The Beginner's Guide to Brushing a Cat

Cats are meticulous self-groomers, but they still need a little help from you to keep them in tip-top shape. If you have adopted a cat from a shelter, you may be surprised when you try to brush her for the first time. If she's never been brushed before, she may love it, as many cats do, or she may hate it.

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If she takes an instant dislike to being brushed, resist the temptation to give up. Brushing your cat builds trust and is an excellent opportunity to bond with your new feline friend. And while brushing makes her coat nice and soft, more importantly, it contributes to her overall health and well-being.

In this beginner's guide to brushing your cat, you'll learn why brushing is important, how to introduce the brush to a cat who has never been brushed before, and tips on brushing technique. Your goal is to make the experience an enjoyable one for both you and your cat so you can both look forward to daily (or at least three times weekly) brushing for long-hairs and at least once a week for short-haired cats.

Why brushing your cat is important

Your cat's coat should be soft and shiny, and regular brushing helps keep it that way. But brushing is also vital for a host of wellness reasons. When you brush your cat, you are removing dead hair, dirt, and dander. And excess hair can cause trichobezoars, commonly known as hairballs. When your cat grooms himself, the backward-slanted papillae on the surface of his rough tongue propel the hair down his throat and into his stomach. Most of the hair passes through the digestive tract and is excreted in the feces, but some remains in the stomach forming a wet clump composed of fur, saliva, and bile, which your cat regurgitates. While hairballs are common, and nothing to worry about if they occur occasionally, they can sometimes cause life-threatening blockages.

Brushing your cat also alerts you to skin health issues like dandruff, redness, lumps, bumps, cuts, scaling, and parasites like fleas and ticks.

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Unsightly and uncomfortable matted hair in your cat's coat can be prevented with regular brushing, particularly in long-haired cats. While short-haired cats are much less prone to developing mats, long-hairs require regular brushing to keep their fur silky and mat-free.

Regular brushing removes excess hair and also reduces matted hair on furniture and on your clothes.

What's the best type of brush for a cat?

A dual-sided brush with a soft bristle side and finer pin brush on the other side for tangles and mats is ideal for most cats. The pin brush untangles large clumps, common in long-hairs, and the bristle brush removes excess hair and adds shine to short-haired cats' coats. Alternatively, a moulting or flea comb may be used for long-hairs. And soft rubber brushes and grooming mitts are best for sensitive cats who don't like other brushes.

Introducing your cat to the brush

The best way to introduce your cat to the brush is to make sure your cat is relaxed and comfortable before beginning. Start by gently petting your cat in her favorite spots, for example; her back, between her ears, or under the chin, then gradually switch to the brush and slowly and gently brush. Stop brushing if your cat swipes at you or tries to bite, or even if she seems anxious or agitated, then try again after a few more minutes of gentle petting while encouraging her acceptance by speaking in a soft, soothing voice. Get your cat used to each type of grooming tool in the same way.

Keep your first brushing session short and sweet and incrementally increase the amount of time you brush each session. Once it's clear your cat likes being brushed, you can work up to brushing more sensitive areas like her belly — a problem for long-hairs as matted hair commonly forms there and on the chest. After each brushing session, reward your cat with her favorite treats and playtime.

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Proper brushing technique

Now that your cat is pestering you all the time to get brushed, you can master the brushing technique itself with a few tips. For short-haired cats, once a week, use a fine-toothed comb to remove dead hair, dirt, and dander. Start at your cat's head and work your way down to the tip of his tail, followed by a thorough brushing to remove excess hair from the coat.

Long-hairs should be brushed daily or at least every three days. Start with the legs and tummy using a wide-tooth comb to detangle any matted hair or knots as you move toward the head. For thick, fluffy tails, part the tail down the middle and comb each side gently, separating any mats by hand or a mat-splitter. Follow with a thorough brushing using a soft-bristled brush to remove excess hair.

Conclusion

Brushing your cat helps maintain a shiny coat and healthy skin and contributes to her overall wellness. If a cat has never been brushed before, introduce brushing slowly and build up to longer, more thorough brushing sessions over time.

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