Cats spend over 10% of their waking hours grooming themselves. Usually this involves licking their fur and getting dirt, debris and possible skin flakes out from between their toes. Although cats are fairly autonomous with their grooming, they definitely benefit from human intervention.
The key ways humans can help with cat grooming are through brushing and nail cutting. A daily brushing of your cat's fur will help keep it shiny and tangle free. The brushing helps distribute the cat’s natural oils which helps give its fur that shiny look as well as removing loose fur. Start brushing your cat when it is a small kitten so it gets used to it. Occasionally you meet cats that are tactile defensive, that is to say they don't really like being touched OR it takes them a long time until they want to be touched. Regular brushing helps reduce this phenomenon. In general though, most cats love a gentle brushing and it helps build the bond between cat and owner.
Nail cutting is also very important and should be started as early as possible so that the cat tolerates the experience easily. Neglecting this important task causes the nails to curve and grow into the cat’s paw pad which is very painful. A food reward after the cutting is a great idea. If your cat resists, keep the sessions short. Maybe only do one paw at a time to start.
To cut your cat's nails take a paw and press under the pad so that the nail comes out. Cut the nail tip and stay away from the pink vein (or quick) because it is very sensitive and will hurt if you cut into it. Then the next time you try to cut the cat’s nails it will be even harder. It is easy to see this vein through the cat's translucent nails. Ask your vet for a demo if this is your first time cutting your cat's nails and you feel nervous.
In general, until you are able to cut your cat’s nails easily, two people are better than one doing this task. Although there are several techniques for cutting a cat’s nails, here’s one that seems to work well for many cat owners. Someone that your cat knows and likes should hold the cat under its armpits (pretend the cat has armpits) from behind the cat while the both of them are sitting down facing the same direction. That person’s left hand should grasp the cat under its left armpit, and the right hand under the cat’s right armpit. This seated position should make the cat’s front paws jut out toward the person cutting the nails while helping to prevent the cat from squirming too much. Then the person cutting the nails should cut them from a kneeling position facing the cat. It goes without saying that the right nail cutting tool will help in this task. Purchase either the guillotine style cutter or a scissor style cutter especially for cats. Neither of these products is expensive.
Although grooming is usually thought of as brushing and nail clipping, paying attention to your cat's entire body is the best way to prevent health problems. Inspect their ears, eyes, mouth, skin and anal/genital regions. If you have been doing this routinely, you will notice anything peculiar and be able to react quickly to your cat's health needs.