Everyday Care: Brushing your Cat

Cats are generally very fastidious and often prefer to groom themselves.  They can spend hoursIMG 65801 300x200 each day grooming themselves and typically do a very good job in keeping their coat appearing healthy.  Although most cats do a good job in grooming themselves it is important for cats to be brushed periodically.  A cat with long hair should be brushed daily while a cat with short hair can be brushed once a week.  Brushing your cat will remove debris, dead hair, decrease the chance of developing hairballs, and prevent the hair from becoming matted or tangled.

For short-haired cats a short metal comb is very effective in removing dead hair, debris, and to keep the coat looking healthy.  Brush in the direction of your cat’s coat.  It is often painful to cats when you brush the coat in the reverse direction.  Brush the entire body including the legs and head.  Avoid brushing the face because it is sensitive and you can injure your cat’s eyes if you poke them accidentally.  Make sure the comb is short and do not to brush the skin because that can cause an injury.

For long-haired cats you will need a large comb or long pin brush.  As you are brushing the entire body it is very important that you check for tangles and matted hair.  If you find either of these be very gentle in brushing them.  Go slowly and work only on a small part of the matted or tangled hair.  If this process is too painful for your cat, or you are not going to be successful in removing them, they should be shaved or trimmed away.  This is best done with clippers and not scissors.  Matted or tangled hair tugs on the skin can be very painful, predisposes your cat to skin infections, and will only worsen if not addressed appropriately.

Cats are known for getting getting hairballs in their gastrointestinal tract. IMG 6576 300x200 This occurs primarily in long-haired cats.  As cats groom themselves they ingest their own hair and it can form a hairball.  This can cause vomiting which can clear the hairball from their gastrointestinal tract.  Some cats will develop more significant problems if the hairballs become large and are not eliminated either by vomiting or through their bowel movements.  In this situation hairballs can cause a life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction and require endoscopic or surgical removal.  Brushing your cat can minimize this problem.  If brushing is not enough there are other remedies that can be tried. To learn more about hairballs in cats, please click here.

Brushing your cat’s coat should be an enjoyable experience for you and your cat.  If the brushing is done inappropriately it might be painful for your cat.  This will cause your cat to avoid you when the brush comes out, and if you force the situation your cat will put up a fight. If you are brushing your cat appropriately, and possibly including treats before and after brushing, your cat will most likely make your job easy.

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Dr Peter Nurre

Peter Nurre, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (internal medicine) is a board- certified veterinary internal medicine specialist. His professional interests include internal medicine and cardiology.

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