Keeping Up Appearances – How to Brush Your Cat Properly

Brushing is an essential element of cat grooming that should be performed regularly, regardless of breed.

But given that cats spend up to 50% of their day preening, it’s a practice that’s often overlooked by owners.

So why is brushing your cat so important?

Why Brushing Your Cat is Important

Cats are meticulous when it comes to looking after their coats, spending considerable amounts of time nibbling and licking their fur.

But there are times when they’ll need our help. Here’s why.

Removes Tangles and Debris

A proper brushing technique can help to remove tangles, mats, dirt and debris.

This is especially the case with hard-to-reach areas including the back, stomach and underside of the tail.

So for geriatric or arthritic cats that aren’t too flexible, brushing is essential.

Prevents Hairballs

During self-grooming sessions, a cat will often swallow loose fur, which can then accumulate in the stomach and form a hairball.

Brushing helps to prevent hairballs from forming by removing loose fur from your cat’s coat before it has a chance to be ingested.

Coat Maintenance

Long-haired cats are more prone to developing hairballs than short-haired ones.

This is simply because they have a greater amount of loose fur that can be ingested during grooming sessions. Thus, regular brushing is really important.

There’s also more chance of tangles and mats forming on the coat. These often lead to discomfort and in some cases, skin irritation.

This can be avoided altogether by regular brushing.

Controls Shedding

Cats have two major shedding seasons each year – one in the winter, one in the summer. However, a cat exposed to dry indoor heat will shed throughout the year.

Regular brushing can reduce shedding by removing loose fur before it has a chance to fall out and accumulate on your furniture or clothing.

Strengthens Bonds

In the feline world, grooming is much more than just a cleanliness routine.

It’s a social activity that strengthens bonds and expresses affection.

Cats often groom each other in a behavior known as ‘allogrooming,’ which helps to establish and maintain social bonds.

Bybrushing your cat, you participate in this shared ritual, further enchancing the bond between you and your cat.

Health Check Opportunity

Grooming your cat will also provide you with a great opportunity to perform a health check.

Before brushing, you have the chance to feel for lumps, bumps or sores. This can help you avoid sore spots during brushing.

You can also feel the ribs and stomach area for weight loss, as well as taking the opportunity to check for fleas.

Long-Haired Cat Brushing

Brushing Tools

The tools you’ll need to brush your cat will depend entirely on his coat. Generally-speaking, there are two types: long-haired coats and short-haired coats.

Brushing Tools for Long-Haired Coats

For long-haired cats, a pin brush is highly recommended.

The bristles on pin brushes are straight and can get through fine and dense coats.

You’ll also need wide, medium and fine-tooth combs to help remove mats and tangles of varying sizes.

For hard-to-remove tangles that won’t brush or comb out, purchase a detangling spray.

Cornstarch can also help but detangling sprays aren’t as messy.


  • Pin Brush
  • Wide, Medium and Fine-Tooth Combs
  • Detangling Spray

Brushing Tools for Short-Haired Coats

Brushing short-haired, low-shedding cats such as Siamese requires a brush that won’t irritate the skin.

For this purpose, a rubber currycomb comes highly-recommended.

Currycombs have rubber nubs instead of bristles and are well-suited to short to medium haired coats.

So too are slicker brushes. These are basically small brushes with thin wire bristles bent at the tips.

For short, dense coats, a soft bristle brush may be a better option than a slicker brush.

A fine-toothed comb is another important tool that will enable you to run through the hair, trapping fleas, their eggs and excrement.

To get a good sheen you could also use a piece of chamois or velvet.


  • Rubber Currycomb/Grooming Glove
  • Slicker Brush
  • Soft Bristle Brush
  • Fine-Tooth Comb/Flea Comb
  • Piece of Chamois and/or Velvet

Brushing Tools for Special Coats

If you own a crimped or wirehaired cat, use the same tools that you would for a short-haired feline.

Should you cat’s hair be sparse or non-existent, as is the case with Sphinx cats, consider using a rubber curry comb.

This will be easy on his skin and remove the fine down that covers it.


  • Rubber Currycomb/Grooming Glove
  • Slicker Brush
  • Soft Bristle Brush
  • Fine-Tooth Comb/Flea Comb

Where to Buy Grooming Tools for Cats

Chewy – Grooming Supplies and Accessories
PetCo – Grooming and Bathing
PetSafe RX – Cleaning and Grooming

Brushing a Short-Hair Cat

Where to Brush Your Cat

Consider choosing an elevated position such as a counter-top or table to brush your cat.

It will be kinder to your back, and you’ll be able brush more thoroughly.

We advise using a rubber mat as well – this will prevent your cat from slipping.

Alternatively, if you’re more comfortable with your cat on your lap, place a thick towel over your legs to catch hair and to potentially prevent injury!

In our experience, a counter-top or table is the preferable option.

Cats tend to get hot when sitting on our laps so they might get impatient during a brushing session.

So how do you effectively brush your cat?

How to Brush Your Cat

As with the brushing tools mentioned above, your brushing technique will depend on the length of your cat’s coat.

Brushing Technique for Long-Haired Coats

Begin the brushing session with a wide-tooth comb. Start at the tail base and brush one area of the coat at a time.

Raise a section of the fur and comb underneath. This is the most effective way to penetrate the dense coat and deal with hidden mats.

Work your way up to the head, paying particular attention to armpits, the groin and behind the ears – mats are very easy to miss in these areas.

When you come across a tangle or mat, gently work it apart with your fingers. Don’t pull at it though because you’ll cause discomfort.

For stubborn mats and tangles, apply the detangling spray and work it through with the comb.

Comb the neck ruff, chest and tummy. For the stomach, use the same gentle technique as you would with a short-haired cat.

For long-haired felines, try to groom your cat while he’s lying on his side.

When you’re done with the wide-toothed comb, use the medium-tooth comb.

Take care to comb gently and slowly, capturing any mats and tangles that you’ve missed.

Brushing Technique for Short-Haired Coats

Move the rubber currycomb mentioned above in a circular motion. This will loosen the dander and dead hair.

Then take the slicker brush and perform long, gentle strokes starting from the back of the head and down the length of the body on either side of the spine. Don’t rake the brush over the spine.

(If your cat’s coat is dense, use the soft-bristle brush instead of the currycomb).

Brushing the tummy and chest can be awkward. A good approach is to gently raise your cat so that he’s standing on his hind legs.

Have your cat face away from you and gently lift him up. Hold your cat in position while supporting him under the front legs while gently brushing.

Once you’re done with the slicker brush, take the fine-tooth comb and pull it through the coat to trap fleas and their debris.

Finish by using a piece of velvet or chamois to bring out the coat’s sheen. Remember to rub in the direction that the hair goes.

Regardless of whether your cat is a short, medium or long-haired breed, be gentle and quick when brushing his tail.

Our feline friends don’t take too kindly to having their tails messed with!

Woman Brushing Cat

How Often to Brush Your Cat

The frequency with which your brush your cat depends on coat length.

Long-haired felines really should be brushed daily to prevent the formation of tangles and mats.

By keeping on top of things, you’ll be able to hold shorter brushing sessions.

Twice-weekly brushing sessions should be enough to keep short-haired coats healthy. You may want to up the frequency if your cat has hair balls though.

Final Thoughts

Our tips and advice are intended as a general grooming guide for a typical cat owner.

If you’re thinking of showing your cat in a competition or own one with particular health requirements, you should seek out a professional groomer.

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