Cats have high standards of personal hygiene. Anyone who owns or has regular contact with felines knows that they seem to spend a huge proportion of their waking time grooming themselves. And they certainly have the tools to do it! Their tongues come equipped with tiny barbs called papillae that help collect loose hairs, grit and dirt from the cat’s hair as they lick. They pick larger or ingrained debris out of their coats with their teeth; and their paws are used to wash areas they can’t reach with their tongues.
There’s no doubt that they are highly efficient self-grooming machines, but there are flaws to the process. The papillae are backwards-facing, which means much of the stray hair goes down the cat’s throat, causing hairballs that can become problematic. And long-haired breeds may have trouble meeting their own exacting standards for cleanliness without a helping hand.
Owners can help by brushing their cats regularly. Here, we look at some of the best tools available on the market to assist in the process and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about cats and grooming.
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Best Brush For Cats Buying Guide & FAQ
Unless you have a long-haired pedigree cat, you may think grooming your feline is unnecessary. After all, they spend long enough on it themselves… However, grooming is important for any cat. Not only does it help you bond with your pet, it’s also invaluable for various health reasons.
Don’t just go at it with an old hairbrush of your own, however. There are plenty of specially designed tools on the market that will make the job simpler and more comfortable for your cat – and more effective at keeping your home free from being knee-deep in shed cat hair. Our suggestions for the best brushes and combs for the job appear above.
Do I Need to Brush My Cat?
As we noted in the introduction, a cat’s natural grooming technique is highly efficient, but you only have to look around your home to see the volume of hair that a cat loses on a routine basis! Most owners of domestic shorthairs might not consider grooming to be a necessity, but you can avoid mess around the home, not to mention vet’s bills from intestinal blockages caused by hairballs, if you give them a helping hand with a good brush from time to time.
Brushing your cat is also advantageous for the following reasons:
- It will remove any matted grime that accumulates in your cat’s fur in stubborn spots that they may miss or find difficult to keep clean;
- It removes dead skin cells, keeps the coat healthy and shiny by distributing the skin’s natural oils throughout, and, like a massage, can help keep muscles toned;
- It’ll cut down on shed hairs accumulating round your home – less vacuuming, so less wear and tear on your carpets!
- It’s a great way to bond with your pet. Moreover, it’s an opportunity for you to get up close to your cat and do a quick check of her physical health. Are there any lumps, sore spots or scratches that you need to know about?
- Older cats may find it awkward or exhausting to keep themselves clean as they might once have done – a good brush will help them feel more at ease and also prevent any health problems caused by inadequate self-grooming.
How Frequently Does My Cat Need to be Groomed?
The answer is ‘it depends’! And what it usually depends on is the length and density of your cat’s fur. As a rough guide:
- Short-Haired Cats
If you have a domestic short-haired moggy or a breed like the Russian Blue, the Siamese or the Bengal, then once or twice a week should be sufficient. In fact, it’s preferable not to brush them too often as it can result in your cat developing bald patches or irritation of the skin.
- Medium-Haired Cats
Mixed breeds and cat breeds with denser fur such as the Manx or the American Short Hair will benefit from more frequent grooming, especially if they’re outdoor cats that tend to shed heavily in spring. Three or four times a week is good, unless they have really dense coats; in which case, daily is a good idea.
- Long-Haired Cats
These delightful creatures will benefit most from daily brushing. Common breeds that need this level of attention will include Ragdolls, Persians and Maine Coons. Remember, prevention is better than cure. If you can remove tangles, knots and matting before they build up, it’ll be more comfortable for your cat – and easier for you to treat any issues too.
Common Types of Cat Brushes
The secret to effective and efficient cat grooming lies in choosing the right tool for the job. There are a whole host of different types of cat brushes on the market these days, just a few of the best of which we’ve enumerated above. But broadly speaking, all these brushes fall into the following categories. Remember, you may need more than one type to tackle the entire job well, such as a bristle brush to do the coat overall, then a slicker brush to tackle isolated tangles in the fur or matted areas.
- Bristle Brushes
Often resembling one of our own hairbrushes, these come with different densities of bristle and in different shapes and sizes. For longer-haired breeds, the bristles need to be spaced further apart from each other. You should also look for longer bristles too, to be able to get the brush down through the length of the coat. The shorter hair your cat has, the shorter the bristles can be, and should be more densely packed too. Take note of how coarse the coat is too. You’ll need a stiffer brush to tackle a coarse-haired cat.
- Wire-Pin Brushes
With wire pins, often coated in rubber tips to prevent scratching the skin, these brushes are ideal for long-haired cats. Massaging as you brush, this helps release and spread the skin’s natural oils that will keep your cat’s coat looking shiny. They create less static than a bristle brush and can also be gentler on the hair itself, causing fewer breakages. In general, the longer the coat, the longer the pins need to be to work their way through its length. These brushes aren’t good for a matted, tangled or very thick coat, though.
- Slicker Brushes
For mats and tangles, what you need is one of these. The fine bristles, again made of wire, will help work out any knots or matted hair.
- Fine-Toothed Combs and Mat Breakers
The former are for small masses of tangled fur, the latter to break up larger or more complex knots and mats.
- Rubber Curry-Brushes
These are great for stripping out dead, loose hairs and other debris from your cat’s coat. As an added benefit, they also massage the skin as they work through the coat. It’s often worth using one of these to finish off the grooming session, as they tend to leave the fur silky-soft and shiny. You can even use it to remove hair from furniture when you’re done!
As a final note, it’s worth saying that you should look after your brushes, not only so they stay effective but also to prolong their life. Clean them after every use, giving them a wash if necessary and making sure they are thoroughly dry before you put them away. This is especially important for any tools that are made of metal, as otherwise they may rust.
How to Properly Brush a Cat
Before any form of grooming session, give your cat the once-over, both visually and by stroking her, to check for wounds, bald patches, signs of ticks or fleas (using a fine-toothed flea and tick comb) or unexpected lumps and bumps. Do this by massaging the skin thoroughly with your fingers, working from the tail towards the head, in the opposite direction to the way the coat grows. This also helps loosen any dead hairs in the fur before you set to with the brush or comb.
For short-haired cats
- With your chosen comb or brush, begin at the head and stroke down towards the tail with the direction of hair growth.
- If she’ll tolerate it, use a bristle brush to comb the fur upwards, against the direction of hair growth and towards her head. This will further loosen dead hairs and bring them to the surface of the coat.
- Use a fine-toothed comb or brush to tackle any tangles.
- Use a rubber curry-brush or grooming pad to collect up the loosened hair, and to massage the skin below. Do this from the head towards the tail.
For long-haired cats
- Start at her belly or legs, gently combing the fur upwards in the direction of her head.
- Brush or comb the neck hair upwards, towards her chin and mouth.
- Make a parting along her back, from tail towards the head, and gently brush the coat downwards on either side.
- Try and tease knots out by hand, using a sprinkling of talcum powder if they’re particularly difficult. Otherwise, use a mat breaker brush to work them out.
- Remove all that loosened hair with a curry-brush, which will also give the coat a shine.
Tips For Grooming A Cat Who Hates Being Brushed
Firstly, is your cat resistant to the idea because it’s new or have you tried and failed a million times?
If it’s the former, then it’s more a case of getting them accustomed to the idea. Stop trying so hard: content yourself with picking one small area at a time – like the top of the head. Brush this lightly for 30-45 seconds, if they’ll tolerate it. If they habitually get fed up after less time, try stopping before the point at which they become uncomfortable. Also, try catching them when they’re relaxed and happy already – snoozing in the sunshine or on the couch is great. Sit next to them and be gentle and unhurried in your movements. Your aim is to encourage them to associate grooming with feeling content, so build up the time spent on this activity very slowly.
Either way, make sure you have the right tools for the job. If the brush or comb you’re using is too harsh, they’ll resist no matter where or when you try to groom them. Try different sizes, styles and types till you find the one that matches their coat – and their temperament too!
If your pet is particularly resistant, try the catnip trick: sprinkle onto the brush to make it a more inviting prospect. But if your kitty shows a violent aversion to grooming and nothing you can do seems to alter that, then there are some pieces of kit that may be worth trying. Cat grooming mittens, ones that you put on your own hands, may fool your feline into thinking she’s being stroked and petted rather than brushed out. There are also brushes that can be mounted on the corner of a room – look for walls where she habitually rubs her scent and affix them here at cheek-height. This may encourage her to brush against them. Finally, some pet specialists sell a freestanding arch mounted on a carpeted platform. The arch is covered with bristles and may persuade your cat that grooming on her own terms is acceptable!