Top tips for grooming your OA cat

cat being stroked


Grooming tips for an arthritic cat


Cats with arthritis tend to have stiff joints and reduced flexibility. They may find it difficult to reach certain areas of their body when grooming. As the arthritis progresses or the pain worsens their ability to groom themselves may decline, which can result in an unkempt coat and matted fur. Reduced activity often means that elderly cats don’t wear down their claws as they used to, this can result in overgrown claws which, if not cut, may grow round and into their pads. This is very painful and is easily avoided by regular checking and trimming of their claws. It is also of note that older cats may lose their ability to retract their claws; if not regularly trimmed they can easily get caught in loose materials which can be distressing for the cat.

  • When it comes to grooming it’s best to act early; regular gentle grooming assistance and claw care can avoid mats forming in the first place and prevent claws from growing too long.
  • If your pet is not yet old and arthritic, now is a great time to get them used to being groomed and having their nail’s trimmed - especially if you have a long haired cat!
  • Monitor your cat’s claws closely; they don’t tend to let us know that their claws are growing too long, even when they have grown right around into their pads. Check their feet every few weeks, and trim their claws as required.
  • If you are not happy trimming their claws yourself, most vet practices will offer nurse consultations for claw clipping; with the nurse’s help you can work out how regularly your puss needs their pedicure!
  • If there are a small number of mats present and you’re happy to tackle them, then gently cut them out before brushing the rest of the fur. Lift the mat away from the skin and trim the fur beneath it using scissors or clippers; ensure that you are nowhere near the skin below when cutting.
  • If the mats are more extensive or you are not happy cutting them out yourself then take your cat to the vets for a ‘de-mat’ or to a professional groomer.


cat sat on chair


  • Long haired cats may benefit from regular trips to the groomer to have their fur brushed or trimmed; this should help to avoid their fur becoming matted.
  • Once your cat has been ‘de-matted’ it is best to keep up regular gentle grooming to avoid the fur getting tangled and matted again.
  • When brushing your cat, ideally use a soft brush and make gentle strokes in the direction of their fur so as not to cause any further discomfort.
  • Be mindful that their joints are sore, so be careful not to pull them around or excessively flex or extend their joints.
  • Make their grooming session a positive experience: praise them in a kind voice and, if they are not overweight, you could give them small treats (in moderation!) to encourage them that it is a good experience.
  • While you may need to gently hold your cat in one place to stop them walking off, restraining them with force should be avoided. If your cat is not compliant with being groomed at home (there are certainly some cats who are not up for the idea!), but has mats which need removing, it would be best to take them to the vets where the nurses, who are specifically trained in holding animals, may be able to help. Occasionally cats find the grooming experience stressful, and it is kinder to give these cats a little sedation in order to remove their mats and clip their claws than battle on whilst stressing them out. Your vet will be able to guide you if this is required.
  • It is important to keep up to date with flea prevention. The presence of fleas is irritating for any cat and tends to make them groom excessively; this can be particularly frustrating for arthritic cats where grooming is itself painful. Furthermore, excessive grooming can exacerbate matting of the fur.




It is important to think about the underlying cause for your cat’s reduced grooming/ overgrown nails – most commonly this is due to arthritis. It’s worth making an appointment to see your vet to discuss how best to manage their condition and keep them as comfortable as possible.


Return to Care for Elderly Pets

Meet the Author

Gemma Ives

Gemma qualified from the University of Cambridge in 2013. She is passionate about evidence based medicine and is particularly interested in the role that the microbiota can play in so many diseases.

In her free time Gemma loves climbing hills and finding beaches with her terrier, Percy, and hanging out with George the cat!