As cats grow older, grooming will need extra attention. Here, our vets in Murfreesboro explain why senior cats' fur can get matted more easily and how you can safely groom them.
Should I groom my senior cat?
By the time they enter their senior years, our cats may be finding it more difficult to groom themselves for a variety of reasons such as arthritis. It's important to ensure your older cat stays well-groomed since an unkempt coat can lead to painful matting in their fur. Mats are even more painful for cats who don't have as much excess fat or muscle, which is fairly common among senior cats.
As cats age, their skin also begins to lose elasticity, which increases discomfort they feel with mats and makes them more susceptible to serious injuries including bruising and tearing.
It's always best to be proactive when it comes to your senior cat's grooming because it saves them from experiencing unnecessary discomfort and pain, and makes the task more pleasant and easier on both of you.
Why do older cats get matted fur?
If you notice that your senior cat is not grooming themselves as often as they used to and their fur is becoming matted, you should book an appointment with your veterinarian. Cats not grooming themselves as frequently or enough can point to an underlying medical condition that should be addressed promptly. It's not always easy to tell if your cat is suffering from a painful issue, as most tend to be good at hiding pain.
Some reasons your senior cat may not be grooming themselves as often or as efficiently include:
- Increased skin oil production
- Osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease
- Dental issues
Geriatric cats may have increased risk at developing these conditions. If you see that your cat's fur has become more matted or they aren't grooming themselves as thoroughly as they used to, contact your vet. We'll be able to diagnose and treat the underlying cause.
How to Brush Your Senior Cat
As indicated above, it's very important to keep your senior cat's fur well-groomed to prevent their fur from matting. Here are some tips on how you can brush your cat's fur:
- 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.
- If you find mats on your cat's fur DO NOT try to cut, pull, or yank them because you can hurt your kitty. Instead, you can try to gently loosen the mat with your fingers or apply a bit of corn starch to the mat and brush it through. If it's too hard to brush the mats out by yourself take your cat to a professional groomer.
- 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, your primary care veterinarian will be able to tell you how often you should bathe your senior cat. However for a guideline, to keep long-haired cats clean it's best to give them a bath once a month, short-haired cats or senior kitties will only have to be bathed as needed when they are dirty or smell bad to guard them against infection.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.