Healthy skin and a healthy coat
An important part of keeping your cat in great condition is making sure she has a healthy skin and coat. The amount of grooming your cat needs will vary depending on her breed, but generally the more hair a cat has, the more brushing and grooming she needs, but all cats will benefit from a good grooming regime. Cats use their tongues and teeth to groom themselves, but this causes them to swallow hair. This hair is not digested and can form hairballs. These are typically eliminated with the stool or be thrown up, which can be an unpleasant surprise. However, the worst case is that they may cause a blockage in your cat's intestines, which may require surgery. One of the most effective ways to reduce hairballs is regular grooming and provide a food with an appropriate level of fibre.
D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) grooming
This is a great opportunity to spend time with your cat and build the bond between you and your cat. Some cats enjoy being brushed, whilst others need a little encouragement. It's a good idea to have some snacks or kibbles close by so that when you start brushing you can give these occasionally (without overfeeding the cat) as a reward for calm behaviour. For some cats it may be enough to reward them with extra cuddles. To groom your cat at home you'll need the right equipment. There are many types of brushes and combs available, so ask your veterinarian or groomer for advice on which will most suit your cat's coat.
Long haired breeds will need to be brushed regularly - ideally every day - to help keep the coat in good condition and prevent tangles which can be difficult and painful to remove. Even if you have a short haired cat, brushing helps promote a healthy skin and gives you the opportunity to check for signs of skin irritation or lumps. Start by gently brushing in the direction of the hair growth. You may need to untangle knots with your fingers or carefully using scissors. If your cat shows signs of discomfort or stress, don't push things. It's better to have a number of short grooming sessions where your cat is at ease, rather than getting involved in a struggle that may result in your cat being afraid of the sight of the brush!
Cats do a good job of keeping themselves clean, so it's not usually necessary to give them regular baths. However, for treating certain skin conditions, or if your cat has got herself particularly dirty, you may need to bathe her. Always use a specially formulated cat shampoo and make sure the water is not too hot or too cold. Many cats don't like being bathed, so you may need someone to help. Be as calm as possible and gently work from the head down to the tail. Thoroughly rinse out the shampoo and then wrap her in a soft towel and be sure to dry her off well - and when you've finished, don't forget to give here a big reward!
The right nutrition
Another important aspect of maintaining a healthy coat is nutrition. Hair is mostly made of protein, and the better your cat's nutrition, the better her coat will be. Foods with a good quality protein as well as rich in vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids (namely, omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids) are particularly good for your cat's coat and skin health. If your cat's coat is dull or greasy, or her skin is dry and flaky, then her nutrition may be to blame. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian about which food she would recommend for your cat's healthy skin and coat.