Most cats are expert-level self-groomers owing to their incredible flexibility and fastidiousness when it comes to hygiene. On occasion however, they fall short of the necessary attention to detail required to meet their own standards, and this is where owners come in. But what should you use?
Why might a cat need assistance in grooming?
The most common reason is reduced flexibility. If this is the reason that your cat is being less than attentive to the condition of their coat, then investigating the root cause for this could be worthwhile. Obese cats and those with osteoarthritis, for example, may benefit from a little intervention from veterinary professionals. Making them feel that bit more like their old, healthy selves might mean they are more inclined to engage in self-care.
Why is grooming so important?
Cats moult to some extent, year-round. ‘Dead’ fur can become clumped and even matted. These mats can tighten and creep close to the skin, tugging at it and even causing sores. A smooth coat creates more constant coverage of fur over the body, insulating the cat better from the cold (and the heat for that matter). Therefore, ridding the coat of clumps which cause the fur to stand on end is beneficial.
Grooming also improves circulation and muscle tone, as well as stimulating glands within the skin which waterproof the coat. So, from this, we can probably all agree that grooming is fundamental to a cat’s health and wellbeing. Now we need to choose the best tool/s for the job.
A three-pronged approach is your best bet with short-coated kitties.
Fine-toothed combs are a good place to start, as these will highlight the presence of parasites such as fleas and ticks. Remember to tease knots out gently, for fear of losing the trust your cat has placed in you. Your fingers are useful tools for separating any mats and lifting the hair in preparation for grooming too, since they are blunt-ended and gentle. And therefore likely to be accepted by even the most dubious of felines.
When it comes to sweeping through the coat from head to tail, a second type of brush comes into play, and this is the bristle brush. A wider, more paddle-like style of brush, this will do the bulk of the dead hair removal.
When it comes to ‘mopping’ up loosened hair, a third type of brush works wonders, namely, the grooming mitt. Dusting off the dead stuff, these mitts also work the skin and muscles to improve circulation. This is the stage (assuming you’ve gotten this far with all your fingers intact) that your cat will likely tolerate, maybe even enjoy, the most.
Going straight in with a fine-toothed comb on these guys will likely prove to be too ambitious. At best you might discover this by getting the comb lodged; at worst your cat might find their own way of telling you with their teeth and claws. Wide-toothed combs are your friends here. Even so, take great care and go slowly, teasing out knots carefully using your fingers too; cat skin is remarkably thin in places. Use the wide-toothed comb over the entire body and finish with a grooming mitt in a similar fashion to what is described above.
The weird and potentially wonderful
There are a number of commercially available grooming tools, including such things as ‘rakes’. Each cat is individual, as is each person grooming them, so it could be worth looking into various options and deciding for yourself whether these are helpful. One benefit of the trusty old comb however, is that you can be sure you’re grooming from root to tip and thus preventing mat build up.
What not to use
Scissors. It is incredibly tempting to cut mats out with a set of snips. However, mats can grow so close to the skin that it’s near impossible to differentiate skin from fur. Any trust your kitty has placed in you to do with grooming will vanish in a moment if you accidentally cut them, and it could even mean a trip to the vets. Clippers may be more helpful in these instances, but care must still be taken with them. For extremely matted cats, seeking the assistance of your vet to start with might be a sensible option. Once you have a blank canvas of clean, mat-free fur to work with, your cat is likely to tolerate future grooming sessions better.
So, as you can see, there is no real ‘best brush’ as it largely depends upon the type of cat you are grooming. What’s more, multiple brushes are often useful, as is getting your fingers involved. Having a range of brushes within your armoury though, is surely a good bet.