A Complete Guide to Grooming Your Kitten
If you have taken on a long-haired or semi-long-haired cat, you will need to start handling your cat for grooming right from the beginning. Its coat may not yet be very long and may not even need too much combing, but it is much easier to let your kitten know that this is part of its life right at the beginning than to start when it is older and more difficult to influence. Little and often is the key; you can prevent tangles from forming if you groom for a short period and stop before the cat gets bored or fractious. Of course, if you have started early and in a kind, patient, and encouraging manner, your cat may love being groomed and you can keep it up for as long as you like. You want to avoid the scenario of feeling stressed and guilty because the cat with a beautiful flowing coat that yon envisaged showing to your friends is actually a terrible sight, with knots and tangles and looking like it has teen pulled through a hedge backwards. You don't want them to touch the knots of hair under the cat's tummy that it won't let you get to, and you would hate them to think you were a neglectful owner. However, despite all your best intentions, your cat makes it very difficult for you to get rid of the tangles.
Whatever coat type your kitten has, it is sill useful to groom it - it makes it familiar with such handing, keeps the coat shiny, and allows you to keep a close eye on the cat's coat and skin. You will be able to set that it has lumps, bumps, parasites (such as ticks or fleas], or a dry or scabby coat. Along with the grooming, accustom your kitten to having its eyes and ears checked aid its claws trimmed.
When you first start, it is essential that you b not cause any pain, pull the coat, or alarm the cat. Use a toothbrush around the face and work very gently. If you do find a knot, work slowly from above it, don't just drag the brush or comb through and pull on it. My children scream when I do this to their hair in the hurried moments before leaving for school, but I can explain to them it is because we are in a hurry and they should have done it themselves in the first place - I am usually forgiven. A bad experience for a kitten may mean that it comes to expect this every time the brush comes out. It is much better to associate the grooming equipment with a treat, gentle talk, and physical attention it likes, such as tickling under the chin or stroking on the head (my children would probably prefer this approach too!). If the kitten doesn't seem relaxed about you doing its tummy, approach the area in small chunks: do a little bit there, then do the head, and then a little bit more. Stop before it turns into a fight so that you end on a high and not on a low!
If you have a long-haired kitten, you will need to check the coat under the base of the tail and at the backs of the hindlegs to ensure it has not become soiled (especially when you first get it or are changing its diet, when it may suffer from a bit of diarrhea). Gently remove any soiling with a damp cotton ball so the kitten is clean and comfortable. Check between the kitten's toes and under its paws in case any litter from the litter box has become stuck there.
If you have one of the flatter-faced cats, such as Persians or Exotics, you may need to wipe its eyes on a regular basis, as the fluid that keeps the eyes moist cannot drain away properly through the tear ducts and spills out over the face. This can cause tear staining on the face at the inner corners of the eyes. Gently wipe this area with a cotton ball dampened with clean water or a little baby oil. Use a separate piece of cotton ball for each eye and dry with another cotton ball or a soft tissue. If you are going to do this every day, make sure it is a pleasant experience for the kitten - do not touch the eyeball, as this will be painful for the animal.
If you think your kitten's ears are grubby, do not use cotton swabs. Most veterinarians would advise you not to tamper with the ears at all, as the tissues lining the ear canals are very delicate and easily damaged. There may well be a reason that the ears are dirty - the kitten may have ear mites that are causing irritation and need to be tackled with medication from the veterinarian. Large deposits of wax in the ears or a reddening of the inner part of the ear may indicate a problem. If you want to wipe the outer part of the ear, use a cotton ball moistened with baby oil and never poke it down into the inner part of the ear itself.
If you intend to clip your cat's claws when it is older, perhaps because it is going to be an indoor cat and will not be going on hard surfaces or climbing trees that will blunt its claws, you will need to get the kitten used to the process. Invest in a pair of good-quality guillotine clippers - these usually have a small gap that goes around the claw and then closes to snip off the tip. Positioning is vital, though - you don't want to nick the little blood vessel that you will be able to see inside the claw. Make sure you cut beyond the spot where it disappears. Be confident and work efficiently so that it does not all end in a struggle. Kittens can be quite fidgety and you may initially need a couple of attempts before you actually do the cutting - stop if the kitten is getting agitated. As it gets used to its paw being held firmly and you get used to seeing what you are aiming at, you will get quicker and more confident.
Teach your kitten to let you look at its teeth and gums - again, this will stand you in good stead later on when it is grown and may be suffering from tartar or a gum problem. If you are very diligent, you may even consider cleaning your kitten's teeth. In an ideal world, we would all do this - your cat's teeth and oral health benefit from the same procedures that help humans maintain a healthy mouth. It is virtually impossible to start doing this with an adult cat; starting as young as possible is the only way. There are special feline toothbrushes and toothpastes that you can buy from your veterinarian - you might ask for a lesson in how best to do it at the same time.
Your kitten will have lost most of its baby (milk) teeth by about five months old, so don't panic if you notice a loose tooth or find one lying on the carpet. Check that there is no injury, just to be sure, but don't worry - another tooth will be growing through to take its place.
Of course, if you are at all worried about the health of your kitten, your veterinarian is the first port of call. You will need to take your kitten in either for vaccinations, neutering, or flea or worm treatments, so ask for a checkup at the same time.
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