Q. I recently bought a Birman kitten. He grooms himself a lot. Is this normal? And do I have to bathe him? Susanne Ferry, London
Cats are famous for having impeccable personal hygiene which makes the job of grooming them easier for us. Grooming is an instinctive behaviour for cats, which they do not need to learn from their mother. Felines can spend up to half their waking hours grooming themselves. If you get the opportunity to watch your kitten grooming, you will notice that he has a strict routine. Over 40 per cent of the grooming time is concentrated on the cleaning of the carnivore's messiest body parts, which are the head, forepaws and neck. These parts can't be directly licked, so the cat licks its paws to moisten them and uses them like a flannel. A problem you may encounter with your long-haired cat is hairballs. They form because your kitty has an extraordinary tongue, ideal for removing dead hair from the coat. The hairballs are usually regurgitated, but if the fur gets into the intestine, the cat may need a laxative to expel them. Brushing your cat every day will prevent the hairballs from getting out of control and strengthen the bond between the two of you. This will also teach your kitten to tolerate being handled. If your vet recommends you bathe your cat due to a medical condition, I would employ the services of a professional cat groomer. They know what they are doing.
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