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 of you.
If you introduce grooming at an early age, most cats will learn to enjoy it and actively seek the brush in later years.
Why groom your cat
- Grooming will help prevent hairballs, formed when your cat swallows dead hair during self-grooming
- Grooming with a brush helps stimulate the circulation and enhance their muscle tone
- Grooming helps spread natural oils, which the cat produces to waterproof the coat
- Grooming means you won’t have to get your cat dematted under anaesthetic
- Grooming your cat can also help improve the bond between you
- Grooming gives you a great opportunity to health check your cat for lumps on a regular basis
- Groom your cat more in summer to help them keep cool.
What type of grooming does your cat need?
- Short haired cats require small amounts of grooming. Lightly groom them on a regular basis using a bristle brush or a short-toothed comb. They will generally find it easy to keep their coat clean, unless their coat is particularly dense.
- Semi haired cats require grooming a few times a week to prevent knots and matts developing. Use a metal comb that has alternate long and short teeth – the long teeth reach down to the base of the coat and the short teeth will pick up any excess hair on the surface. Follow this grooming with a soft brush to add shine and condition to the coat.
- Long haired cats require daily grooming to keep their coat in top condition. Again, use a metal comb with alternate long and short teeth. 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 them. If you’re feeling nervous about how your cat will react they can often sense this
- Show your cat a soft bristled brush, allow the cat to smell the brush and face rub if they want 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 them throughout grooming
- Your initial grooming sessions should last no longer than a few minutes. Gradually increase this over time but never for longer than 15 minutes
- Reward your cat throughout 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. Try to monitor their body language throughout grooming, if you sense your cat isn’t happy then stop
- Once your 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 your cat to have these groomed out
- Start grooming on a positive note – if your cat is already severely matted then it can be difficult to make this a good experience. Contact your local vet about getting your cat dematted, you can then start the grooming process in a positive way.
When to stop grooming your cat
During grooming always keep a close eye on your cat’s body language to check if they’re comfortable with grooming. 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.
Take care when grooming, if you don't see the warning signs tyou may end up being bitten or scratched. Always stop grooming if you think your cat is unhappy. It’s better to do short enjoyable sessions, rather than one that is really long and upsetting for your cat.
On-going grooming care
It’s really important that once you start grooming your cat, and put effort into making it a positive experience, that you keep it up. 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 enjoyable for your cat and for you!