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Dr. Patrick Mahaney Debunks Cat Grooming Myths for AOL PawNation


Does your cat need to be bathed?  If so, then how often?  What about tooth brushing?  Do cat owners need do that too?

Check out my veterinary perspective on such topics and more via AOL's PawNation: Dr. Patrick Mahaney Debunks Cat Grooming Myths for AOL PawNation for AOL PawNation
Most pet owners admit that while their feline companions are wonderful, intelligent and talented, they can sometimes be a little confusing. And by a little, we mean a lot. Thankfully, there are experts who can help us better understand our furry friends. Celebrity veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney is here to answer all of your perplexing questions about grooming your cat.
Q: Is it OK to bathe my cat once a month?

A: The need for a particular cat to be bathed is dependent on its individual needs based on type of coat, skin and whole-body health, and lifestyle.

Hairless cats, like the Sphynx, actually do have hair, but it’s short and fuzzy (like peach fuzz) which lends to the hairless appearance. TheSphynx is a popular variety due to its unusual look, including prominent skin folds, which require special care on behalf of the owner. More frequent bathing is needed to help evenly distribute and remove oils from the Sphynx’ skin surface that otherwise would build up and create a more ideal microenvironment where bacteria, fungi (yeast, ringworm, etc.), and other microorganisms thrive.

Cats that are less able to groom themselves, such as those that are seniors, affected by underlying illness (kidney or liver disease, hyperthyroidism, cancer, etc.) or are obese need more regular attention to their skin and coat health. Giving a bath more frequently than once monthly may help, but it’s best to seek the guidance of your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate frequency to bathe your cat.

Q: Does it matter if I use "people" shampoo when I bathe my cat?

A: Yes, it is important that a pet-appropriate shampoo is used when bathing a cat instead of a product for humans. Like humans, pets have a wide range of pH (acid-base scale) to their skin, which can be affected by overall health status, age, food, medications, and the presence of infectious organisms (bacteria, yeast, etc.) on the skin surface. The pH of pet shampoo also widely ranges, so it's not realistic to say that all pet shampoos have a pH that will be appropriate for your feline companion.

Human shampoo could contain ingredients that can be harmful to your cat. Tea tree oil is a common additive to human shampoos that can be quite toxic to cats if enough is ingested or

absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream.

It's best to seek the guidance of your veterinarian when determining what is the most appropriate shampoo for your cat's skin. Although, if your cat has a medical emergency that requires immediate shampooing (contact between a toxic substance and his skin, etc.) and there is no pet shampoo available, then a human version or other comparable product (dish detergent, etc.) likely will do on a one-off basis.

Q: Cats don't need to be groomed, because they groom themselves, right?

A: Actually, despite cats’ ability to self groom, they sometimes still need some help from their human caretakers or other feline household companions. Senior cats (those seven years and older) are less able to sufficiently groom themselves as are felines that are sick (kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, cancer, etc.) or have a condition that compromises their ability to move normally (obesity, arthritis, etc.).

When a cat gets sick, one of the first things the owner might notice is the general appearance of having an unbecoming look to his coat. Lack of luster, hair matting or skin flaking can all be present. Along the spine, especially at the level of the chest, low back and pelvis, are locations

where you’ll see such coat and skin changes. Your cat may also resent being touched at these sites and could turn to try to bite you or nibble at his front limbs while attempting to address the unpleasant sensations experienced when his unhealthy skin is stimulated.

Should you notice your cat looking as though less attention is being paid to his coat and skin, make sure to immediately schedule and examination with a veterinarian. Blood and urine testing, x-rays, or other diagnostics may be needed to fully investigate potential underlying health concerns


Q: Why do I need to clip my cat's claws? Don't cat scratchers do the job for me?

A: In referring to "cat scratchers," we can assume the term is being applied to cat scratching posts. With that clarified, cat scratchers do not replace the need for cat clippers.

Scratching posts are often objects of interest to most indoor felines that replace similar structures they would normally encounter in their outdoor environment, like trees. Cats scratch stationary targets for a variety of reasons, including:

- Stretching and exercising their muscles, especially their latissimus dorsi (the “lats”)

- Removing material adhered to the surface of the paws, hair and nails

- Marking their territory with visual cues and

indicating their presence by leaving pheromones from scent glands in the feet

Your cat will likely use a scratching post if it is made in a fashion piquing his interest and is higher than a piece of furniture you want to spare from scratching, covered in sisal rope or enhanced with the aroma of catnip. During your cat’s annual wellness examination, make sure to request your veterinarian closely examines each of the nails on all four paws for overgrowth, thickening, discoloration or other signs of disease


Q: Is it really necessary to brush my cat's teeth? She hates it so much, and it's so hard to get her to cooperate.

A: Cats need periodontal care just like their canine counterparts and we humans. From an early age, even before the permanent teeth come in, parents start brushing their children's teeth. The same approach should be taken with our feline friends, as there are potentially life-threatening and irreversible consequences associated with periodontal disease. The gums (gingiva) and supportive structures keeping the teeth in place (periodontal ligament, alveolar bone, etc.) are negatively impacted by the accumulation of plaque (bacteria), tartar (yellow to brown staining) and calculus (thick, mineralized tartar).

Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) estimates that

“more than 80 percent of pets in the U.S. experience gum disease by age three." Like obesity, periodontal disease is preventable and negatively affects internal organ health. Gingivitis and tooth damage allows mouth cavity bacteria to enter the bloodstream, which can lead to kidney and liver failure, heart valve thickening and murmurs, and excessive burden on the immune system.

The best practice is to prevent periodontal disease from happening instead of addressing it once bad breath or other associated health issues affect your pet. Doing so takes dedication and consistency on behalf of the pet owner, so it is best to seek the guidance of your veterinarian when determining the most appropriate dental care plan for your cat

Thank you for reading this article.  Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond).
Please feel free to communicate with me through Twitter (@PatrickMahaney) and follow my adventures in veterinary medicine by liking Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets on Facebook.

Copyright of this article (2014) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format

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