grooming cats and kittens

Grooming Kittens, Safely

Although cats are self-groomers, kittens may need help to reduce hairballs. Special care is needed also for cleaning crusty eyes and ears in young kittens. Read below for tips on safe, good and proper grooming.


Simba, I am taking care of 2 orphaned kittens that my husband found in an old car at his auto repair shop. They are just opening their eyes, so we think they are probably around 2-weeks-old. The feeding process is going fine. My main concern right now is grooming. I have been trying to clean them regularly with a warm, wet cloth to remove any urine or feces from their bottom and on their tummies, but it does not seem to be working very well. What is the best way to take care of this problem? Mousey
Dear Mousey,
The best way to groom little kittens is to mimic the cleaning of mom cats. Use a barely damp washcloth and clean them all over their bodies with short strokes. In addition to keeping the little ones clean, it teaches the kittens how to groom themselves. Do this after each feeding, as this also stimulates bowel movements and is very important to their good health. Your Pal, Simba

Dear Simba,
I brought in a new kitten 3 days ago.She has been tested for feline leukemia, and has had all of her shots, and been de-wormed and I introduced her to my existing cats. Should she have been isolated for 10 days? The kitten was very skinny and under-nourished when I found her and she seems to havea bad "bathroom smell" about her. I am afraid of herg iving the other cats something, but the vet assuredme that it would be fine to bring her home. She alsoseems to have little scabs on her that feel like bumps. Any information would be appreciated! -Alana

Dear Alana,
It is recommended that kittens be isolated for a 7 to 10 days so that they not transmit any viral, bacterial or parasitic infections to other cats. Because we are unsure of what the "bathroom smell" and scabs are, I would keep the kitten isolated for week.

The kitten's bathroom smell could be the result of poor grooming orintestinal problems. You may want to examine her skin and tissue to see whether or not it is properly cleaning itself or whether it has diarrhea or if it is constipated. If you find that your kitten has some bowel issues, check out theStomach Problems section for more information. The scabscould be due the litter box, a prior-condition or fleas, ticks, lice, fly larvae and mites. All of these critters can cause irritation. Again, clean your little one following the steps Mousey's Letter and see your vet if the smell does not improve. Simba


Dear Simba,
My cat, Moses, has just been treated for ear mites. They just recently cleared up, but now I notice a lot of brown in his ears. Could it be wax like humans have? I clean his ears every day with Q-tips but he is too restless so, I do not get much of the wax out. The vet said his ears were a bit inflamed so I do not like to do it but they are really dirty. Any suggestions? Moses Sr.

Dear Moses Sr.,
You can clean and medicate Moses' ears done with minimal restraint, unless the ears are extremely sore. I recommend using a moist tissue or cloth instead of a Q-tip, since Q-tips can damage the sensitive tissue that lines the ear canal. Also, an ear drum can easily be ruptured by placing objects in the ear canal, especially if the ear has an infection.Here are some tips for cleaning the ears:

  • Tip Moses' head so his ear openings are directed at the ceiling
  • Gently massage the outside base with a moist cloth or gauze.
  • Drip in the medication/cleaning solution with a bulb ear syringe to flush the ears and clear any remaining debris
  • Let gravity move the medication inside the ear
  • Gently massage the outside base of the ear to spread the medicine/ointment.
  • Let Moses shake his head if he wants to.
  • Use a gauze to soak up any fluid that comes out of the ear.
The whole process should be pretty straight forward. Check out Medicating Cats for tips on restraining Moses safely. Also, be sure to read through Ear Mites for more information on these critters. Keep me posted. Simba

Dear Simba,
My kitten's eyes and ears look dirty (he is an all-white cat so it is noticeable). My last cat occasionally had crust in her eyes also so I wasn't to concerned but his ears also look dirty. Could it be mites? He does not seem to be itching a lot. If not what can I do to clean him? Gina

Hi Gina,
It might not be a bad idea to have your vet check out your Devon Rex for mites and conjunctivitis (see The Cat Flu for more on eye dirt/cloudiness and Mites for info on ear mites). As for cleaning the ears, check out my letter from Vicki below for tips. Keep me posted. Simba

After reading about the Soft Claws I went to my vet and asked him about it. He assured me that it was better than de-clawing. I had this done to my first two cats. I read up on the process of de-clawing and I now feel guilty. Luckily, I tried these Soft Claws and they work! I am glad I checked out your Claws! section for the information or I would have de-clawed my little angel. THANKS. By the way, he is an all white Devon Rex and next month I will try BLUE Glitter Soft Claws. The vet is pushing me to try new colors! ---I would love to see those claws! Simba

Dear Simba:
I have a 6-week-old kitten and his ears smell funny, he does not seem to itch them or shake his head a lot. Do they need to be cleaned? If so what is the best thing to use? Vicki

Hi Vicki,
Yes, cats ears should be cleaned on a regular basis. There are a lot of ear cleaners available but be sure that you use one that is gentle and safe (check out Halo Cloud Nine Natural Herbal Eye Wash). Your local pet store will likely have some good cleaners in stock as well. Take Care, Simba

Cleaning a Cat With Crusty Eyes

I noticed a brown "crust" develop at the end of my cat's eyes. It looks like what forms around people’s eyes after they wake up. Please tell me what causes this (the cat is de-clawed, so it does not look like she scratched herself. Also, when I brush her hair she is long-haired), I get static cling and the poor thing looks like a furry "lion." The brush is a nylon animal brush. I want her to look smooth and shiny. I am very new to learning to care for cats and I do not want to be insensitive...I want to learn how to make her comfortable in our home. Am I doing anything wrong to cause the above? Love your Website

Thanks for your kind words. About the eye curst, it is possible that your kitten may have a slight bacterial infection. Most vets just treat this type of thing with an antibiotic eye ointment.

As for the grooming, use long, gentle strokes and remove as much dead and loose fur as possible. Be sure that you are using a wire brush, a wide-tooth comb and a fine-tooth flea comb. For the static, try rubbing your cat's coat with a nylon stocking. Indoor longhairs need grooming 2-3 times a week (outdoor cats every day, but keep kitty inside!!(. Start by untangling your longhair with a fine-tooth comb or mat splitter. Carefully untangle mats, working toward the skin, not away from it. I hope this helps, Simba

Excessive Grooming

Dear Simba,
I have two, 3-month-old kittens. They have been to the vet and have been treated for ear mites, worms and have had all of their shots. One of the kittens licks herself excessively on her abdomen. I have had her back to the vet and he put her on an antibiotic for a possible skin infection although he sees no irritation or ringworm. The kitten has been on the antibiotic for three days, but she still licks herself excessively in the mornings. Thoughts? Betty

Dear Betty,
If your kitten is beginning to lose hair, have her tested for mange (see Mites & Skin Problems). Also, it is common for cats with no visible fleas, in a flea-free environment, to get better with flea treatment! Consider using one of the new flea control products even if you do not think fleas are the problem...cats are very good at hiding all evidence of fleas. If flea control does not help, your kitten could benefit from a fatty acid supplement. These reduce inflammation and make cats less likely to itch/scratch when they have allergies or other skin disease. If you do not see an improvement, go to a veterinary dermatologist or ask your vet to do a skin biopsy. And keep in mind that you may have a meticulous groomer on your hands and it may be nothing at all. Keep me posted. Simba

Grooming While Allergic to Cats

Hi Simba,
I have a 9-week old. I am allergic to cats, but I love them so I need to bathe her. When can I do this and what would be the best way for her-so I do not scare her to death! Thanks, April

Dear April,
How very dear of you. As you know, most allergies come not from the fur but from a protein in the cat's saliva. When the cat grooms itself, it deposits this protein on its fur, which then is transferred to furniture, carpets, etc. Bathing a kitten is a great way to relieve this. Be sure that you use a gentle kitten-safe shampoo. Also, consider using Nature's Miracle Dander Remover and Body Deodorizer 16oz this is a solution that you can supposedly apply to your kitty to wash away the dander that causes allergies. Here are some bathing tips that may help:

  • Use a sink or basin (not the tub)
  • Have the water warm to the touch.
  • Use a sponge or wash cloth to introduce water to your kitten.
  • As kitty becomes comfortable with the water, slowly place her in the basin/sink with only enough water to cover the bottom half of her body.
  • Once wet, add small amounts of shampoo to work into a lather.
  • Cuddle with and talk to kitty to reassure her.
  • Continue to lather and rinse per the instructions.
  • When done cuddle kitty in a dry towel, dry gently
  • Do not use hair dryers!
Also, do not use a hose or a sprayer, this can terrify kitty. If available place some of her toys in the bath and give her treats as she behaves well. Be patient, too, the poor little thing may be frightened but your steady and reassuring voice should soothe her. Keep me posted. Simba

PS It is usually not necessary to bathe Cats & Kittens as they are pretty good at keeping themselves clean. Exceptions should be made for outdoor cats, folks with allergies, poor groomers & exceptionally dirty cats. Also any cat that gets into something he should not lick off himself should be bathed or taken to a vet.

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