Invest in some quality grooming tools. That way you’ll have them for the lifetime of your cat, even after Baby has grown to adulthood. The higher quality products not only last longer, they tend to do a better job. For instance, cheaper nail trimmers tend to become dull more quickly— that means they end up crushing rather than snipping off the nail. And a Teflon-coated comb, or one with rolling teeth is more comfortable for the kitten because it glides more easily through fur and won’t pull.
You don’t need anything fancy for routine grooming. Basic grooming tools are available in most pet supply stores, your veterinarian’s office, or over the Internet. If you have a purebred kitten and want to show her, there may be special grooming provisions you’ll need to learn. Visit a couple of cat shows, and ask questions to get the answers you need for your special kitten. Your breeder is also a great resource for this information.
Kitten and adult cat skin is very sensitive. That means any comb or brush teeth must never be sharply pointed. They are designed to be smooth and rounded so the grooming experience is pleasant, and there’s no chance of injury.
To take good care of your kitten’s fur, you’ll need at least one comb. The teeth of the comb will be set together in a fine, medium, or coarse fashion. The closer together, the finer the teeth are said to be. Medium to coarse combs are good for longhaired kittens, while medium to fine combs work best for shorthaired breeds.
Shorthaired kittens may do fine with regular sessions using cat gloves. These are special gloves with inset rubber nubs in the palm that smooth the fur and remove any loose hair. Cat gloves are a kitten favorite, because the action just seems like you are petting them.
You may also want to invest in a second fine-toothed comb to finish the coat once all the tangles are smoothed. A flea comb works great, and also will capture any stray bugs that set up housekeeping on your kitten. Or, there are combs designed that have medium-spaced teeth on one side and coarse or fine teeth on the other. Most times, the handles on cat combs are short to be easier to handle and more efficient. A flea comb works great to remove caked or crusty material from the kitten’s fur.
When looking for a brush, be sure the bristles or nubs are soft enough not to scratch tender kitten skin, but firm enough to reach through the fur and brush efficiently. A curry brush is rubber or plastic with short nubs that work great to smooth fur and remove loose hair on shorthaired cats. Some are designed to work on longhaired kittens, too.
A slicker brush is designed for the final finishing touch. It is made up of closely-arranged fine wires that smooth the coat. You must be careful not to brush the skin, though, or you could cause “brush burns.”
WARNING! Use a slicker brush only after combing or currying out any tangles. A gentle touch works best.
Besides a brush and comb, you need a quality shampoo.
Unless you see a problem with fleas, there’s no need to choose a flea product—a grooming shampoo works fine. Often you can find one that includes some sort of conditioner, or purchase a coat conditioner separately. Conditioner helps reduce static, tangles, and helps prevent drying out the skin. I particularly like the cat bathing products that include oatmeal, which is a natural skin-soothing ingredient.
WARNING! Kittens are highly sensitive to substances put on their skin. Bathing products that are safe for dogs—and sometimes for adult cats—may be too harsh for your kitten. Be especially careful of flea products, or you may accidentally poison your pet. Look for the words “safe for kittens” before buying the product.
There are “dry” shampoos available for cats. These typically are wipe-on, foam, or spray products that are worked into the dingy fur, wiped off, and left on. They may do a good job in between the more thorough dunking.
You’d think that kittens would take care of their claws all by themselves. You got her a great scratch post, after all! However, kittens still benefit from a bit of manicure help. If claws grow too long, they tend to get caught in the upholstery or carpet, can tear or split, and cause painful infections. I began trimming Eva’s claws every week, while she was still a kitten. That not only prevents potential problems, it also saves my furniture when she occasionally forgets herself and flexes those shivs while sitting on my fine furniture.
There are four options for nail trimmers. All work well, and the choice really is which style you are most comfortable with. Tiny kittens have tiny claws. For them, human nail trimmers work very well. In fact, I still use human nail trimmers on Eva’s claws, because even as an adult, she’s small and her nails are dainty. Scissors-style nippers are also a good choice. They may take the least getting-used-to, if you are new to pet nail trimming. Guillotine-style nail trimmers are a popular choice. They come in a couple of sizes, with the smallest ones designated for cats. But even the dog-size guillotine clippers will work for Kitty. You don’t need to invest in species-specific grooming tools when it comes to the claws.
Professional groomers have used Dremel nail grinding tools for many years. Commercial products now are available for pet owners. You’ll need to get the kitten used to the idea, but this can be a good option and avoids the risk of “quicking” the claw and making it bleed.
Two considerations are important when choosing a nail trimmer for your kitten. First, whatever the style, it must be very sharp so it cuts and doesn’t crush or tear the claw. Second, you must be comfortable using it.
For Eyes and Ears
Kittens can develop small amounts of sleepy-crusts in their eyes, or a bit of light yellow wax in their ears. That’s normal. Regular ear and eye checks are as much to monitor kitten health as to groom them. Any kind of discharge is an alert to check with your veterinarian. Normal eye secretions are clear and liquid, just like human tears. And the inside of a kitten’s normal ear is pink and clean. Dark crumbly gunk in the ears or thick discharge from the eyes can be signs of a health problem.
Even normal tears can turn crusty in the fur and irritate the tender skin around the kitten’s eyes. Flat-faced babies like Persians are particularly prone to this problem because their eyes are so large and prominent, and tend to water.
There are commercial preparations available at pet stores that help remove tear stains safely from the kitten’s fur. But you don’t really need any special supplies for eye and ear care—what you have in your own medicine chest works fine. Cotton balls, cotton swabs, mineral oil or baby oil, and plain water—or saline solution you use for your contact lenses–are more than adequate.
Why bother worrying about your kitten’s teeth? Even if they’re baby teeth she’ll lose anyway, once she’s six-months-old you’ll need to take care of those adult choppers. They are the only ones Kitty will ever have. They don’t make dentures for cats.
Unfortunately, we can’t train cats to brush their own teeth. That’s something we must do for them. Veterinarians provide dentistry services, including routine teeth cleaning to scour away collected plaque. But kittens cats won’t open wide and say, “Ahhhhhh,” so veterinary dentists must first anesthetize the cat to clean the teeth.
That’s not necessary if you train your kitten from an early age to accept you brushing her teeth. You can greatly reduce or even eliminate the need for professional teeth cleaning simply by brushing Kitty’s teeth at home.
You’ll need kitty toothpaste. Your veterinarian and pet supply stores carry special non-foaming products designed for cats that are flavored with chicken or malt. Some cats actually consider kitty toothpaste to be a treat.
Never use human toothpaste products in pets, though. The foaming action is not only terribly unpleasant, the fluoride is much too strong. In people, that’s fine, because we get rid of the paste after we’ve brushed by rinsing our mouths. But kittens and cats can’t spit. They swallow the paste. That can upset their tummies, and over time, the fluoride can be unhealthy for their liver.
Choose a toothbrush designed for your kitten’s small mouth. A child’s baby toothbrush may work fine. But commercial products work better and aren’t as intrusive as the large plastic brushes we use on ourselves.
You might want to try a finger toothbrush made especially for the small mouths of kittens and cats. The rubber product slips over your finger and has tiny soft bristles. Many cats which object to a toothbrush stuck into their mouth will more readily accept a finger brush because it’s an extension of a human they love and trust.