Very fluffy cat enjoying combing
Very fluffy cat enjoying combing

How to groom cats and dogs at home

Grooming our dogs and cats is a great way to keep them in the best of health, as well as being a brilliant bonding experience. It’s also an opportunity to give our pets a top-to-tail once-over.

Did you know that grooming reduces the likelihood of infections, gets rid of dead hair and promotes good circulation? Dogs need our help more than cats, but keeping them both well groomed is important. Here’s our how-to guide to home grooming.

Dog having it's ears brushed
Dog having it's ears brushed

Body Copy

Getting started with dogs
With puppies, it’s best to begin brushing them early on, so they get used to being handled in this way. For older dogs, take it one step at a time, so they learn that it’s a pleasurable experience. Start by letting them sniff the grooming tools and reward them with a treat, then put the tools away. Next time, try a short brushing. Each session, do a little more, stopping if they seem unhappy.


Keeping that coat clean
Dogs need brushing regularly, especially when they’re moulting. It’s good to give our dogs a good brush around twice a week, or more often if they have curly hair. This removes dirt, minimises tangling and keeps their coat shiny. With long-haired breeds, tackle the task with a metal brush comb. With short-hairs, a simple grooming mitt will do the job. It’s important not to let our dogs’ hair get matted, as this means their skin can’t breathe, which can lead to infection and irritation.

chocolate poodle having a haircut chocolate poodle having a haircut

Finish up with the legs, head and tail – these are the trickiest bits. It helps to have someone holding your dog while you do this, so they can’t wriggle around and their tail isn’t moving. The other thing to remember is to trim any long or matted hairs on their paw pads. A handy hint for areas like heads and paws: scissors will be easier to control than clippers in these sensitive places.

All done? Time to give that dog a treat for all their patience (or give them some as you go along if you want them to be distracted by something other than the snipping).

Getting rid of ear gunk

Just like us, dogs can get dirt or wax in their ears, so the easily reachable parts of their ears need to be cleaned regularly. Once a month is usually plenty, unless your dog has particularly dirty ears or swims a lot, in which case fortnightly is better. Dogs who swim a lot are more at risk of ear infections from the water.

To clean their ears, gently wipe the outer parts of the ears (also known as flaps) with a clean, damp cloth or cotton ball. Don’t go down into the ear canal as this can cause damage – best not to use a cotton bud so you don’t forget. Just stick to the bits that are revealed to the outside world.

If you spot any dirt further down the ear, or the ear seems to be causing your pet discomfort, visit your vet.

Body Copy

Cleaning around the eyes
Dampen a soft cloth or cotton ball with sterile water and wipe around the eyes with it, removing any crusty dirt or gunk. Make sure no fibres from the cloth or cotton ball are left behind that might irritate their eyes. While we’re on the subject, dogs’ eyes should look moist – if not, canine eye drops are available to combat dryness and irritation. If the gunk keeps appearing, consult a vet.

On the nose
Dogs should have a moist nose to help them with sniffing out scents. They lick their nose, which usually helps it stay pretty wet. If their nose is dry for a short while, that’s normal. However, dogs with flatter faces tend to have drier noses (their tongues can’t always reach their noses to lick them).

A dog that seems to have an excessively dry or flaky nose is probably dehydrated or has been out in the sun for too long. Give them plenty of drinking water and keep an eye on them. If that doesn’t solve the problem or your dog has a runny nose, is sneezing or has difficulty breathing, ask your vet for advice.

Dog laying in the grass Dog laying in the grass

Taking care of teeth

Dental chews can go some way to keeping canine teeth clean, but it’s still important to brush them regularly to prevent plaque and tartar building up. Getting a puppy used to toothbrushing is easier than starting them later in life – start brushing a few times a week, using a dog toothbrush and a toothpaste formulated for puppies.

With older dogs, start by encouraging them to open their mouth and gently put your fingers inside if you’re confident to do so. Then use a dog toothbrush and some dog toothpaste and let them get used to the sensation and the taste in a short session, gradually building up their exposure to these items over time. Once they’re okay with it, start cleaning their teeth around twice a week. Remember, human toothpaste isn’t suitable for dogs.

Perfect paws and nails

It’s easy to clean our pup’s paws with a damp cloth, gently working between the pads to get the dirt out. Dogs often don’t need their claws cut at home – the friction of walking on pavements and roads wears them down naturally. But if they mostly bound about on grass or sand, nails sometimes need a trim.

If a dog’s nails grow too long, they can snap or curve inwards – ouch! When trimming nails, look for the nail quick and cut not quite up to it and never into it – this bit bleeds. Dogs with white nails have a pink quick, whereas dogs with dark nails have a black quick. If it does bleed, apply pressure with a damp piece of cotton wool until the bleeding stops.

Bath time

We should be bathing our dogs every month – more if they shed a lot, as this helps get rid of the old hair. Don’t overdo the bathing or dogs can end up with dry skin – once a week is the most they should be bathed. Use a special shampoo or wash formulated for puppies or adult dogs, depending on the age of your canine companion. Sponge them off or shower them down with warm water and give them a good rub with a nice clean towel afterwards.

Dog having it's nails clipped
Dog having it's nails clipped

Grooming cats

Our lovely cats mostly take care of themselves and are often fastidious about grooming. They have rough tongues which help remove loose hair and dirt, so there’s often not too much for us to do. However, long-haired breeds or older pets sometimes need a bit of extra help. And sometimes a cat of any age or type just enjoys being pampered – it can make a great bonding experience for the pair of you. Whatever the reason for grooming a cat, do it in short bursts, using a soft brush in the direction of their fur.

It’s important to keep an eye on their overall health, checking for fleas, ticks, ear mites, skin irritation or lumps regularly. Brushing and handling them in this way will also help them feel less stressed when they go to the vets because they’re used to having their ears looked into, their legs touched and so on.

Body Copy

Talking of ears
Clean as cats are, they can’t really wash the inside of their ears (though they give it a good try). We need to check their ears about once a week to see if there are any issues or infections. Look out for excessive wax or dark coloured bits that look like dirt as these can be signs of an ear infection – cats shaking their head or scratching at the ear are other signs. If you think your cat could have an ear infection or is scratching their ear more than you’d like, contact your vet to get this checked out.

To clean cat ears that aren’t infected, put drops of a cat ear cleaner onto a damp cotton ball and use it to gently wipe around the visible part of their ear – the bit that is easily accessible, don’t go too deep. And never use cotton buds or human ear products.

If a cat has crusty dirt or gunk around the eyes, use a soft cloth or cotton ball dampened with sterile water to gently wipe it off. Make sure no fibres from the cloth or cotton wool are left behind that might irritate their eyes. Dirty eyes can be a sign of eye problems, so if it keeps happening, consult a vet.

cat pawing dogs nose cat pawing dogs nose


Cats commonly have dental problems such as plaque, tartar and gum disease. This is sometimes noticeable by bad breath or difficulty eating (particularly dry food). Plaque accumulation is particularly nasty because it can cause heart and lung issues. Dental treats can help with this, but cleaning their teeth is better.

The idea of cleaning our cats’ teeth can seem strange, but it is possible. Approach their mouth slowly when they’re feeling calm. Start by massaging their gums with a finger or damp cotton wool, just for a short while. Then when they’re used to this, graduate to a cat toothbrush and cat toothpaste (never use human brushes or paste).

Most importantly…

With any pet, groom them when they’re relaxed and happy – never force it on them. Done right, grooming is a lovely way for us to build a bond and spend some quality time together. Happy grooming!

Get answers from the experts

Got a question about fleas, ticks or worms? We can help! Take a look at our FAQs or send us a message.

Two Paragraphs

Join the #PetParentClub

We’ve got an amazing community of dedicated pet parents on our social channels. You’ll find pet care tips and cute pics, plus advice from our pet experts. We can’t wait to welcome you to the club!