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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Our current kitties are pretty low maintenance. They get regular brushing to avoid hairballs, and Zoe requires a monthly pedicure. But when Max, our thick-coated Siberian, drooled all over his fluffy fur while recovering from dental surgery, I was sure glad we had some cat grooming supplies on hand. I grabbed a cat-friendly shampoo and gave poor Max a quick clean-up.
To help you gather your own stash of must-have cat grooming supplies, we’ve put together this list. It starts with the basics (brushes, combs, and tooth-cleaning supplies) and moves on to the nice-to-have items (nail clippers, shampoo, towel, and a variety of wipes for eyes and ears).
Of course, the challenge with some cats is to get them to accept these healthy and often necessary treatments. The experts suggest introducing your cat to grooming sessions as soon as possible after they join your household. Start by petting them and shift gradually into massaging, brushing, or combing. Add a few treats to make the sessions appealing. You’ll find plenty of tips in these articles on how to groom a cat and the best cat brushes.
Tackling Baths, Tooth Care, and Fleas
While regular brushing is important, you’ll be relieved to hear that your cat does not need regular bathing! Certified Master Groomer Rose Silcox-Rither, the owner of Better Kitty in Seattle, reminds us that cats are desert creatures. They clean themselves, and washing may remove the natural oils their skin needs.
But what about the times that your kitty requires “spot cleaning” or gets in a real mess that might call for a real bath? (This is particularly true for older cats or cats who are seriously ill—or for a frightened cat who has a pooping accident in her carrier.)
You can handle it, but you’ll need to avoid bath soaps or human shampoos, which can irritate your cat’s skin. There are some great soap-free pet shampoos, but avoid pet products that contain essential oils (some essential oils are toxic to cats).
Silcox-Rither says you can always use Dawn dishwashing liquid, diluted. The unperfumed product is used to safely clean wild animals even more sensitive to chemicals than our domestic cats. “It gets out grease and dirt, and a little goes a long way,” she says. “Take a very wet washcloth with a little Dawn to clean the spot, and then use another wet washcloth to rinse.”
No discussion of grooming supplies would be complete without a mention of the basic (and inexpensive) flea comb. Use it to check for fleas and flea dirt, or to remove fleas. There is no need to panic if fleas turn up—but check out this article on the best flea treatments for cats.
Last, but not least, a few words about tooth cleaning. Dental care should have a regular place on your cat’s grooming schedule to remove plaque and bacteria and prevent the buildup of tartar. If your cat is up for it, you can try tooth brushing, using a special cat-size toothbrush and flavored pet toothpaste with pet-safe ingredients. If toothbrushing sessions are not going over well with your kitty, there are some alternatives. Silcox-Rither says it’s easier on the cat (and safer for your own fingers) if you give your cat special dental chew-treats (just one or two a day) or a use a drinking water additive that promotes dental health.
The Best Cat Grooming Supplies
Whether it’s a dental care session or an emergency shampooing, your grooming session with your kitty will go better if you have the right supplies. Here a list of gentle-but-effective brushes and combs, along with nail clippers, washing supplies, tooth cleaning gear, and wipes.
The inexpensive ZoomGroom from toy company Kong is the must-have tool for short- and medium-haired kitties. It’s a gentle rubber cat brush that will get your cat accustomed to being groomed. Use it to massage dirt and loose hair up to the surface—and to comb hair if your cat refuses to deal with other brushes or tools. Owners swear that even the most skeptical cat will warm to it.
This cat-scale comb will make for a comfortable grooming experience. The teeth have rounded tips that prevent injury to the cat, and the rubber handle is easy to grip.
This basic slicker cat brush is one of the cat grooming supplies you’ll reach for most often. It’s easy to use and comfortable for both the cat and the person doing the grooming. After you’ve removed dead hair and dirt with the rake, the slicker brush smooths fur and redistributes healthy oils, giving the coat an attractive sheen.
This soft-bristled toothbrush for pets has a large and a small brush—you’ll want to use the smaller end for kittens and most cats. Gentle cleanings with this brush and a cat-specific toothpaste will keep your cat’s teeth healthy and help prevent painful gingivitis.
When it comes to toothpaste, Virbac C.E.T. and Vetoquinal lead the field. This, and other food-flavored toothpaste, are for both cats and dogs—who knew they shared tastes?
This poultry-flavor toothpaste is designed to prevent the formation of plaque and people say their cats love the flavor (the actual brushing, not so much). If your kitty already has tartar issues, talk with your vet about the need for professional cleaning. And If your cat is averse to poultry, look for Virbac’s other flavors.
In tempting flavors like salmon, catnip, and this roasted chicken, Greenies dental treats offer an easy and delicious way to maintain your cat’s dental health. (You have to wonder why they don’t make them for humans!)
This concentrated water additive contains enzymes that work together to reduce odor-causing bacteria. Oratene reduces the formation of plaque biofilm by making the plaque water-soluble so it won’t attach to your cat’s teeth. For best results, shake well and add as directed to fresh water, daily.
Certified Master Groomer Rose Silcox-Rither of the Seattle company Better Kitty says it’s understandable to be hesitant about trimming your cat’s claws. Still, want to give it a try? She recommends getting this type of inexpensive clippers specially designed for cat claws—not ones designed for dogs or humans. “The less fancy, the better,” she says.
These claw clippers are available in two sizes (small/medium is appropriate for most cats) and come with detailed instructions for use. The scissors shape and rubberized handles give you a good grip; semi-circular indentations in both blades allow you to see exactly where you going to cut.
In some households, nail grooming includes applying glue-on nail caps for indoor cats with scratching issues. Some cats will adapt readily to them. Others don’t like it any more than getting their nails trimmed. If your kitty is a fan, these Soft Claws get great reviews.
This scented shampoo is gentle on skin, but effective enough for spot cleaning a yucky mess. For cats (and people) less than thrilled about scents, Earthbath also makes fragrance-free shampoos.
You probably don’t want to dry off a wet cat with one of your nice bath towels. An old towel will do, but these lightweight microfiber towels offer more absorbency, plus quick drying. Choice of two sizes.
Clean up your cat’s sticky spots with these sturdy, fragrance-free, hypoallergenic grooming wipes. These moisturized wipes remove dander and dirt and are great for getting litter off those little paws.
Banish eye goop! These pre-soaked sterile pads make it safe to gently remove dirt, grime, and bacteria around your cat’s eyes. The cleaning solution is soothing and non-stinging.
These alcohol-free wipes are pre-soaked in a solution formulated to prevent and combat infections that can be caused by yeast, bacteria, and dirt build-up. If your cat (like mine) reacts to ear drops by shaking her head and getting most of the drops on you, this is an easier and neater ear-care solution!
This inexpensive comb, ideal for short-haired cats, can be your first line of defense during spring and summer flea season. Use the soft flexible bristles on this plastic comb to gently coax any evidence of fleas from deep in your cat’s fur. Start with the wider teeth if your cat is wary of combing, then switch to the narrower teeth if necessary.
Need a Cat Grooming Pro?
Need a professional to remove mats, clip claws, or give an elderly kitty a makeover? A groomer can now come to your house, equipped with a full complement of cat grooming supplies and tools! To learn more about the grooming services Rover now offers, please check out our groomers’ page. Enter your postal code to find grooming services in your area.
Feeling a little overwhelmed by the prospect of spiffing up your cat? Here are a few articles to inspire confidence.
Featured image via Pixabay/Сергей Корчанов
Karen Anderson is a writer at Rover. Before joining Rover, she was a writer and editor at Apple and a freelancer for companies including Cardiac Science, Houzz, the Home Owners Club, and the Seattle Times. Her hobbies are dancing, gardening, science fiction, and pet-sitting for friends and neighbors. She shares her house with a delightful clowder of quirky rescue cats.
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