Seven Common Grooming Mistakes

These safe, stress-free alternatives will help ease the way to successful at-home sessions.

Cats enjoy a reputation for being stellar self-groomers, but they reap enhanced health benefits by having their nails trimmed, their coats brushed and, yes, even receiving the occasional bath.

To ensure successful at-home grooming, Hayley Keyes, Executive Director of the International Professional Groomers, Inc. and an international master certified professional cat groomer, shares seven tactics to avoid common mistakes.


“There are different techniques when it comes to brushing and bathing a cat versus a dog,” says Keyes, who operates the Nanhall Pet Spa/School of Grooming in Greensboro, N.C. “But the bottom line is that you want these grooming times to be safe and stress free for the both of you.” She offers alternatives to these grooming miscues:

Picking the wrong shampoo. Read the label carefully. Never bathe your cat in shampoo formulated for dogs. “Some ingredients in dog shampoos can be harmful to cats,” she says. “Cats also have more sensitive skin than dogs. Most cats tend to have oily coats, so consider cat shampoos containing oatmeal and aloe.”

Getting soap in your cat’s eyes. Never use a spray nozzle to wet your cat’s face. Instead, clean his face with a warm, wet washcloth with a dab of shampoo. And if you do accidentally get soap in your cat’s eyes: “Rinse, rinse, rinse and do not freak out,” Keyes says.

Bathing the cat in the bathtub. Opt for the bathroom sink or a large bucket instead, Keyes says. “Many cats do not like running water so set them up for success by using a bucket large enough to fit your cat and partially fill it with warm, soapy water. Put your cat’s rear feet in the bucket first. Cats like something to grab onto so they can use their front paws to grab onto the top of the bucket, and always bathe them with the door closed to prevent escapes. Lightly turn on the water to get him used to hearing it before rinsing.”

Failing to thoroughly rinse the coat of shampoo. “If you do not rinse completely, the cat can end up with skin issues. The cat may start to chew his coat and develop skin irritations,” says Keyes. “One way to tell if you have rinsed thoroughly is to bring your ear down to the coat and squeeze the wet hair. If you hear a squeaky clean sound, that means you have rinsed out all the shampoo.”

Using a hand-held blow dryer. Better: Have two thick bath towels within reach. Towel-dry your cat well with the first towel. Then snugly wrap him in the second towel and hold him closely. “Walk around with him in your arms for about 10 to 15 minutes to hasten drying and use this time to speak sweetly to him to help him feel calm and secure,” says Keyes. “If you do use a hair dryer, brush the coat first and then use the dryer at a low setting to avoid burning your cat’s skin.”

Cutting the nails too short, causing bleeding. Cats typically have five nails on each front paw and four nails on each back paw. It’s safe to use human nail clippers, Keyes says, but always start by pushing the paw pad to expose each claw — they’re retractable. Trim the back paws first and then the front. Trim just below the quick — the pink area in the middle of the nail — to avoid accidental pain and bleeding. “Keep styptic powder within reach in case you do nick the quick,” she says.

A final tip: Never try to groom or bathe your cat when you’re in a hurry or your cat is agitated. You risk escalating his stress level, Keyes says. “Make these at-home grooming sessions inviting.” A follow-up treat helps