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How to Groom a Senior Cat

As cats enter their golden years, extra attention has to be given to their grooming. Today our Scottsdale vets, discuss the reasons why older cats get matted fur easily and how you can groom them safely.

Should I Groom My Senior Cat?

Grooming becomes more difficult for older cats for a variety of reasons, including arthritis. It's critical to keep your senior cat's coat in good condition because unkempt fur can lead to painful matting. Matts are even more painful for cats with less excess muscle or fat, which is common in senior cats. As cats age, their skin loses elasticity, increasing their discomfort with mats and making them more prone to injuries such as tearing and bruising.

It's always better to be proactive about your senior cat's grooming because it saves them from experiencing unnecessary pain and discomfort, and it also makes the task easier and more pleasant for both of you.

Why Do Older Cats Get Matted Fur?

If you notice your senior cat not grooming themselves as frequently as they used to and their fur becoming matted, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Cats that do not groom themselves sufficiently can indicate an underlying medical problem that must be addressed immediately. It's not always easy to tell if your cat is in pain because they are very good at masking their discomfort.

Some reasons why your senior cat might not be grooming themselves as often or as efficiently include:

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

Geriatric cats can be at a higher risk of developing the above conditions. If you see your senior cat's hair becoming more matted or they aren't grooming themselves as well as they used to, contact your vet who will be able to diagnose and treat the underlying cause.

How To Brush Your Senior Cat

As we said above it's very important to keep your senior cats' fur well-groomed to keep their fur from matting. Below are tips on how you can brush your senior cat's fur:

  1. Brush your cat in a place where they will be comfortable such as on a soft mat.
  2. Start by petting your cat from head to tail, looking for any problem areas that are sensitive to them.
  3. 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.
  4. First, brush your cat with the rubber brush and work your way to the metal comb.
  5. 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 corn starch 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.
  6. Pay extra attention when brushing around your cat's hips, underbelly, and hind legs because these areas can be sensitive for older cats.
  7. If you notice any lumps, bumps, or sensitive-to-touch spots on your cat's limbs or joints call your vet so they can give your kitty a checkup. 
  8. 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.

The frequency with which you brush your cat is determined by the type of fur they have, as each cat is unique. Long-haired cats should be brushed once a day, while senior cats with shorter hair can benefit from brushing once a week. Keep in mind that the more frequently you brush your cat, the easier it will be. Your veterinarian will also be able to advise you on the best types of brushes and equipment to use, as well as how frequently you should brush your cat.

How To Clean an Old Cat's Fur

Most people know that cats don't like water, so it's normal for them to hiss, struggle and try to fight when you go to bathe them. You must 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 is how you can bath your senior cat:

  1. Fill a large plastic bin or your bathtub with enough warm (not hot) water to cover their underbelly.
  2. Make sure you brush your cat first and that they are free of any mats or tangles.
  3. Gently place your furry friend into the tub, reassuring your cat by giving them praise and petting them.
  4. 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 its eyes, ears, and nose.
  5. Lather your kitty in a special cat shampoo (do not use human shampoo) avoiding the head and face.
  6. 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).
  7. Wrap your cat in a clean, dry towel and pat them dry. Don't use a hairdryer because it can burn sensitive skin.
  8. Until your cat is completely dry keep them in a warm area.

Your primary care veterinarian will be able to advise you on how frequently you should bathe your senior cat. To keep long-haired cats clean, bathe them once a month; short-haired cats or senior kitties, on the other hand, should only be bathed when they are dirty or smell bad to protect them from infection.

If you have any more questions about grooming your senior cat, or to schedule a professional grooming session for your feline friend, contact our Scottsdale vets today.

Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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