Grooming a cat is something that comes easier to pet parents when you start early in life.
Kittens are social animals; they play with and imitate those around them. They also 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 cat does not trust people she will teach her kittens early to fear us.
That’s why it’s important to provide safe stressors as early as possible, including a set schedule for grooming your kitten.
Establish a Grooming Routine
One of the first things to establish with your new kitten is a grooming protocol. This helps to develop a maternal relationship with your kitten and makes the grooming process feel more natural to them.
Try to build up to the following steps in your daily routine:
- 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 feline friend, including the ears. Limit early kitten grooming to only short sessions and concentrate on one area at a time, so as not to stress the kitten.
- Keep your kitten from starting to move away or play during grooming, by making these sessions a regular routine and monitoring your cat’s response so you know how long to groom them at any one time.
- Make purring or other soothing sounds to 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.
As you end each session, stretch your kitty out with one hand on the front legs and one on the back legs, then place them on the floor and offer a small piece of chicken, or another special treat specific to grooming. Your kitten will quickly learn how nice this time is and that you are in charge.
As kitty becomes patient with your grooming routine, introduce a baby brush and later a comb. A flea comb is a good choice for the fine hair of a cat.
As enjoyment of the grooming improves, you can groom more of your kitten at one time until you are doing the full routine in one session.
Drying Off Your Kitten’s Fur After Grooming
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, start to 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 if ever they do, this training will ensure they are not so frightened by the procedure.
Most importantly of all, establishing these routines helps to build a stronger bond between you and your new feline family member. You will have more trust when it comes to stressful situations, and you will have a lot of fun interacting with your new friend as you gain kitty’s confidence!