.
  • 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.
  • Lather your kitty in a special cat shampoo (do not use human shampoo) avoiding the head and face.
  • 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).
  • Wrap your cat in a clean, dry towel and pat them dry. Don't use a hairdryer because it can burn their sensitive skin.
  • 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, as 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 when they are dirty or smell bad to protect them against infection.

Is your cat due for a professional grooming appointment? Contact our Phenix City vets today to schedule a grooming session for your kitty.

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Summerville Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Phenix City companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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