How to Gently Restrain Your Cat For Grooming
It seems like cats spend most of their day either running around chasing things, sprawled across our furniture sleeping or grooming themselves for hours on end. Considering they spend so much of their time grooming and cleaning themselves, it might seem strange that cats require even more cat care. However, there are some aspects of grooming that cats just can’t do alone and so they need their favorite person to help them. Although your cat might act like an independent animal, capable of looking after itself without human help, unfortunately for them that isn’t the case. So, let’s take a look at what type of grooming you’ll need to do for your cat and how to safely and gently restrain them.
What Can Cats Do Themselves?
Although we have to do some aspect of cat care, there are a few things which cats can do perfectly well themselves. It’s important to know these as you don’t want to waste your time doing something which your pet can do alone. Cats use their tongue for most of their self-grooming as their tongue is rough (a bit like sandpaper) which makes it a useful little tool. When your cat is licking itself, it could be doing a number of different things for self-care. For example, they lick themselves to keep clean by removing dirt and loose hair from their coat and to keep themselves cool in hot weather. Cats also lick their paws to remove dirt and can even remove flees using their tongue, too!
It might not seem like much, but these few aspects of grooming need to be done every day so your cat saves you a lot of time. You’ll almost never have to give your cat a bath because they do this already with their tongue and, depending on the cat’s coat and malting habits, you might not even have to brush them very often either.
So, Why Do Cats Need to Be Restrained?
Put simply: cats often need to be restrained for grooming because they don’t like it. As we mentioned earlier, lots of cats see themselves as independent animals and don’t wish to be groomed against their will. Of course, most cats love to receive attention from their owner through petting, playing, or generally affectionate handling but not through grooming. Some cats can be trained to accept grooming as a normal task but this works most effectively while they are young. However, some cats might always show some resistance when it comes to this aspect of cat care. Thankfully there a few ways to restrain your cat for grooming which are safe, comfortable and will help you both feel better about the whole situation.
One of the most popular ways to restrain a cat is to gently wrap them in a blanket or towel. Some owners even use an item of their clothing if their scent helps to calm their cat. To do this, gently wrap your cat in the blanket or towel loosely so that they aren’t restricted or don’t become panicked, but not too loose that they could wriggle free easily. This method could be useful for cleaning your cat’s ears or eyes, trimming their nails or even simply to brush their teeth. While some cats might not have a problem with these aspects of grooming, this option can be extremely useful for cats who really don’t enjoy being groomed. However, this might not work for every cat so you should monitor their response in case they seem even more distressed by this technique. If it works, you might have just found the perfect way to care for your feline friend.
Ask for Help
Alternatively, you could ask for help from a friend or family member who is quite familiar with your cat. It’s important that this person has a good relationship with your cat already – a new face could stress the cat out even more while it is being restrained. Whether your friend uses the previous towel method or simply helps to distract your cat with petting or a tummy rub, you might find that 4 hands are better than 2 when it comes to grooming your cat. As always, be careful to monitor your cat’s reaction in case they don’t like the appearance of another person while being groomed. Some cats might become particularly shy or aggressive (or both) if you introduce a new person into their grooming schedule. If this doesn’t work, there are always other things to try.
Try Grooming From Behind
So, this isn’t exactly a restraining method, at least in the same respect as the others in this article, but it’s a good trick to know if your cat struggles when being groomed. If you normally groom your cat on a table, bed or other surface, bring them to the edge and stand behind them, ensuring they are facing away from you. If that doesn’t work for you, you could simply sit down with the cat on your lap, again, ensuring they are facing away from you. If you need to brush your cat’s hair or teeth, clean their ears or trim their nails, this might just work for you. By positioning yourself behind your cat, you can simply reach forward with one arm and gently hold their head with your thumb resting on top of their head and use your fingers to cup the jaw from underneath. This gentle but effective restraining position will allow you to move your cat’s head as desired so you can brush their teeth, clean their ears or carry out any other grooming. This position works effectively as it removes the intimidating view of a person towering over them during grooming. So, restraining your cat’s head with gentle pressure while standing behind them can lower their overall stress levels during grooming.
This option is quite controversial to cat parents and to vets. While it can be safe to use for some cats, others might not react so well to it depending on their age, weight or personality. Some vets also feel this method of restraining can be uncomfortable or hurtful to some cats so it should be done cautiously. Essentially, this method of restraint mimics that of a feline mother’s grip when they hold their kitten by the skin on the back of their neck. Domesticated cats and wild cats have shown this behavior as a way to look after their young and, most often, the young kitten accepts this is how their mother moves them around. Scruffing your cat might not be ideal for lengthy grooming sessions, but it can be useful for making your cat calm for shorter grooming tasks. However, it’s crucial that you monitor your cat’s reaction to scruffing. It is known for relaxing most cats, similar to a type of nostalgia from when they were carried like this by their mother’s, but not all cats will react in this way. For some cats (particularly older or heavier/larger cats), scruffing can be uncomfortable or possible even harmful so it should be avoided for these cats. Similarly, if you ‘scruff’ your cat and they react badly, you should stop immediately and look for an alternative way of handling them.
Last Resort – Sedation
We certainly hope you don’t have to do this to your cat but unfortunately for some, it’s the only way. If cats become too aggressive or difficult to restrain safely for grooming, they may have to be sedated using an anesthetic. This option is a vet’s last resort as it is more complicated, time consuming and expensive than the other options. However, for poorly trained cats, or cats with health or behavioral problems, it might be the best solution. This decision won’t be made lightly and you should discuss all options with your vet before proceeding with this. If it is the only suitable method, you will need to take your cat to vet or groomer regularly (typically once a month) for essential grooming.
This is incredibly rare but it’s worth mentioning. You might not need to restrain your cat at all if they are happily complacent and don’t mind being handled for grooming. While this certainly isn’t a common behavior, a few cats may respond in this way so it’s worth trying out. If your cat begins to struggle then don’t worry, you can just try one of the previous restraining techniques.
Restraining your cat for grooming might seem quite harsh or unnecessary but, in reality, it’s a perfectly normal and healthy aspect of cat care. All you have to do is take some time to figure out what works for you and your cat, trying out different methods if one doesn’t work out. Most importantly, make a routine of using one method and be vigilant. Cats are intelligent animals and will respond best when treated the same way over a period of time. Just be gently and caring and your cat might even look forward to grooming from their favorite person, you!