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Grooming your cat

Cats are very clean pets and generally take good care of their coats. Getting involved with grooming is essential if your cat is long haired; it doesn't need to be a traumatic experience and can often be a positive experience for both owner, and cat. If you introduce grooming at an early age, most cats will learn to enjoy this and actively seek the brush in later years!

The benefits of grooming:

  • Grooming will help prevent hairballs, which are formed when the cat swallows quantities of dead hair during grooming.
  • Grooming with a brush helps stimulate the circulation and enhance muscle tone.
  • Grooming helps spread natural oils, which the cat produces to waterproof the coat.
  • Grooming prevents the need to have your cat dematted under anaesthetic.
  • Grooming your cat can also help improve the bond between cat and owner, it also gives you a great opportunity to health check your cat for lumps on a regular basis.

You may notice your cat grooming more in summer because it helps keep the cat cool.

What type of grooming does my cat need?

cat grooming handlingShort haired cats
Short haired cats require small amounts of grooming. It is a good idea to lightly groom them on a regular basis using a bristle brush or a short-toothed comb. Short haired cats will generally find it easy to keep their coat clean; there are always exceptions to the rule if their coat is particularly dense.

Semi haired cats
Semi haired cats require grooming a few times a week; this will prevent knots and matts developing. The ideal method of grooming is to use a metal comb that has alternate long and short teeth. This means that the long teeth reach down to the base of the coat and the short teeth will pick up any excess hair on the surface. If you follow this grooming with a soft brush, it will add shine and condition to the coat.

Long haired cats
These cats will require daily grooming in order to keep their coat in top condition. As in semi haired cats, is advisable to use a metal comb with alternate long and short teeth. There are many versions of this type of comb on the market; some are even designed for particular breeds of cat. Long haired cats need grooming all over; they can become especially knotted around the bottom, legs and stomach.

The grooming process

  • Make sure your cat is on a stable surface, such as the sofa or the floor. Spend a little time making your cat comfortable by stroking or giving treats. Make sure you are in a relaxed state and happy to groom the cat, if you are feeling nervous about how the cat will react to the grooming session then they can often sense this.
  • Show your cat a soft bristled brush, allow the cat to smell the brush and face rub if it wants to. Begin by brushing the cat’s head, going in the direction of the cat’s fur, but avoiding the whiskers. If the cat enjoys this then progress to the shoulders.
  • Speak quietly and gently to the cat, this will help reassure it throughout grooming process.
  • Your initial grooming sessions should last no longer than a few minutes; this can be gradually increased over a period of time but should never last longer than 15 minutes.
  • You can reward the cat throughout the experience by using small treats or titbits. This way the cat associates grooming with a positive experience, such as being fed or getting attention.
  • Many cats are sensitive to having their back or bottom brushed, always take care when grooming this area as some cats may tell you they are not happy. Try to monitor their body language throughout the grooming process, if you sense the cat is not happy then it is best to stop.
  • Once the cat is familiar with the soft brush, you can start to use a metal brush during the grooming. Each brush will need introducing to the cat as they will all feel different.
  • If you find a small area of fur that is already knotted, try teasing the knot with your fingers or cutting the knot away. It can be very unpleasant for the cat to have these groomed out.
  • It is always best to start the grooming process on a positive note; if your cat is already severely matted then it can be difficult to make this a good experience from the start. It is often advisable to contact your local vet and enquire about getting your cat dematted, you can then start the grooming process in a positive way.

When to stop

During grooming always keep a close eye on the cat’s body language, look at whether the cat is comfortable with the grooming session. Body language to look out for is tail twitching and fidgety behaviour, this generally means they are impatient and have a desire to escape. Many cats will growl or grumble, telling you that their patience is wearing thin. Please take care when grooming, if you do not see the warning signs then you may end up being bitten or scratched. Always stop grooming if you think the cat is unhappy. You are trying to make it enjoyable for the cat, so it is better to do short sessions, rather than one that is really long and upsetting for your cat.

On-going care

It is really important that once you start grooming your cat, and put effort into making it a positive experience, that you then keep this up. Try to factor grooming into your daily routine, such as when the family sit down to watch television in the evenings. This will make it less of a chore, and more of an enjoyment for the whole family.