By Dr Reeja George*

Cats are incredibly meticulous when it comes to hygiene; they are fussy about this aspect and spend endless hours engaged in such activities. The meticulous habits of cats were documented by Francois-Augustin de Paradis de Moncrifa, member of the Academie Francaise, who wrote the first book specifically on cats titled Les Chats in 1727 in which he observed that ‘by virtue of their meticulous cleanliness, cats could teach us a lesson or two’. Cats spend hours – to be precise, they actually spend between 15 and 50 per cent of the day beautifying themselves! Beautification is an intrinsic part of their daily routine and they never tire of grooming themselves. They are careful to the core, meticulously putting all their hair in place, smoothing off to oblivion!

A Start with the Litter Box

Ofcourse, when we talk about hygiene in cat world, the litter box is the first central point that we have to consider. Some cats are so hygiene conscious with their litter box that owners are forced to make a change of litter after every use! It is always ideal to check the litter box every day for any tell-tale signs of any illness. Besides that, you will have to change the litter depending on the type of material used. In case you use bentonite or sepiolite based litter material, you will have to remove small balls that form clumps with urine, atleast every three days.  This type of litter material has advantage of minimizing odours that could be bothersome to the cat and the cat family. Don’t underestimate kitty with respect to odours. She is highly influenced by smells and once she dislikes a smell emanating from the litter box, she may even refuse to use it! If you use the traditional non clumping litter material, you will have to change it every day.

Coat Matters

Cats are very good groomers, taking care of their coat by smoothing it over and over again. They never tire of doing this routine. Despite the time and effort that kitty takes in this routine, it would be a good idea for pet parents to show some personal attention to her coat. This would offer you an additional opportunity to check the general condition of her priced possession, her coat, giving you valuable clues as to the presence of parasites or any wounds that she may have as a result of her adventurous manoeuvres.  Wounds safely hidden beneath the hair coat could easily escape our eye and become breeding grounds for maggots. Whatever the case, regular checking on her is needed.

Cats, of course, generally detest such sessions, but she should be trained during the process of socialization to get used to human touch. In case she still resents such sessions, try to split up a long session into a few shorter ones so that she has some breathing space. You will need some essentials to help you in these sessions and a curry comb is one of the basics to help you separate the fur.

For long haired breeds you will need a soft comb as well. Before you begin brushing, you should have a proper look at kitty’s coat. Healthy coats will be glossy. Check out for any bald patches, besides looking for any signs of fleas and ticks. Feel her over for any funny lumps. In case your little pooch is short haired, you would ideally need a brushing session twice a week. You could begin the process with a metal comb. Start by working the comb through fur as you attempt to remove dirt and remnants of debris. Always be careful to move brush in the direction of her hair coat, moving over her chest and abdomen, and taking care to check for matted or tangled hair. In case kitty is long haired and kept indoors for most of the time, she would need a brushing session every alternate day. A soft comb is best and you could begin at abdomen and legs, gently moving forward.

Bath Time

The cat’s general aversion to getting wet remains a well-known fact among pet parents. They just hate baths. By around three months of age, kitty would have been introduced to a bath. Bath time is also petting time; this makes things easier with her. The room where you intend to give her a bath should be warm and free from draughts. You could use a basin for the bath, fill with lukewarm water that translates to water at 38 degrees Celsius. Place kitty in the basin, slowly petting her along during the process and continuing to do so as you then proceed to wet her slowly with a cup. Once she is wet, apply a cat shampoo, rubbing her whole body and take care to rinse off all traces of shampoo.  Cats have shampoos specially formulated for their skins, which have a different pH as compared to humans and so you should not use human shampoos for cats. After she has been rinsed, wrap her up in a dry towel and rub her dry with another dry one. Use a small ball of cotton to wipe her ears.  Though you could use a blow drier for her, with a moderate speed, cats generally dislike the sound of driers as well as the forceful air that they produce. In case she is okay with the dryer, use it taking care not to blow air into her ears and eyes.

Eyes, Ears, and Teeth

The eyes and ears of a cat are generally free from discharges and do not require daily cleaning.  However, in case you see any light discharge you should clean it. A larger amount of discharge from the eyes or ears is a matter of concern that merits veterinary attention. Cats generally get their permanent teeth by four months. Cat’s teeth have to be regularly checked for any changes in colour and build-up of tartar. Providing a diet with opportunity for crunching, say with dry food, has been shown to prevent the build-up of tartar. You should check your cat’s mouth for abnormal odours.  In case you notice any strong smells, she could have some problems relating to digestion or mouth conditions such as gum conditions, which would have to be examined by your vet. You can do this easily by having her in a play mood face to face and then gently pat her on the face and slowly push back her lips to check the gums, which should be firm and pink. Other discolorations, like redness, should merit a check with the vet. Her teeth should be firm and free of tartar as well.

*Author is the Associate Professor, Department of Veterinary and AH Extension, College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Mannuthy, Thrissur, Kerala.

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