How can I use a warm washcloth to clean my cat’s face and eyes?
For the most part, cats do a good job of cleaning themselves, but some cats need help to keep their faces clean. This may be because they’re lazy groomers or as a consequence of breed and fur type.
Long-haired cats, for instance, are more likely to get food caught in their fur when eating. Short-haired breeds, and especially the hairless Sphynx, may have a problem with oil building up around their mouths. This can result in black bumps that are either feline acne or contact dermatitis. The latter is often attributed to the use of plastic-feeding bowls.
Cats going through allergy or cold season can have discharge from the eyes and nose, which will need to be cleaned away, and some cats just have “runny” eyes naturally. This matter tends to harden if left in place, and cats will resist their owner’s attempt to “pick” at the material because the sensation is uncomfortable.
Additionally, many owners make the mistake of trying to hold the cat’s head to get at the eye discharge, which is threatening to the cat. As a general rule of thumb, cats like less restraint. If necessary wrap the cat lightly in a towel and place it between your knees or enlist help, but expect a fight if the cat feels it is being held down.
Use a warm, soft washcloth, and always rub in the direction of the cat’s fur. When working near the eyes, augment the cleaning with a cotton square dipped in warm water. Move gently along the lower eyelid using the moisture to soften the dried matter. Use a fresh cotton square with each pass.
Often cats who enjoy the sensation of a washcloth bath will lean into the motion and “help,” especially in the areas around the mouth where acne can form. This is helpful since the cat is dictating the needed pressure to get the area clean.
Because cats prefer their own scent on their fur, they will usually promptly sit down and bathe all over again after being cleaned with a washcloth, so this method is also a good way to re-train a cat with sloppy grooming habits to do a better job.