How to Relax a Cat for Grooming

How to Relax a Cat for Grooming (and When to Sedate) – 9 Ultimate Tips

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Cats do NOT like being contained.

(Or intruded upon. Or petted when petting isn’t due. Or NOT petted when petting is due.)

If it has to happen, a cat will most likely quickly draw their claws to set themselves free.

As it happens, grooming is one of those situations when a self-respecting cat will deem you an intruder into her or his personal integrity. So if your cat is unfamiliar with routine grooming, you may be in for a BIG fight.

Some cat owners work well with their pets when grooming, and others do not know where to start. If you are the latter, keep reading, this article shares everything you need to know about relaxing your cat before grooming. 

Ways To Relax Your Cat for Grooming

calming a cat for grooming

Pet groomers admit that 95% of cats do not enjoy grooming despite being well trained.

Cats spend between 30% and 50% of the day grooming themselves and probably can’t imagine why further grooming or outside help is necessary. But, considering the vast benefits of grooming your cat, you will find a way of working it out with your feline friend.

(Or you will die trying.)

Sometimes, even well-trained cats do not stay still in a grooming session. This is why many cat owners opt to have them sedated before grooming. Medical cat tranquilizers or natural herbs are two ways of sedating a cat. 

Using Cat Sedatives

Cats are known to have high anxiety (to put it mildly) that makes them frightened when they feel uncomfortable.

As a result, they are often quick to fight back and can cause injuries. Cat sedatives are vet-prescribed medications that help a healthy animal stay calm. 

Before you decide to use these medications, it is best to ask your vet whether your cat is healthy enough to use them. You also need to know which sedatives are helpful to calm a cat for grooming. 

Is It Safe to Sedate Your Cat for Grooming?

If you give it correctly, the anesthetic should NOT have any negative or side effects on your cat.

They only put your cat to sleep for a certain period, allowing you to complete your grooming without getting YET ANOTHER scar. After the effects wear off, your cat should be back to its normal state.

If you plan to use sedatives, be sure to consult your vet for advice on the proper dosage and the best type of cat sedative to use. There are different types of cat sedatives – but more on that below!

Using Cat Tranquilizers for Grooming

how to calm a cat for grooming

Sometimes, grooming your cat may be necessary due to health concerns.

For example, your cat may have undergone surgery, and you may be required to clean the wound to avoid infections. I am pretty sure that such a cat would most likely detest being touched, especially if it is in pain. You can find several sedatives over the counter, but we recommend seeking advice from a vet first.

Here are the most common over-the-counter cat tranquilizers drugs.


This drug is also known as acevet or atravet.

It may take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour before kicking in. It reduces anxiety levels in the cat by depressing the nervous system. The cat will have lower blood pressure and a slower heartbeat.

However, acevet is not recommended for your cat if they have kidney disease. This cat tranquillizer drug can be administered orally before grooming.


This drug treats anxiety and phobia in cats and helps to make them calmer. It is also commonly used to treat cat seizures. These dosages can be given orally in the form of a tablet or syrup. 

The tablets quickly dissolve in the cat’s mouth; you may give your cat a treat to help it swallow the medicine. Sometimes, cats may vomit if they take the medication before eating. Therefore, it is always good to give the medication after the cat has had its meal.

The medication takes about one hour before it takes effect. You should be ready to groom your cat within an hour after giving the medication. 

A common side effect of this drug is sleepiness and disorientation.

However, benzodiazepine may not be suitable for your cat if they have liver conditions or allergies to the drug. Also, if your cat is lactating or pregnant, you must take caution when using this medication. Always refer to your cat’s vet if you are in doubt.


This drug may take between one to three hours before the cat reaches the sedation peak. It is known for reducing aggressive behavior and anxiety in cats and is commonly used before vet visits to calm the feline. 

Your cat should not suffer any adverse side effects with this drug; however, you need to ensure that the cat has a healthy heart before giving them Trazodone.

Other cat tranquilizers you can purchase over the counter include clonidine, gabapentin for grooming, and chlorpheniramine.

7 Natural Ways to Calm Your Cat for Grooming

Sedation medication for cats is mostly effective, but some pet owners may have concerns about the medication’s side effects, or their cat may not be in the best health condition for such medicines.

Luckily, there are some herbal cat sedatives for grooming.

As you may expect, they are increasingly becoming the go-to alternatives for cat anxieties. You can use catnip, valerian, or cat pheromones as herbal cat sedatives.

1. Catnip

Yep, it’s THE substance cats like to get high on.

It also goes by the name catwort, field balm, and catmint. Catnip is a plant whose leaves and stems contain a chemical called nepetalactone that calms a cat down.

To release the chemical from the dried catnip, you will need to mix the dry ingredients with hot water or boil it for a few minutes. After the mixture cools down, pour it into a spray bottle. Use the spray around the house in areas where the cat can easily reach. You can also spray it on the cat’s favorite toys.

2. Valerian Root

This herbal medicine is suitable for inducing sleep and euphoric state in cats and similar effects as catnip.

The herb contains actinidine, a type of pheromone that attracts cats and as well as insects. 

However, some cats tend to become relaxed and comfortable; others may become too playful or aggressive when stimulated. Therefore, it is advisable to test how your pet will respond before using it as a sedative for grooming. This herb can be mixed with a cat’s food or applied to the cat’s toys.

3. Silver Vine

This herbal cat sedative is said to have BETTER effects than catnip. Many Asian countries have used this drug for centuries as a cat sedative. 

Cats lick the leaves, which in return release chemicals. Currently, you may find the herb in powder form, and then you sprinkle it on the cat’s toys.

4. Honeysuckle

The honeysuckle herb is said to be adequate for cats who do not react to catnips.

It comes in the form of wood shavings, sticks, or sawdust. You may put in your cat’s toys; however, you may need to be cautious about putting them in your cat’s food because they may be poisonous.

Some cat toys already have this herb inside them to help your cat relax.

5. Kava Kava

This natural sedative is best used under a vet’s supervision to help you give the correct dose.

It is not recommended for cats with liver issues and may also be toxic to the liver if given in large amounts.

Another word of caution; pregnant cats should not take Kava Kava.

6. Chamomile

Cats use smaller dosages of this herb for sedation.

Chamomile’s relaxing compounds also take effect in cats, helping them manage their anxiety.

7. Feline Pheromones Spray

Pheromones are chemicals that a cat secretes to make them familiar and comfortable around the environment. Naturally, you would notice your cat smelling surfaces, rubbing their faces on objects, or peeing in the corner of the room, all of which are examples of marking their territories.

A cat can sense that they are not in the right place if they do not recognize any of the pheromones in their environment, causing anxiety. Feline Pheromone sprays simulate the pheromones, making the cat feel comfortable. The spray can also be effective in making a cat stay calm before grooming.

How to Tell Your Cat Needs To Be Sedated for Grooming

how to relax a cat for grooming

If your cat does not like water (most likely), you may need to make them controllable through sedation.

Some cats are also sensitive to unfamiliar noise, such as the blow drier or nail clippers. Sedation makes such sounds feel more relaxing and less scary, consequently providing an ideal environment for grooming. 

Sometimes, cats need grooming for medical purposes, such as getting rid of parasites. The process can be irritating. In such a case, sedation would be an absolute must.

Generally, sedation helps calm down unfriendly cats to avoid injuries to the groomer and the cats. If your cat’s grooming session is lengthy, your cat will most likely become uneasy. 

Felines with matted or filthy coats usually need longer grooming sessions. Sedating the cat will help them stay relaxed for a more extended period.

How to Sedate a Cat for Grooming

So the die has been cast, and your poor little fur ball has no choice.

Sedate it must!

Grooming would be easier if cats could swallow a pill on demand; however, these cute felines need extra help taking their meds. These easy steps will guide you on what to do.

  • Put together all the tools you need for medicating your cat. You will need a towel and a treat for the cat after medicating. 
  • For liquid medication, draw the medicine’s proper dosage into the syringe BEFORE holding your cat.
  • Pet your cat to soothe them before gently wrapping the towel around them. When you notice that the cat is calmer, place the cat down on a flat surface as you remain holding it. 
  • Ensure that the cat’s hind legs are against your body when laying on the surface. With your free hand, slightly tilt the head of the cat upwards. While holding the head with one hand, place the syringe at the back corner of the cat’s mouth and empty the medicine between the cheek and gum.
  • If you choose to give the cat a sedation pill, you will still need to hold it down in the same way as described above, but use your middle finger to open the cat’s mouth. Then, gently place the pill inside the cat’s mouth as far back as possible. 
  • You may also get yourself a pill gun that will help you put the medicine in the right place inside the cat’s mouth. Remember to give your cat a treat after taking their medication to get them accustomed to the process.
  • If you have challenges holding the cat down for medication, try hiding the medicine in your cat’s food. Pill pockets are an excellent alternative for hiding a pill in a cat’s treat or food. Alternatively, you may mix liquid medications with the cat’s drinks such as milk or water.

9 Tips for How to Keep Your Cat Calm for Grooming

cat sedation for grooming

Sedating a cat before grooming may only be necessary if you need to perform a complete grooming routine for your cat. If you only need to brush the cat’s coat or clean its face, sedation is unnecessary. 

All you need to know is how to handle your cat and help them stay calm. It would be best always to have your grooming tools ready before you start. Check out these few tips on cat sedation for grooming. 

  1. Treats are the trick. A cat will be drawn to you when you give them treats.
  2. When close, start by gently stroking the cat to make them feel relaxed. The cat may lay on your lap or on a surface that you have prepared.
  3. Slowly adjust from stroking to grooming, for example, brushing the cat’s coat.
  4. When relaxed, place your hand across the cat’s chest to gently restrain it from moving.
  5. Continue with the grooming while allowing the cat to move under your arm so that it does not feel uncomfortable or controlled.
  6. You may lift your cat to make it turn over to groom its back.
  7. The trick is to remain gentle with all your moves.
  8. If your cat gets uncomfortable, it may be time to end the grooming process to give the cat some time to relax
  9. You can tell that your cat is uncomfortable when they start to swish their tail, feel stiff, rotate their ears, shake their head, or when they stop purring.

Check out our tips on how often to groom your cat to learn how to plan your cat’s hygiene routine. That way, you will understand when you need to sedate your cat and when not to.

Frequently Asked Questions On Calming a Cat for Grooming

calming a cat for grooming

Here are some answers to the most common questions people ask about how to relax a cat for grooming.

Can Benadryl Kill a Cat?

Benadryl treats itching in cats but can also work as a mild cat sedative for grooming. On the flip side, Benadryl overdoses have proven to be fatal in cats

The best thing to do before giving this medication is to consult your vet. Also, always confirm the correct dosage and your cat’s health status before administering any medication.

How Long Does a Sedative Take To Wear Off in Cats?

Most sedatives take between 30 minutes and 2 hours before their effects start kicking in. Sedatives for grooming are milder and should wear off sooner than anesthetics. Your cat should be back to normal within 12 to 24 hours after sedation.

It is normal for your cat to look sleepy and slightly sluggish before the sedatives wear off.

How Do Cats React To Sedation?

Besides being sleepy, your cat may show some behavioral changes, such as being sensitive, aggressive, or cranky.

Some may lose their appetite for some time, but they should be back to normal a day or two later.

What Happens After Sedating a Cat?

Cat grooming with sedation oppresses the cat’s nervous system to help them stay calm. After the effects of the sedative wear off, these cute animals usually go back to their normal state. 

How Can I Naturally Sedate My Cat?

To recap, there are different ways to naturally sedate a cat. Some good examples of natural sedatives for cats include catnip, valerian root, silver vine, honeysuckle, kava kava, chamomile and feline pheromones spray.

Scroll above for the exact procedures for sedating a cat using these natural methods!

What Makes a Good Candidate for Sedation for Grooming?

Cats that appear too aggressive and uneasy may need sedation to calm them down before grooming. If your cat responds well to grooming, you do not need to sedate them. It is also worth noting that sedation is not harmful if done the right way; on the contrary, it keeps everyone safe, including cats.

(They may even decide your dog needs grooming too.)

Cats are generally friendly animals and pretty clean too! If you decide grooming is necessary, it would be a great idea to know what to do to keep your pet calm.

Remember to always be gentle with these feline friends; they have some quick reflexes and are always ready to defend themselves when you make one wrong, unannounced move. 

References & Further reading

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