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How To Groom Your Kitten

by Dr. Deborah Fegan, DVM

Kittens are social animals.

They play with and imitate those around them. They learn where their food comes from and how to keep themselves safe at a very early age.

For instance, if the mother cat does not teach her kittens how to hunt, they will starve. If mama does not trust people she will teach her kittens early to fear us. Therefore, it is important to provide safe stressors to your kitten as early as possible.

Establish a Grooming Routine

One of the first things to establish with your new kitten is a grooming protocol. This helps to establish your relationship with your kitten as if you are their mother.

Several times a day, move your kitten to a solid surface that is high enough to be comfortable for you. Using a terry wash cloth with a nubby surface, stroke in the direction of the fur in short strokes. Groom all surfaces of your kitten, including their ears. But only do short sessions and concentrate on one area at a time, so as not to stress the kitten. Your kitten is not allowed to initiate flight or play during the grooming, so use their response to judge how long to groom them. If you make purring sounds it will tell your kitten that this procedure is a good and pleasurable thing. If they swat at the wash cloth, a small hiss will get their attention.

End each session by stretching them out with one hand on their front legs and one on their back legs, then place the kitten on the floor and give them a small piece of chicken. They will soon learn how nice this time is and that you are in charge. As they become patient with grooming introduce a baby brush and later a comb. A flea comb is a good choice for the fine hair of a cat. As their enjoyment of the grooming improves, you can groom more of your kitten at one time until you are doing the whole kitten in one session.

Drying Off Your Kitten’s Fur

Early in your journey together, the hair dryer needs to become routine. It is very important not to frighten your kitten, so the noise of a hair dryer needs to be introduced very early. Even on the first day, you should turn on the hair dryer in the bathroom, first without the kitten in the room and several days later with them in the bathroom with you. Have the hair dryer on and initiate a game with a laser light or feather toy for several days. Then add this noise to the grooming routine, slowly moving the hairdryer closer to your kitten during grooming until they can get a little blow dry on the end of their tail and on following days moving to different areas until your kitten enjoys this part of the groom. Also change locations of grooming to add different stressors, so their trust in you increases.

When your kitten is comfortable with a brush and blow dry, it is time to move to the bath. Start this by adding a wet washcloth wipe down of various parts of your cat after brushing them. Your cat should not be soaking with this. We are just introducing water. They should be accustomed to blow drying by now so you can blow dry the area that you wipe down.

Graduating Kitty to a Full Bath

Once these grooming procedures are routine, start the full bath. This should not be introduced later than when your kitten is about 10 weeks, as they are still at a learning age. Fill a container such as a sink or dish pan with warm water before you pick up your cat. Start by wetting their feet in this pan then move to the grooming procedure. Over time you will be able to do a full bath, with shampoo, rinse and blow dry.

Most kittens do not need a bath, but they need to trust you in stressful situations. And if ever they do need a bath, they will not be frightened of this procedure. And you will have fun interacting with your new friend.

Dr. Deborah Fegan

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