How do cats groom themselves?

Cats groom themselves, primarily using their specially developed tongue designed in a specific way to help as they lick themselves to groom their coat. Cats do an excellent job cleaning and grooming themselves most of the time, which is a cool thing. If you've ever felt a cat's tongue, it feels very different from a dog's tongue or your own tongue, and that is to help them in the grooming process.

Dr. Shawn McCorkle
Summer Creek Animal Clinic

How does proper grooming impact the health and wellbeing of your cat?

It's essential for your cat to either groom themselves sufficiently or to be groomed professionally if they're not. Their coats can mat very easily, and they could end up with skin issues resulting from not grooming sufficiently. That can really affect their quality of life, particularly if they get matted and end up with maggots under the skin. I've seen that several times. And so, good grooming is a crucial part of a cat's long-term quality of life.

What are some signs and symptoms that your cat is no longer grooming themselves properly?

As you're petting your cat behind the ears on the abdomen, you can get in the habit of feeling them every so often, as you can feel the mats pretty easily when they aren't grooming adequately. And, of course, the smell can be an issue, especially if the matting gets significant. I've seen a number of cats with pretty substantial skin disease as a result, and infection sets in, and then that can get pretty stinky. If it affects their quality of life, you might notice that they are not as active, so they're more hesitant to move because it's uncomfortable. And when cats aren't grooming themselves adequately, it can result from underlying problems. So if your cat is painful or has an underlying medical condition that's affecting their just overall wellbeing, that can decrease their desire or ability to groom themselves sufficiently. And that can be a big issue.

Why is it important to consult a veterinarian if my cat has grooming problems?

That's an excellent question because the first important thing to identify is whether any underlying problems need to be managed that are contributing to your cat not grooming sufficiently. So especially if you've got an older cat, pain from arthritis is really common. Other underlying medical conditions can affect grooming, like chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and diet. These are things that are very common in older cats.

You should also have your cat evaluated for oral disease, periodontal disease, tooth root resorption, and crown resorption, as those are all painful things that can affect the quality of life of your cat and their ability to groom, among other things. So having a veterinarian evaluate your cat can help identify if there's something like that going on. And then, from there, if your cat does have matted hair or other coat issues that need to be professionally groomed, your veterinarian can help to facilitate that.

So at our clinic, for example, here in Fort Worth, we offer grooming on a couple of days with some professional groomers. And when we do cat grooming, it's exclusively with sedation because it's often very stressful for cats. And so we can handle that on the medical side and do that in a very safe way. That's super comfortable for the pet in conjunction with a professional groomer that can take care of the matting and the coat in a manner that's good for the cat, and that's important. Cat skin is often very fragile. If there are mats, you can easily tear the skin, especially if there are underlying medical conditions. So, those are a couple of reasons why I think a veterinarian should be involved with the grooming process, as that can be really beneficial for the client and the cat.

How would I go about scheduling a grooming appointment with you?

At our facility, we require an appointment with the doctor because, again, there are often other issues going on, and a plan needs to be put in place to get the grooming done as safely and as comfortably as possible. As a fear-free-certified hospital, the comfort of your pet is our top priority. And so, we work through that at the initial visit and come up with a grooming plan, coordinating with our groomer. So the best way to do that is to call our clinic, and we'll set up an appointment with one of our doctors. And then, at that visit, a plan can be put in place to get the grooming done, typically at a later date when everything is solidified and all the steps are put in place to do it as safely and as comfortably as possible.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (817) 523-1139, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Grooming - FAQs

Dr. Shawn McCorkle
Summer Creek Animal Clinic

Is it necessary for me to groom my cat?

It depends on your cat. Grooming in terms of brushing and making sure that your cat is grooming themselves sufficiently is necessary. I think that's a good habit to get into. It greatly depends on how well your cat grooms themselves. Some cats groom themselves very well and have a nice shiny coat with no matting. It's great when that happens, but sometimes, especially if your cat's got longer hair, they will need some support to ensure that their coat doesn't get matted. So at least getting your cat acclimated to being brushed consistently and making sure that it's a positive experience by incorporating some treats can help maintain a good quality coat.

Are cats hygienic?

Most cats do a really good job at grooming and cleaning themselves. Whether they do it well or not differs from cat to cat. Generally speaking, the leaner your cat is, the better they are at grooming themselves, but that's not always the case. Cats are generally fairly hygienic, but it depends on the individual cat. Evaluating your cat, making sure that they're grooming themselves well and not getting any matted fur, ensuring their coats are shiny and that there's not a lot of dirt at the base of the coat are all good habits to get used to doing.

Should I bathe my cat?

That's a good question. Again, it will differ between cats. A lot of cats will be fine just grooming themselves, maybe getting some supplementary brushing, and never needing a bath. Cats that have an underlying skin disease and indoor-outdoor cats that don't adequately groom themselves can benefit greatly from the occasional bath. But that's challenging because it's often a very stressful event for your cat. I suggest you speak with your veterinarian to determine if it's necessary.

For cats that are just a bit stinky or not grooming themselves well but their skin is healthy, considering soapless shampoo that doesn't require water could be helpful. You could facilitate the process with a damp, warm washcloth. This could help you accomplish what you want without traumatizing the cat. However, if your cat genuinely needs a bath, I suggest getting some help because it can be scary.

Is it safe to groom my cat?

If you're a groomer and have experience, then yes. But otherwise, I would shy away from it. I've seen too many cats that come in with lacerations from owners trying to cut out mats over the years. Of course, they feel terrible when that happens, and they never it on purpose, but cat skin is very delicate, and if you've got matting, safely getting it out can be a real challenge. Even in the hands of a professional groomer, I've seen the skin accidentally cut. I recommend not trying it. I think brushing it is great, but avoid using scissors or clippers. Unless you're very comfortable with it, I recommend professional grooming.

How do cats groom themselves?

They have a very unique, specialized tongue that has little projections on it. If you ever feel a cat's tongue, you'll be able to tell it's very different from what you would expect from your own tongue or a dog's tongue. It's designed specifically to help them groom themselves, clean their coat, and do everything they need to do from a grooming perspective. Their specialized tongues allow them to be such good groomers themselves.

What does cat grooming at a salon entail?

It depends on the salon. Certain salons have a lot of experience with cats. If the facility's right, like when there are not many dogs and cats together in kennels, and if it's more like a mobile grooming salon, grooming can be done without any sort of medication or sedation. If cats are groomed routinely as maintenance, only doing it every so often is sufficient. Grooming at our veterinary facility entails a lot of medical grooming on cats, which can be challenging. Across the board, we provide sedation for the cats when they get grooming to make it as comfortable and as safe as possible. We coordinate with our medical and our grooming staff to be able to support that type of professional grooming. That allows us to do a good job, especially with these matted cats, in as safe a manner as possible.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (817) 523-1139, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.