Brushing your cat is an often overlooked task, but it’s an important one.
But why is that?
Well, because regular brushing not only keeps cat fur from getting tangled and matted, but it also encourages good blood circulation and gives you a chance to inspect for things like fleas, worms or injuries. Great deal, right?
Here’s the trick, though: You have to make sure you’re doing it right.
If it takes you 1 minute to brush your cat and you’ve barely got any hair off, you’re doing it wrong.
That’s OK — read this quick article and you’ll be on your way to avoiding the common mistakes people make when brushing their cat.
For these expert tips, we talked with Melissa Linhares-Upton, groomer at The Wicked Groom in Falmouth, Massachusetts.
4 Common Mistakes When Brushing a Cat
1. You think you DON’T have to brush at all because your cat self-grooms.
Many people see their cats grooming themselves 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 their own. They need help removing excess hair, especially during heavy shedding times. Senior cats have an even more difficult time keeping themselves clean.
Linhares-Upton suggests the following brushing schedule for cats:
- 1–2 times per day for longhaired breeds
- 1–3 times per week for shorthaired cats
Brush your cat more often during high shedding seasons.
2. You’re using the wrong brush for your cat.
Before you begin, make sure you have the right tool in hand.
In her book Starting Out Right With Your New Cat, Kim Campbell Thornton makes a few great suggestions for brushes and combs.
Best brush for a longhaired cat:
- Wide-toothed metal comb
- PLUS a pin brush to remove loose hair after combing
Best brushes for a shorthaired cat:
3. You’re brushing AGAINST the direction of the cat’s coat.
Some people (and even some groomers) say you should brush against the direction of the fur … but not so fast.
Linhares-Upton advises against it. “I think it pulls more when you go against the grain,” she says, “kind of like when you were little and someone pulled your hair into a ponytail too tightly. It hurts.”
Most cats are not a fan of having their fur brushed away from its natural direction, and you could earn yourself an annoyed swipe. Instead, try brushing with the fur’s natural direction but then using a blower to go against it.
“When I use the blower, I go against the coat because it helps remove loose hair,” says Linhares-Upton. “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.
4. You’re trying to remove mats yourself — and not having any luck.
Some mats are already loose and so they’re easily detangled with regular brushing.
But others are hard and firmly entrenched.
Don’t try to simply rip stubborn mats off your cat. Doing so will hurt the cat, who 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 the mats clipped off. (Many veterinary clinics use clippers during checkups to help out, too.)
Final Thoughts on Mistakes When Brushing a Cat
Brushing regularly keeps your cat cleaner, improves circulation and health, and lets you keep an eye out for fleas, ticks or injuries that you might not notice otherwise.
Cats who are brushed regularly also swallow less hair.
And that means you’ll be spared one of the worst sounds your cat will make: the dreaded hairball hack.
Some people swear by a brush called the EquiGroomer. Here’s a quick video review:
To learn more about the EquiGroomer and see reviews, see the product page on Amazon here.
- Linhares-Upton, Melissa. Professional pet groomer at The Wicked Groom in Falmouth, Massachusetts. 2017 interview with Petful.
- Duno, Steve. Be the Cat: Secrets of the Natural Cat Owner. Sterling Publishing Company, 2008. 110. https://books.google.com/books?id=Ydo3fEPMBlgC&pg=PA110#v=onepage&q&f=false.
- Thornton, Kim Campbell. Starting Out Right With Your New Cat: A Complete Guide. Innova Publishing. 2005. 152. https://books.google.com/books?id=NzNlH9KdofgC&pg=PA152#v=onepage&q&f=false
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This article was originally published in 2017 and is regularly updated. It was last reviewed for accuracy and updated April 4, 2022.