Tuesday, May 26, 2009 7:39 PM

Prepping the Subjects

Now that your kittens are used to being handled, you can start the “pre-grooming” phase of training. All cats will need some coat grooming as adults (even short-haired cats), particularly if you wind up with one or more cats that are prone to hairballs. When they lose their “baby fuzz” you’ll know it’s time to start the combing and/or brushing routine. Until then, you can use this kitten-time to get them accustomed to the idea. We did this by brushing our kittens with an old toothbrush. Before you laugh, let me report that all three of our cats like to be groomed, especially Goldie. As a matter of fact, he will “ask” for grooming, first thing in the morning, and will be combed as long as I am willing to do it! This is lucky, since he is the only one who has issues with hairballs, and the combing really helps.

Another grooming “must” is nail clipping. This you will want to start fairly early, as those kitten claws are like little needles and it takes them a while to learn to sheathe them at the appropriate times. They will need to be several weeks old before you try this; any clippers will be just too big to use on those tiny claws, anyway. In the meantime, touch their paws as often as possible. They will naturally pull back, but keep at it and they will eventually get acclimated to your touch. Gently squeeze their paws to teach them to retract their claws; do this whenever they are waving those unsheathed daggers around like “Wolverine”. If you also say, “Ah-Ah-Ah” while you do this (or something like that) you will eventually be able to use just the vocalization to get them to retract their claws. This comes in handy when they “mistakenly” get their claws caught in your favorite piece of furniture, your clothing (while it’s on you) or, god forbid, in your skin. Since their claws are hooked, they can really do some damage if suddenly pulled out of whatever they are stuck into. Therefore, it is best not to startle or frighten the cat, but to let it know, at a normal decibel level, that this situation is not acceptable.

Of course, you will be trimming his claws approximately every two weeks, so they won’t get those nasty “hooks” at the end. What kind of clippers should you use? There are a myriad of styles around, many of them quite pricey. I have used many different kinds and my favorite is a good-quality brand of human toenail clippers. Don’t get the cheapie ones, they are too hard to handle. For kittens, you should start with human fingernail clippers (again, a good quality brand like Revlon). Don’t start trimming until they are old enough that you can easily see the blood supply in their nail beds. Then, until they get bigger and/or you get more comfortable with it, just clip the very tips—that’s the most dangerous part, anyway!

Just So You Know: As an “update” to the recent raccoon post, my neighbor asked if I had mentioned something that J. and I had suggested he try to keep raccoons out of his trash: spray the top of the closed bag with ammonia. We have very long driveways around here and must put our trash out the night before pick-up, so one can’t keep an eye on it to prevent animals dumping the contents all over. He said this trick worked very well.
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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