How to groom your pet

Grooming tips for your cat or dog - useful tips, tricks and advice on how to groom your pet from the comfort of your home.
Written by Mayhew team
Updated 1 year ago

This article was written by Mayhew Vet Nurse, Amy Burtenshaw.

Grooming your pet can have many benefits for them and for you!

Why  should we groom our pets regularly?

Grooming your pets at home has many benefits, both for them and for you. Those with longer haired pets will particularly benefit from introducing a grooming routine into their daily lives. Medium to long haired pets will develop knotted fur if they are brushed regularly, and this can cause your pet to be uncomfortable. If the knots develop into matted fur, this can cause pain to your cat or dog. Regular grooming will help to prevent matting from happening and ensure your pet’s fur stays in a healthy condition.

If your pet does develop severe matts, then it is best to seek veterinary advice on how to remove them.

 Although short haired animals are less likely to develop knotted fur, it can still occur, so regular grooming should be incorporated into your short-haired pet’s routine as well. Geriatric animals, particularly those who have arthritis, can benefit from grooming as they will struggle to do this themselves. If you have a cat, grooming regularly will help to prevent the formation of fur balls.

Grooming your animal can be a positive experience for both of you, building on the bond you have. Whilst grooming your pet, you should take the opportunity them a full check over. Look for any new lumps or bumps and signs of parasites. If you do find any, make sure to talk to your vet.

We advise you seek veterinary advice if you have any concerns or questions that involve grooming and the health of your pet.

How to groom your pet

Each pet will react differently to being grooming – the key for you is to be patient with them. You do not want to start brushing your pet all over without introducing the concept of grooming to them, as they will immediately see this as a negative experience, making it difficult to groom them next time. This basic step by step guide will tell you how to introduce and build-up your grooming routine with your pet.

1. Choose your brush: Pick the brush you would like to use; I recommend using a soft-bristle brush to begin with and then move onto a soft slicker brush or a furminator. A comb can be used when checking for parasites or if your pet has a few small knots.

2. Introduce the brush to your pet: Do this in the same way you would if you were introducing yourself or a new toy; allow them to get used to the smell. Cats may rub their faces on the brush, this will be them scent marking. Allowing them to do this will help them to familiarise themselves with it.

3. Start grooming: Once your pet has gotten used to the brush, use the brush to groom areas in which your pet is used to being stroked, as they will be familiar with these areas being touched. If your pet shows any signs of discomfort (i.e. growling, skin twitching, ears flattened, tensing, or attacking the brush) then stop the grooming session, and try again later or the following day. Only do as much as your pet is comfortable with.

4. Work towards goals: With each grooming session, work towards being able to groom a new part of the body. It is a good idea to use treats or toys as a reward for your pet after grooming to keep it as a positive experience. You should not be trying to groom your pet when they’re eating or sleeping as this is when they feel most vulnerable.

For those who are nervous or wriggly

In some cases, some pets will be more reluctant than others. For these, have lots of patience and progress very slowly. Using toys and treats as encouragement may help with this process.

  • Firstly, get the pet used to the brush being in the room or being placed near them.
  • Work up to introducing the brush to them, letting them smell it.
  • Once your pet is comfortable with the brush, start by grooming smaller areas to begin with, such as the top of the head.
  • Each day build-up to a new area of the body, and if your pet becomes uncomfortable, take it back a step or two and re-work to building it back up again.
  • If your pet is still uncomfortable with the process, you can get brushes that are free standing so your pet will brush up against them. Although this will not give them the best groom, it will help, and get them used to the feel of the brush.
  • If you struggle with all the above, it is best to take them to a groomer or seek advice. You may want to speak to your veterinary surgeon also if you are concerned about their coat condition.


Cats should not be bathed as it is not an enjoyable experience for them, and they cope quite well with keeping themselves clean. If you do want to bathe your cat because they’ve rolled in something then try to use warm water only first before using a product.

Dogs should only be bathed if they become mucky or roll in something unpleasant. You should use a shampoo which is formulated especially for use on dogs, as human shampoos can be toxic to dogs. If you take your dog to a groomer, you should ask them about the products they use and what they advise for at home washing. 

Claw clipping

Before attempting to do this at home, I would recommend popping to your vets and booking an appointment with a veterinary nurse as they can talk you through this and provide a demonstration. Clipping your pet’s claws is a challenging task and can result in injury if not done correctly. It is a good idea to be routinely checking your pet’s claws, ensuring they’re not growing too long as this may result them growing into their pads, becoming sore and infected.

As your cat or dog becomes older, they’re less likely to be wearing their claws down so this may be when to start considering claw clipping. Cats and dogs need their claws in their day to day lives, for hunting, climbing and defending themselves, therefor you should not routinely be keeping them short and they should naturally be wearing them down themselves. These are a few tips to help you with clipping them at home.

  • Slow and steady! Take your time and have patience, this is not something you want to do in a rush as you may cause injury to your pet.
  • If your pet doesn’t enjoy having their paws touched, then this is something to work on first. Incorporate this into your grooming routine, and each day build-this up.
  • Once your pet is comfortable with having their paws touched, then you can start to introduce them to the nail clippers. Make sure you choose an appropriate size nail clipper for your pet (small ones for a cat, then bigger ones for your dogs).
  • When cutting their claws, it is important not to hit the pink line that runs down the middle, as this is the blood vessel, and catching this will cause your pet pain and they may bleed. It is important to only take the tips off, and those with dark/black claws should be avoided as it is too difficult to see where the blood vessel is.
  • It is best to have a second person to assist you with holding your pet, to stop them wriggling or moving.
  • If your pet becomes distressed at any time, then stop and try again later or another day, and provide lots of positive encouragement with toys and treats.

Home grooming tool kit

  • Variety of brushes (Furminator, zoom groom, soft slicker brush, soft bristled brush, flea comb, wired comb)
  • Nail clippers (suitable for the size of your animal)
  • A suitable shampoo for use on dogs
  • Toys and treats
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