If giving pets a bath constitutes the spring cleaning version of pet care, other pet grooming chores, like combing and brushing, clipping nails, and brushing teeth, are more like doing dishes or the laundry--something that needs to be done fairly regularly.
I found out a few weeks after we adopted The Boys that grooming wasn't going to be the easy task it had been with Mauie, our Maine Coon with whom we lived with relatively little drama for 19 years. In contrast, even pros couldn't manage to clip all of Dragon's nails in one sitting.
Then one day, visiting Shedd Acquarium, I learned how professional trainers play games that involve daily handling so that dolphins, whales, and other marine animals become accustomed to human touch and thus, are able to undergo medical exams and even procedures like blood draws without being sedated:
"Training provides the animals with mental stimulation, it gives them physical exercise and, perhaps most importantly, it teaches them to cooperate in their own care. With a simple hand cue from a trainer, a 1,700-pound beluga whale positions itself for a mouth exam or to allow a veterinarian to take a blood sample from its tail. Teaching the animals to participate in their own healthcare makes the regular medical exams easy for staff members. And it’s easy for the animals, too, because all training is conducted like a play session, with food, toys, or verbal praise as frequent rewards."
--Animal Care at Shedd
Well, shoot, if such an approach worked for a 1,700-pound whale, then surely it could work for a 6-pound kitten. So I tried it. And it worked!
Here's what I do: every morning at the same time, I go to the boys' blanket in the living room and call them. They both have to come, or I get up and leave and nobody gets treats. Usually they both come. Then I choose one cat, and either clip a nail or two or I brush his coat or brush his teeth. Sometimes I might even just look at each of their nails and not even do anything. Afterwards, I announce: Good kitty! I run to my studio and close the door. I then hide treats in a variety of areas and open the door. What's funny is that the cat who got "the treatment" that day almost always gets first dibs on treats--the other usually stands back. But there's enough treats for everybody, and the cats enjoy hunting for them. Afterwards I run a vacuum cleaner to get the crumbs, and everyone is happy. And it's a whole lot easier to keep up with their daily grooming chores, that's for sure.