Cats are natural hunters and, however distasteful, they do tend to enjoy bringing home half-chewed mice and birds to prove their prowess. Some people to to minimize horrors of this nature by attaching a small bell to the cat’s collar. This at least gives birds and mice an early warning which may sometimes permit them to get away in time.
A cat which hunts a lot will often get cuts and scratches on its skin which, if left unattended, could lead to the formation of abcesses. It is wise, therefore, to examine the coat from time to time, pushing the fur back against the grain to see whether the skin underneath is clean and free from signs of fleas. Flea dirt in the form of little black specks can easily be seen, particularly in any portions of white fur or on the underbelly of the cat. Regular brushing and combing is helpful to the cat in performing its own bodycare procedures.
In short-haired cats, particularly, a baby brush is most suitable as the bristles are soft and unlikely to damage the relatively tender skin underneath. Harsh bristle brushes or wire brushes are certainly not appropriate, even for long-haired cats. Brushing should be thorough and should be with the grain of the fur. If brushing is started early enough in kittenhood, the animal seems very happy to keep still and even roll over for the brushing to proceed. Adult cats, however, get extremely restless when they are being brushed if they are not used to it and may cause a problem. Long-haired cats should therefore be trained to be brushed from a very early age with the fur being teazed out where tangles have occurred; gentle combing with a comb with round-ended teeth is also helpful. Some cats like even vigorous brushing and dead hairs will fly out of the coat when this is done thus minimizing the number that get down into the stomach. During normal grooming cats can often be heard spitting aliva into the fur while they are licking it as this helps to clean it and isolate the dead hairs. It is therefore often helpful to dip your brush into a little water while you are brushing the cat. At the end of the brushing the cat can be smoothed over with the hands or with a clamp cloth or leather. This eliminates the dead hairs from the top of the coat and leaves the coat shining and flat.
Whilst grooming, and depending upon how tractable the cat is, the paws should be carefully examined to ensure that there are no grass seeds or bits of tar picked up from the road between the pads. Inquisitive cats walking in garages can often get oil or tar on their paws which can cause severe irritation and skin problems. If this happens the tar should be removed by rubbing in some butter or margarine and then gently washing the paw with a baby shampoo. This of course assumes that the cat will permit this to take place. Show cats are often bathed regularly and even tolerate the horrors of a hair dryer. This is quite unnecessary in ordinary domestic pets unless they have long white fur which gets extremely dirty. Most cats resent bathing intensely and even the most tractable and affectionate creature will bite and scratch in order to get away.
Bathing is sometimes a last resort, however, in eliminating parasites. This procedure is probably best carried out by the veterinary surgeon and his nurse who are used to dealing with temperamental pets who are unmoved by any suggestion that what is happening is for their own good. This slightly drastic procedure can, however, be avoided if from time to time during the grooming process a suitable cat-flea powder is applied. It is essential that the flea powder used is cleared for use in cats. Some insecticides are highly toxic to cats and must be avoided at all costs. When applying a suitable powder to the coat it should be shaken in as the coat is brushed against the grain, allowed to remain in the coat for a few minutes and then brushed vigorously out again. This will kill any fleas lurking in the undergrowth whilst preventing the cat from licking itself while the powder is in the coat and therefore getting a dose of the insecticide in its stomach.