4 Mistakes You Might Make When Brushing Your Cat

Even though grooming sounds simple enough, it actually carries some risks for your cat (and you).

Choosing the right brush makes a big difference. By:
Choosing the right brush makes a big difference. By: yoppy

Brushing your cat regularly is an often overlooked but important task. Regular brushing not only keeps fur from getting tangled and matted but also encourages good circulation and allows you to inspect for any issues such as fleas, worms or injuries.

The trick is to make sure you’re doing it right. (Hint: If it takes you 1 minute and you’ve barely got any hair off, you’re doing it wrong.)

For some tips on good brushing technique, I talked with Melissa Linhares-Upton, groomer at The Wicked Groom in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

1. Figuring That Cat’s Self-Grooming Is Enough

Many people see their cats grooming constantly and assume it’s enough. Well, it’s not. “The biggest mistake people can make is not brushing their cat, especially when their cats are older,” says Linhares-Upton.

There’s too much hair for a cat to take care of on his own. He needs help removing excess hair, especially during heavy shedding seasons. As a cat enters his senior years, it becomes even more difficult to keep himself clean.

So brush your cat frequently. Linhares-Upton advises brushing at least 1 or 2 times per day for longhaired breeds and 1 to 3 times per week for the shorthaired cats. Brush more often during a high shedding season.

Don’t Miss: DIY Cat Grooming

2. Using the Wrong Brush

Before you begin, make sure you have the right tool in hand. There are many types of brushes and combs out there, so do your research.

My cat, Harrison, has a ton of hair. It’s long, dense and prone to matting when I don’t brush it. If I were to use a comb or brush designed for shorthaired cats, the shorter teeth wouldn’t reach down into his undercoat. The brushing would be fruitless — I’d be missing lots of loose hair.

Most brushes and combs are pretty cheap and totally worth it.

She's been FURminated. Learn more about this handy tool here. By: sashafatcat
This cat’s been FURminated. Learn more about this handy tool here. By: sashafatcat

3. Brushing Against the Direction of the Coat

Some people (and even some groomers) say you should brush against the direction of the fur.

But not so fast. Reactions on this are mixed, but Linhares-Upton advises against it: “I think it pulls more when you go against the grain, kind of like when you were little and someone pulled your hair into a ponytail too tightly. It made you want to stand on your tiptoes, and it hurt.”

Most cats are not a fan of having their fur brushed away from its natural direction, and you could earn yourself an annoyed swipe. If you use this method, think about brushing with the fur’s natural direction but then using a blower to go against it.

Linhares-Upton uses exactly this method. “When I use the blower, I go against the coat because it helps remove loose hair,” she says. “But I always brush with the coat.”

When you’re deciding which way to brush, take into account your cat’s personality. Some cats won’t mind being groomed in any way you choose, but others prefer not to have you mess up their ‘do — and they won’t hesitate to let you know you’ve annoyed them.

In this video, master groomer Ali shares more brushing advice:

https://youtu.be/ukuGBBGHOhk

4. Trying (Unsuccessfully) to Remove Mats Yourself

Some mats are loose and easily detangled with regular brushing, but others are hard and firmly entrenched. Don’t try to simply rip them off your cat. It will hurt him, and he will come to mistrust both you and the brushing process.

If you are uncomfortable with removing mats, take your cat to a professional groomer to have them clipped off.

Don’t Miss: What to Look for in a Top-Notch Groomer

Many veterinary clinics use clippers during checkups to help out, but they frown on appointments geared only toward mat removal. Plus, you’ll pay the regular fee for the vet visit, so going to a groomer will probably save you some money.

Brushing regularly keeps your cat cleaner, improves circulation and health, and allows you to monitor for fleas, ticks or injuries that you might not notice otherwise.

Cats who are brushed regularly also swallow less hair, which means you’re going to be spared one of the worst sounds your cat will make: the dreaded hairball hack.

Melissa Smith

View posts by Melissa Smith
Melissa Smith, discussions manager for Petful, has been researching and writing about pet behaviors for several years. A longtime pet lover, she lives in Massachusetts with her teenage son, their cat Harrison and the spirit of their German shepherd named Gypsy. Melissa is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in multimedia design and hopes to adopt as many needy animals as she can.

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10 Comments

  1. Pam Woodward
    September 18, 2015

    I have a rescue cat that is a long haired variety. She is very nervous but will let me groom her with a mens scalp massager. Very cheap from chemist about $2 and the cat actually comes up for a groom on my lap.
    Cat will not tolerate any brush but this tool is brilliant. Thoroughly recommend it.

    Reply
    1. Melissa Smith
      September 18, 2015

      Great info Pam, thanks! I think I will check it out, I am always looking for something to make brushing my cat easier. He’s long haired, and standoffish so it’s always a challenge!

      Reply
    2. C.R.McL.
      May 10, 2018

      What is a “mens scalp massager”? Does it actually remove cat hair or just massage? Sounds so cool and since my cat LOVES being groomed I’d like to try this technique. Thanks! Meow!

      Reply
  2. 2Be4Peace
    December 9, 2016

    Try a paper towel bath once a week! followed by brushing with small short strokes. Takes the cat back to kitten days when Mom was in charge of grooming. I was amazed at how it made a difference in overall health and well being. Post paper towel bath and brush…deep, relaxed sleep.
    When she starts doing a lot of self grooming… its really “ehh, bath time”! “this is a lot of work and spit!”

    Reply
    1. Melissa Smith
      December 9, 2016

      How do you do a paper towel bath? Is it just a damp or wet paper towel? Very cool!

      Reply
      1. 2Be4Peace
        December 10, 2016

        I’ve used a warm, rung out wash cloth mitt. Amazing how much kitty spit you’ll get off with the texture of a wash cloth. Then it is a warm rung out paper towel, wet enough to leave that top layer or two good and damp. Don’t forget the back end! do it last… and really get the face, spine, then belly… I have the brush ready so I can go straight to drying both with hand and brush. Seems to be very Momma kitty body language. Her tail goes straight up kitten mode…and sleeps like one afterward. I am amazed at the difference in coat quality. Because it is now a weekly or every 10 days… mine will let me know by prolonged grooming that she could use some help.
        Does that help… first few times the warm wash cloth rung out… to get that top coat of kitty spit.

        Reply
        1. Melissa Smith
          December 10, 2016

          This is awesome, thank you so much for posting! I’m going to try it with my cat!

          Reply
        2. C.R.McL.
          May 10, 2018

          Once again, THANKS for the info! My cat has medium long hair and he sheds boatloads EVEN though I brush him once or twice a day! So this will really help. He is also getting up in years and I didn’t know that grooming is harder for older felines. It’s important to start brushing when they are kittens otherwise it can be painful if your cat doesn’t like the brush. Yikes! LOL My cat actually gets mad when I finish grooming. He will use his paws and pull the brush back to his body! Seriously!

          Reply
    2. C.R.McL.
      May 10, 2018

      Wow! I’ve never heard of this idea! Since my cat LOVES being brushed this technique might just put the icing on the cake (…or fur! LOL) Thanks for the great tip!

      Reply
      1. Melissa Smith
        May 10, 2018

        Haha let us know how it works out!!

        Reply

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