How to groom a cat

Do cats really need groomed? Well, yes they actually do. I know it seems like a cat takes care of all their grooming on their own, after all they give themselves baths, but they occasionally need help from us too. You should be grooming your cat at least once a week. It doesn't have to be a long complicated event though, a simple 5 minutes of brushing is all that's really needed. 

Do cats need help grooming?

Cats are, by nature, clean animals and don’t like being dirty.  This is also true about kittens.  Even the youngest kitty can be seen trying to wash itself.  There are instances during your cat’s life however when it will be unable to groom itself, or it could be that the kind of cat you choose has high maintenance fur (such as a long hair Persian) and needs a little extra help to keep its fur in good condition.

Despite not wanting to be dirty, and despite the constant self-grooming, this does not automatically mean that your cat is going to enjoy you taking part in it's grooming routine. In fact, she may not like it at all! The best way to avoid this is to introduce your kitten to being groomed by you from the very start. If you get into an immediate habit of combing and brushing kitty once a week, then he won’t mind your intervention. 

Related Reading: How to reduce cat fur in your house!

Grooming in the form of brushing should be done frequently enough so that kitty's fur stays in good shape. Some cats are more prone to mats and will need groomed more than others. Some people find it easier to groom their cat while it's sleeping, and others find that annoys their cat. Of course all cats are different, so find a time and situation that works best for your kitty.

How to groom a cat

Have a brush on hand and gently brush the kitten in the direction his fur grows. From head to tail you'll want to make long strokes with the brush. He’ll get used to how this feels, and often will start to purr his approval. If you can get her to let you brush her belly quickly, then do that also. If you have a long-furred kitten, spend enough time to thoroughly comb through his coat. This will ensure that tangles don’t build up and his coat will remain healthy looking. 

If you're using a soft brush then brush down each leg towards the paw. Try to brush both outside and on the inside of the legs. Be careful on sensitive areas if using a stiff bristled brush or a metal brush.

While you're brushing, make sure that you spend a minute to gently put the flea comb through his fur. You want to be sure that he remains flea-free, and you can initiate a flea-removal treatment should your comb find something. 

Fleas tend to congregate on a cat's back above the tail and near the neck and back of the head. If you have no reason to believe your cat has been exposed to fleas (she's only indoors with no outside animals coming in) then just go over these 2 areas. No need to flea comb the whole cat unless you find something. If fleas are present you'll either see the actual bug in the comb or little reddish black specks of flea poop.

Cat grooming Tools

You won't need much to groom your cat, just a brush and a flea comb. If you have a kitten you might want to start out with a baby brush. These are very soft bristled and are gentle to the kittens skin and fur. An adult cat will need a regular cat brush. I like the plastic or natural bristle type. They sell metal 'rake' style brushes (see picture below) but you'll only want to use that if your cat has long hair. You can also buy brushes with bristles on one side and metal teeth on the other. 

You'll also need a flea comb. Both brushes and comb come in various price ranges so you should be able to find one to fit your budget. I've linked the ones we currently use for you, but I have used dollar store brushes with good results too!

You might need to try different types of brushes until you find one your cat likes. My Bengal's favorite is a horse brush. She will literally run over to me if she sees me holding it. No idea why she chose this brush, but we let her have it since a cat that likes her brush makes grooming very easy.

Choosing a cat brush

Getting your cat used to being groomed

Some cats enjoy being brushed from the very first time and others absolutely hate it. To get a cat used to being brushed you'll want to start slowly. First let her see the brush. Hold it in front of her and allow her to smell it. It smells weird to her now, but once you brush her a few times she'll be able to smell her own scent on it.

After she checks the brush out, run the brush down her back a few times and check her reaction. If she likes it then keep brushing, you might not have a problem at all! If she seems a bit scared or weirded out then stop. Set the brush down and let her check it out again. Let her run off is she wants. Short sessions are best in the beginning.

Repeat these short sessions every other day till she lets you brush her for 1-2 minutes at a time. As she allows more time brushing her, extend the time between brushing sessions. When you get to 2-3 minutes of brushing, you should only be brushing 2-3 times a week. You'll want to work up to one or two 5 minute sessions a week.

The time you invest grooming your kitten will pay dividends when he becomes a cat that needs help with cleaning his fur. A cat that is used to being groomed is far easier to maintain than one who turns every grooming session into a battle of wills! In fact, the more you handle your cat like your grooming them, the easier it will be when you're grooming them.

While you're at it, pick your cat up and hold her paws. Press gently on each paw pad for a few seconds to get her used to the motion you'll go through to clip her nails. Touch her ears and look inside them. In How to do a weekly health check on your kitty I talk about looking her over for health issues. This can be done in the same little 'session' or you can just go through the motions quickly to get her used to it.

Grooming cats without getting scratched

The more you handle and brush your cat the more she will tolerate and even enjoy it. It works best if you start while she's still young, but even if she's full grown you can still get her used to being groomed, it just might take a little longer.


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