There are numerous benefits to brushing and grooming your cat, and ALL cat owners should be doing this. But how often are you actually supposed to brush your cat? What exactly are you helping with by brushing them?
How often should I brush my cat?
Long-Haired Cats such as Maine Coons, Ragdolls, Persians, or Domestic Long Hair breeds should be brushed daily with no exception as their fur is much more susceptible to knots, tangles, and matting. If you don’t do this regularly and mats start to form you might need to have a professional groomer remove them. You’ll want to use a good quality fine-toothed comb or a special de-matting brush.
Medium-Haired Cats such as Abyssinians, Bobtails, or Manxes should be brushed at least 3-5 times per week. Although daily brushing would be ideal, it’s not as necessary as it is like with the long-haired breeds. It really just depends on how much your cat sheds and how dense their coat is. Grooming mitts, despite how goofy they look, work very well with medium-haired cats!
Short-Haired Cats such as your basic Domestic Shorthair, Bengal, Egyptian Mau, or the classic Tabby cat are fine to be brushed at least 1-2x per week. Daily brushing is usually okay but you want to pay attention to any skin irritation or bald patches as some shorthair cats are more prone to those issues.
Hairless Cats like the Sphynx obviously don’t need brushing but sometimes the scratchy feeling of the teeth on a brush or a comb can feel good for them! Just be sure to brush them VERY lightly as you don’t want to irritate their skin. I’ve even seen some people use a lint roller on their bald cats! Just because they don’t have hair doesn’t mean they can’t join in the fun, too!
Why should I brush my cat?
By design, your cat is a self-grooming machine. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t help them out! As mentioned above, some cats are more prone to matting and tangles and you want to try your best to make sure that doesn’t happen. But brushing your cat goes far beyond just preventing tangles or brushing out mats.
Not brushing your cat can make them sick! A surprising amount of a cat’s hair during their self-grooming sessions will end up in their stomachs. Cats clean themselves a lot and this leads to a lot of loose hairs being swallowed. This loose hair builds up in their stomachs and results in hairballs.
Hairballs can be dangerous! “Oh, it’s just a hairball, that’s what all cats deal with, right?” Correct, all cats deal with this, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. Hairballs can actually build up and cause blockages in the intestines. So even though hairballs are inevitable, you want to help remove a lot of those stray hairs through brushing so that less ends up in your cat’s stomach.
Your cat will be cleaner! When your cat is grooming itself their tongue will get up some of the dirt and gunk but not all of it. This dirt and other impurities can get stuck in your cat’s fur. Brushing your cat removes this dirt-packed gunk from their fur. This is especially true for older cats who aren’t able to groom themselves as frequently as they could when they were younger.
Your cat will have a better coat! Your cat’s skin has naturally-produced oils that help with their coat. Brushing your cat helps to distribute these natural oils evenly throughout all of their fur. This leads to a shinier and more beautiful coat.
You will find fleas early before they become a problem! Brushing your cat regularly helps you to spot ‘flea dirt’ and even fleas themselves. If you spot the flea dirt or fleas early on then you can easily nip it in the bud before it becomes a problem. (But you should always be using a good, vet-recommended solution for flea prevention anyways)
Your home will be cleaner! Not only will your cat be cleaner and healthier, but so will your home! Loose cat hair can accumulate all over your home. Any cat owner has at least once thought to themselves “How did hair get over here?!” while looking at the top of their curtains or in the part of a room that never gets used. By brushing your cat regularly you will help control the amount of loose hair that gets left to roam around the house. Additionally, your carpet will be cleaner because there will be less furballs being thrown up!
You will create a strong bond with your cat! Cats groom each other as a way to show affection and to build trust with one another. When brushing your cat it has the same response as if you were another cat grooming it. Each brushing session is seen as affection from you to your cat and is a great way to further build trust.
How do I brush my cat?
Most cats love to be brushed and groomed but with all new kitties you want to make sure you approach the process properly. Getting your cat properly acclimated to a good brushing routine will ensure proper trust is built between the two of you.
Find a comfortable spot for both of you. You’re going to be sitting down for a while and your cat will be either right next to you or possibly in your lap, so make sure you’ve got a nice spot that’s comfortable for the both of you.
Test the waters. Even though most cats like to be brushed and groomed, sometimes they just aren’t in the mood for it. Before you even pick the brush up, start lightly petting your cat’s fur with your hand to see how receptive they are to touch right now.
Start with their favorite spots. All cats have their favorite places that they like to be petted. Usually somewhere between their ears, their chin, or certain places on their backs. This is where you want to start brushing to see how well they do with the texture and feel of the brush you’re using.
Take things further. Once you’ve seen that your cat is comfortable with brushing, and you’ve brushed their favorite spots, try to venture out a bit. Slowly ease into the more sensitive areas, like their belly, and see how they respond. If they start to scratch or bite or pull away then don’t force the issue and immediately take the brush back to an area of their body that they’re comfortable with. It may take time to build up enough trust to be able to get to sensitive areas, be patient!
Don’t forget the reward! You need to encourage your cat to let you brush and groom them as needed and you do this by rewarding them after every brushing session. Give them a treat, let them have a special kind of food, and/or play with them with their favorite toy afterwards. You want them to associate grooming with treats and fun!