Basic Home Grooming for Dogs and Cats

As every pet owner knows, it’s our responsibility to take care of our fur babies’ needs—especially when it comes to their health and overall well-being. This includes the sometimes arduous task of keeping them groomed from the tip of their nose to the top of their tail - and, of course, every part in between!

Whether you have a cat or dog, it will be important to regularly tend to their basic grooming needs such as brushing and bathing. You’ll also want to maintain their fur, clip their nails, promote good dental care, and provide ear & eye care.

Keeping your cat and dog in tip-top shape shows that you not only love your pet, you care about their health and happiness too!

The good news is… you can accomplish these basic grooming tasks in your own home. As an added incentive, you can probably save a substantial amount of money by doing it yourself.

Before you get started

Having the right tools & supplies on hand will be essential for your grooming sessions.

Many of the tools/supplies you need can be found online or at your local pet store:

Having a few treats on hand can also be a great motivator to ensure your pet is on their best behavior; especially when your goal is to have a stress-free grooming session that is a positive experience for both of you!

Home Grooming for Your Dog

While canines tend to be a bit more high-maintenance than cats, dogs are also more likely to welcome grooming activities with open paws. So rest assured, there is no task you can’t handle yourself at home. From brushing their fur to brushing their teeth, we’ve got you covered!

Dog Grooming Tips

  1. Brushing
  • Regularly brushing your dog will help remove any dirt, matting, or excess hair.
  • Brushing distributes natural oils that keep skin healthy and coats shiny.
  • How often you brush will depend on the type of coat your dog has: shorter hair, less frequent—longer coat, more often.
  • Rubber brushes work well for loosening dead skin and dirt. Bristle brushes are great for removing excess hair.
  1. Bathing
  • According to the ASPCA, bathing is recommended at least once every three months.
  • Pups that spend a lot of time enjoying the great outdoors or those with skin issues should be bathed more frequently.
  • Dog breeds with wrinkles or excess skin (like shar peis and pugs) will need special attention. Dirt and bacteria have a tendency to get trapped in their folds; when left unattended, it can cause skin infections and irritation. Wiping their folds regularly with a dampened washcloth will promote healthy skin.
  • Bathing larger dogs will be more manageable in your tub or outside (kiddie pools work really well). For smaller dogs, the kitchen sink is ideal.
  • Make sure you have a towel on hand because that first ‘shake’ after the bath can ‘soak you to the bone!’
  1. Haircuts and Trims
  • Long haired dogs will benefit from a trim; especially during the warmer months.
  • Hold the fur close to the skin when cutting- this will prevent nicking your dog with the scissors.
  • Trimming around the face and ears will keep any excess fur from irritating the eyes and ears. However, it can be tricky and dangerous if you slip and injure your pet in these sensitive areas. You might leave this portion of the grooming to a professional.
  1. Paw Care
  • Give your dog a mani/pedi when you hear their nails clicking on the floor or their nails get snagged on the carpet. Most vets recommend trimming your dogs’ nails every 2-4 weeks to keep the quick from growing long.
  • Use either clippers or a rotary tool specifically for dogs. If you’re nervous about clipping, file them down instead.
  • Always keep a styptic pencil or Kwik Stop on hand if any bleeding occurs—this can happen when you cut the ‘quick’ part of the nail (supplies blood to the nail) too short.
  • Pads should be checked to ensure they are not cracked or dry. If excessive hair is growing in between the toes you’ll want to trim the hair to be even with the pad. Be very careful with scissors around the pads of your pets’ feet. They are full of hundreds of blood vessels, and they will bleed profusely if cut even a small amount.
  1. Dental Care
  • Brush your dog’s teeth regularly—daily if possible or at least once a week to promote good oral hygiene and avoid canine periodontal disease.
  • Use either a dog-sized toothbrush or a rubber finger brush.
  • Choose a savory toothpaste flavored with chicken or peanut butter.
  • Most dogs don’t mind having their teeth brushed; but for those who do, there are natural dental treats that freshen breath, remove plaque, and reduce tartar buildup.
  1. Eye and Ear Care
  • Clean eyes and ears regularly to rid them of any crust or gunk that builds up.
  • Eye care can be accomplished with a gentle wipe of a damp cotton ball.
  • For ear care, gently fold back your dog’s ear and wipe away any dirt, debris, or ear wax with a cotton ball or gauze dampened with mineral oil, hydrogen peroxide, or a liquid ear cleaner specifically for dogs.

Home Grooming for Your Cat

You would think with all that pink tongue licking, cats wouldn’t need much additional grooming. Even though our furry felines may want you to think that, they can always use a bit of help. However, because cats are fiercely independent when it comes to their own hygiene, it’s probably best to ease into a grooming routine that will minimize their stress level. Here are a few tips to consider before you get started:

  • Choose a time when your cat is relaxed and content (after they eat or ready for a nap)
  • Don’t overwhelm them with too much grooming at once
  • Keep sessions short; 10-15 minutes is ideal
  • If your cat shows signs of being in distress—stop, and try again later

*Although these tips can help, there are just some cats that won’t handle any type of grooming well. In this case, you might want to make an appointment with a vet or professional groomer to avoid any injury to you or your cat.

Cat Grooming Tips

  1. Brushing
  • Short-haired cats benefit from weekly brushings; while long-haired should be brushed two to three times a week. Older cats will benefit from more frequent brushings when they become incapable of grooming themselves properly.
  • Wire brushes are ideal because they remove matting and dead hair. Wire bristles promote circulation while distributing oils; keeping your cat’s coat looking shiny and healthy!
  • Rubber cat combs work better on long-haired cats that have tangled fur and are prone to hairballs.
  1. Bathing
  • Most cats don’t require regular bathing—though a bath will be beneficial when they get themselves into a dirty or smelly mess outdoors or suffer from skin allergies.
  • Eliminate excess hair by brushing prior to bathing. Comb out any matting as they will tighten when wet and become impossible to get out.
  • The kitchen sink or tub are ‘purrfect’ for cat washing—water should be warm.
  • Make sure you have everything on hand and ready to go. Many cats have an aversion to water, so you might experience some plaintive meowing. Being quick, calm, and firm can make this process go more smoothly; and, a cat treat or two will most certainly help.
  • Use a washcloth & warm water for cleaning face, ears, and eyes.
  • Dry shampoos are effective for cats that absolutely object to being bathed in water.
  • Use a towel to dry short-haired cats; hair dryer on low for long-haired.
  1. Haircuts and Trims
  • Short-hair cats generally do not require haircuts.
  • Long-hair cats benefit from trimming to avoid hairballs and matting.
  • Choose a quiet room with no distractions.
  • Comb the fur first, then proceed to trim in shorts bits.
  • Alternate between brushing with a soothing cat brush and making a few snips here and there to ensure haircuts are enjoyable and less stressful.
  1. Paw Care
  • A ‘paw-dicure’ is recommended every 10 days to two weeks.
  • Clip only the white tips to avoid snipping the quick (blood vessel).
  • Try a few nails at a time while rewarding with treats and praise; if your cat becomes stressed—stop and again try later or another day.
  1. Dental Care
  • Brushing regularly will remove plaque and fight tartar buildup.
  • Use a small toothbrush and toothpaste specifically for cats.
  • Cats that resist opening their mouth to the brush will need a bit of training. Start by dipping your finger in chicken broth (or something that appeals to cats). Let your kitty lick your finger—then wrap a piece of gauze around your finger, dip it in the broth, and rub it along their gum line. Next, try the brush—but let them lick a bit of the paste before inserting into their mouth to brush. Brush front to back.
  1. Eye and Ear Care
  • Best practice—restrain your cat in a towel with the head exposed.
  • A healthy inner ear should be light pink; wipe away any dirt or debris with a damp cotton ball moistened with warm water or liquid ear cleaner specifically for cats.
  • Wipe away any buildup or gunk from the eyes with a damp piece of gauze or cotton ball.

As pet owners, we always want our fur babies to look and feel their best. Basic home grooming is not only easy and cost effective, it’s a great way to bond with your pet while showing them just how much you love them!



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