How do cats groom themselves?
Just like you've seen dogs lick themselves, so do cats. Cats actually have little barbs on their tongues and so when they're grooming themselves, they're like micro combing their hair. It picks up dander, loose hair, dead skin cells. If they have anything on them, they're going to lick and clean themselves off. That's also why you have to be very careful about where you apply flea and tick prevention. You want to put it where they can't reach it because cats are excellent groomers. They spend a big portion of their lives and of their day grooming themselves. So that's how cats groom.
How does proper grooming impact the health and well-being of your cat?
Just like how we brush our hair and wash our hair daily and shampoo and conditioner, cats' grooming is going to do the same thing for them that it does for us. They're keeping their hair and their coat clean. Their coat is protective, and it's going to protect them from being bit or scratched because it's a layer of protection. It acts as an insulator from both the heat and the cold, so having a nice coat is going to protect them from the environment. Signs that a cat isn't grooming correctly are tufts of hair just falling out. Over grooming is something you can see if they're grooming too much. I've seen some cats that come in with allergies, and they're almost bald. They've licked themselves bald. They're naked when you look at their bellies. You can also see hair matting. For our long-haired cats, this is going to be a little bit more of an issue. We do need to keep up with brushing if your cat will tolerate it because matting can be painful and, in really severe cases, can actually cut off blood circulation to limbs and tails and can cause bleeding. It's really important to make sure if your animal or your cat does have mats that you're going ahead and getting them veterinary care to help and figure out why they are not grooming. Do they have arthritis? Do they not feel well? Are they having trouble reaching because they're overweight? There are some kitty cats that we see that are so overweight that they can't reach down to their lady bits or their man bits and they can't keep their rear ends or their bathroom parts clean. Keeping their weight under control is very important. These are all things that we need to be cognizant of when we're making sure our cats are grooming themselves appropriately.
What are the benefits of professional grooming for my cat?
I would say that it's easier to let someone else do it than for you to do it. I know that as a veterinarian, I'm not the best at shaving in straight lines. My technicians will tell you this. If you do have a cat that is matted, then getting it professionally groomed will not only help get the mats off, but also help your cat to feel clean and healthy and nice. There are certain veterinary clinics, us included, that will sedate cats that have severe matting that need a medical shave down in which we get very close to the skin with surgical blades because the matting's gotten so severe. Professional grooming is going to cut down on what you have to do as an owner. I would say that I do recommend doing home brushing, especially if your cat is a big shedder, just because it is going to cut down on hairballs, keep the coat clean, and distribute the oils. If your cat is starting to get a little matted, sometimes you can actually brush those mats out before they turn into a bigger issue.
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