As a cat enters its golden years, extra attention will need to start being given to their grooming. Here, our Oakland vets explain some of the reasons why senior cats' fur mats more easily and how you can safely groom them.
Should I Groom My Senior Cat?
As our feline friends grow older, it can be more difficult for them to groom themselves for a variety of reasons - such as arthritis or obesity. It's important that you keep your aging cat well-groomed because an unkempt coat can lead to painful matting in their fur. Mats can be even more painful for cats that don't have excess muscle or fat - something that is pretty common among senior cats.
As cats age, their skin also loses elasticity, which increases the discomfort they feel with mats, and makes them more prone to various injuries including tearing and bruising.
It's best to be proactive about your senior cat's grooming regime since it saves them from experiencing unnecessary pain and discomfort while also making the task easier and more pleasant for you both.
Why Do Older Cats Get Matted Fur?
Have you noticed your senior cat not grooming themselves as much or as thoroughly as they used to and their fur is starting to mat? Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Cats that aren't grooming themselves properly may be suffering from a medical issue that requires immediate care. However, it's not always easy to tell if your cat is feeling pained or uncomfortable because they are very good at hiding pain.
Some reasons why your senior cat might not be grooming themselves as often or as efficiently include:
- Dental problems
- Increased skin oil production
- Osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease
Geriatric cats may be at a higher risk of developing any of the above conditions. if you see that your senior cat's fur is becoming matted or that they aren't grooming themselves properly, contact your vet as soon as possible to allow them to diagnose and treat the underlying disease.
How To Brush Your Senior Cat
As mentioned above, it's very important to keep your senior cat's fur well-groomed to prevent it from matting over time. Below are some tips on how to brush your senior cat's fur in order to help prevent matting:
- If you find mats in your cat's hair, DO NOT try to cut, pull or yank at them. This will hurt your cat. Instead, you can try to gently loosen the mat with your finger or apply some cornstarch to the mat and try to gently brush it through. If it is too hard to brush a mat out at home, bring your cat in to see a professional groomer.
- Brush your cat in a place where they will be comfortable such as on a soft mat.
- Start by petting your cat from head to tail, looking for any problem areas that are sensitive for them.
- 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.
- First, brush your cat with the rubber brush and work your way to the metal comb.
- Pay extra attention when brushing around your cat's hips, underbelly, and hind legs because these areas can be sensitive for older cats.
- 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.
- 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 you have to brush your cat depends on what type of fur they have because every cat is different. Typically, long-haired cats should be brushed once a day, if your senior cat has shorter hair they can benefit from being brushed one day a week. Remember the more often you brush your cat the easier it will be. Your veterinarian will also be able to provide you with advice on the best types of brushes and equipment to use and can inform you how often you should brush your kitty.
How To Clean Your Older 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 give them a bath. It's very important that you 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 give your senior cat a bath:
- Fill a large plastic bin or your bathtub with enough warm (not hot) water to cover their underbelly.
- Make sure you brush your cat first and that they are free of any mats or tangles.
- Gently place your furry friend into the tub, reassuring your cat by giving them praise and petting them.
- 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 their eyes, ears, and nose.
- Lather your kitty in a special cat shampoo (do not use human shampoo) avoiding the head and face.
- 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).
- Wrap your cat in a clean, dry towel and pat them dry. Don't use a hairdryer because it can burn their sensitive skin.
- Until your cat is completely dry keep them in a warm area.
Every cat has different needs, so your primary care vet will be able to explain to you how often you should bathe your senior cat. As a guideline, to kee a long-haired cat clean, it's best to bathe them once a month while short-haired cats and senior cats will only need to be bathed as needed to help prevent bad smells and infection.