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Grooming and entertaining your kitten

Grooming and entertaining your kitten

You might think kittens are self-grooming and self-entertaining, but daily brushing and plenty of playtime now is important. Both of these activities help your kitten become strong and healthy, as well as allowing you to develop a close bond and raise an adult cat that loves spending time with you.

Kitten grooming 101

Grooming keeps your kitten’s coat healthy, it’s also a chance to check your cat from head to toe for injuries or abnormalities. If your kitten has long hair, daily brushing is recommended. For short-haired varieties, two or three times a week is probably enough.

 

How to choose the right kitten brush

Picking the right brush is important for an effective grooming session. Different types of brushes are used for capturing loose fur, removing knots and general care. All brushes work to massage your kitten’s skin, which improves the appearance of their coat.

Slicker brush
Slicker brushes are good for removing knots in your cat’s coat, whether it’s long or short. They gently pull through the fur and separate hairs. We recommend a soft-nibbed slicker brush, because it’s gentler on delicate skin. If your cat has long hair, you’ll also need a comb to get all the way down to the skin.

Deshedding brush
Deshedding brushes are great for removing excess fur from your kitten, especially at the end of winter. They get through to the undercoat and pull loose fur out. When using a deshedding brush, be careful not to groom the same spot over and over – you could create a bald patch! Zoom grooms or rubber brushes are great for deshedding.

Soft bristle brush
Bristle brushes are helpful for overall grooming. They massage your kitten’s skin, while also helping to remove loose fur. These brushes are gentle, so are good for getting your kitten used to grooming sessions.

Comb
Combs are a great way to groom specific areas of your kitten’s coat, especially if you have a long-hair breed.  The teeth reach down to the undercoat, helping to prevent knots.

How to get your kitten used to grooming

  • Before you launch into the first grooming session, introduce the brush as a positive thing. You can do this by showing the brush to your kitten, giving verbal praise and providing a treat. It’s best to do this a few times over a couple of days before you start brushing.
  • At your first brushing session, start with areas that are less likely to have knots, such as the kitten’s back and sides. If they are happy, keep going. If your kitten gets distressed, stop brushing and re-introduce the brush again (with treats) another day.
  • Avoid brushing your kitten at play times, or the brush will become a toy rather than a grooming tool. Choose a moment when they are calm and maybe even a little sleepy. Keep the grooming session short. Eventually, you will be able to brush your kitten’s face, head and neck, as well as their back, tummy and legs.

Taking care of claws, teeth and ears

We recommend desensitising your kitten to having their paws, ears and mouth handled. This will help with grooming and make vet check-ups easier. After a brushing session, touch your kitten’s paws, ears and mouth with your fingers; doing this at every grooming session will get your kitten familiar with the examination process.   

Claw trimming
If your kitten will be living mostly indoors, regular claw trimming can reduce damage to you and your furniture. Outdoor cats need their claws for defence and climbing.

To cut your kitten's nails, push down on each toe to extend the claw, then cut only the very tip of the claw. Running through each claw is a blood vessel that shouldn’t be cut. If you’re not sure how to approach claw trimming, ask your vet for a demonstration.

Teeth cleaning
Keeping your cat's teeth clean assists with a long healthy life, so consider getting your kitten used to having their teeth cleaned from an early age. Get a specialised toothbrush or dental kit for kittens an start slowly; just a little brushing every couple of days.

Another strategy is to buy dental health biscuits such as Hill's Science Diet t/d or Hill's Science Diet Oral Care, once your kitten has moved onto adult food. These special biscuits act like a toothbrush when your cat chews them. At Animates we also have dental treats for cats, which work in a similar way.

Your vet will check your kitten's teeth at an annual check-up. If you notice any symptoms of bad teeth or gum health (bad breath, for example), make an appointment at your local Animates Vetcare to catch problems early.

Ear care
Cats ears don’t need any extra care or attention, but sometimes dirt may build up on the inside of the ears. If this happens, use a pet-safe wipe to give your cat’s ears a gentle clean. Never push anything into the ear canal, as this could cause serious damage. If you notice a bad smell coming from an ear, visit the vet immediately – it might be an infection.

 

Entertaining your kitten

Playtime with your kitten is even more fun if you have a variety of toys on hand. You can make or buy toys for kittens, like cat wands, catnip mice, pom poms and teasers. Cats love to be mentally and physically challenged, so choose toys that make your kitten think.

Don’t expect instant success

When you first begin playing with your kitten, they might be a little shy. Take things slowly until they become confident. Simply dangle the toy in front of your kitten or rest it on the ground and jiggle it a little, so the toy appears to be moving. Once your kitten starts to show interest in the toy, you can speed up and make the game more interesting.

Teach your kitten to retrieve

Some kittens can be taught to play fetch. First, you’ll need a soft kitten toy that’s easy to carry in the mouth (a pom pom or small catnip mouse is perfect). Start by holding the toy about 10cm from your kitten’s face. When they sniff the toy or give it a nose bump, say ‘yes’ and reward with a treat.  Repeat until your kitten looks for the toy as soon as the treat has been given. The next step is to get your kitten to put their mouth on the toy. When this has been achieved and rewarded, start moving the toy to different places in the room. When your kitten goes to the toy and moves it in any way, provide a treat. The final step involves your kitten bringing the toy back to you. Definitely a treat-worthy occasion!  After this, you can start throwing the toy and only treating your kitten after a successful delivery. Always say ‘yes’ when you provide a treat during training.

Rotate toys regularly, to avoid boredom

Like people, kittens get bored with their toys. If you notice a toy isn’t being played with anymore, take it out of circulation for a time and introduce a different toy. You can even create two or three batches of toys that can be regularly rotated.

Soft toys can be washed, which can make them appealing again. You can also spray toys with catnip essence to get your kitty interested.  If chewable toys start falling apart, replace them with robust kitten chew toys that are unlikely to cause any injury.  Animates stores have all the kitten supplies you need for happy playtimes.

Let sleeping kittens rest

Kittens need to sleep up to 20 hours a day, so don’t deprive your fur-friend of rest time. When your kitten stops playing and curls up for a nap, quietly leave the scene and find something else to do. Even adult cats sleep up to 16 hours a day, so it’s always good practice to let sleeping felines lie.  

Teach children to play safely with kittens

Kittens and small children often play happily together, if you start the relationship carefully. When a child first meets a kitten, have the child sit with their arms and legs crossed. Ask the child to speak softly and gently call the kitten over. Then ask the child to extend a hand, so the kitten can take a sniff. If this goes well, the child can begin to pat the kitten with soft, gentle strokes.

Always use positive reinforcement for your kitten, with treats and pats as appropriate. Once your kitten is comfortable around the child, playtime can begin. Show the child how to use interactive cat toys, such as wands and teasers.

Scratching posts for kittens and cats

It’s perfectly natural for kittens and cats to scratch. They do it to maintain their claws, mark their territory and stretch their bodies. Right from the start, you need to teach your kitten where's good for scratching – that means buying one or two scratching posts or scratching surfaces.

To get your kitten interested in a scratching post try playing next to the scratcher. During play, pretend you're a cat sharpening your claws. When your kitten catches on, give them a treat. You can also try rubbing a little catnip on the scratcher and attaching a toy at the top. When your kitten uses the post, give them praise and a treat.

If your kitten starts to scratch furniture, cover the scratched area with double-sided sticky tape or aluminium foil. This will discourage further scratching.  Put the scratching post nearby so they learn where they should be scratching.