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What Cats Need Grooming? Let’s Talk Bathing and Brushing Your Cat

Cats are often so good at grooming themselves that we sometimes think they don’t need our help. But the answer to what cats need grooming is actually that all cats need our help — but the frequency and type of grooming varies depending on your cat’s breed and coat.

Jackie Brown  |  Apr 5th 2018


Lots of people assume that cats don’t need baths or brushing. Despite the well-known stereotype of cats’ aversion to water, regular baths can be helpful for almost all cats and all cats will benefit from regular brushing. So, what cats need grooming? Are there any types or breeds of cats that need special attention when it comes to bathing, brushing and grooming?

What cats need baths?

A ginger cat getting a bath.

What cats need baths? Photography ©Ulianna | Thinkstock.

Certain breeds and mixed breeds with long, thick coats benefit from regular bathing, which can help cut down on matting. Brushing and combing for these breeds is also important, but the cleaner the coat is, the less it will tangle and mat. Birmans, Maine Coons, Norwegian Forest Cats, Persians, Himalayans, Ragdolls and Siberians all have long, dense coats that require frequent brushing and regular bathing. 

Do short-haired cats need to be bathed?

Some cat coat types are less likely to mat. Generally, silky-haired cats who have short coats with very little undercoat like Bengals, Burmese and Siamese tend not to have too much trouble with tangles. However, short-haired cats can still benefit from occasional bathing, which will remove dirt, saliva, excess oils and dander. Not only will the coat look, smell and feel fantastic, but bathing your cat might even translate to less shedding since you will be washing away a lot of that loose hair before it ends up on your couch.

Short-haired cats don’t always translate to low maintenance, however. “There are also short-haired cats that have very dense coats and need regular bathing to eliminate excessive shedding, hairballs and even matting,” says Lynn Paolillo of Greer, South Carolina, a certified feline master groomer, certified feline creative groomer, and instructor and certifier for the National Cat Groomers Institute. “The Exotic can have particularly hairy coats, but so can many domestic cats of all lengths of hair.”

Do hairless cats need baths?

Hairless cat breeds aren’t exempt from baths! In fact, hairless cats need a regular bathing routine. Hairless cat breeds like Sphynx cats leave oily residue on clothes, sheets and other fabrics if you don’t bathe them about every week.

How often should you bathe a cat?

The frequency of bathing depends on your cat’s hair coat and skin. “This can vary based on the coat texture and even color of the coat,” Paolillo explains. “As a general rule of thumb, long-haired cats should receive a bath, fluff dry and comb out at a minimum of every 8 weeks in order to keep the coat from ever becoming matted. If the cat’s coat mats easily or feels very cottony (typical in cats that are white, blue, blue-cream and other pale colors), then they may need more frequent bath appointments to keep them in full coat.”

Could you ever over-bathe a cat?

“I have never met a cat that wouldn’t benefit from a warm, massaging bath,” Paolillo says. “If someone is a trained professional and is using high-quality, cat-safe shampoo, it is almost impossible to over-bathe.”

Can you give your cat a bath at home?

Depending on your cat’s temperament and your level of ambition, you can bathe your cat yourself or use a professional groomer, preferably one who specializes in cats. “Bathing can be tricky with adult or senior cats if you have never done it before, since it is important to get the cat completely dry after the bath — not just a quick towel,” Paolillo says. “Bathing kittens under 6 months of age is very easy and doable at home. Bathing them regularly at this age introduces them to the process so they are comfortable with it as they grow up and get bigger.”

How often should you brush a cat?

A gray cat being brushed or groomed and looking silly.

All cats need to be brushed, but the frequency with which you should brush your cat varies. Photography ©photosaint | Thinkstock.

Whether you bathe your cat yourself or bring her to a professional groomer, brushing your cat regularly is essential to keep the coat tangle-free. How often you need to brush depends on your cat’s coat, how long it is and how prone it is to matting. For some cats, this might mean daily brushing. Others cats are fine with brushing a few days a week.

As with bathing, it’s best to start regular brushing in kittenhood so your cat grows up knowing what to expect. If your cat isn’t used to being brushed, start slow. “Praise throughout and give the cat’s favorite treats at the end of any grooming session,” Paolillo advises. “Short sessions can lead to longer sessions over time.”

What should you use to brush a cat?

When buying a brush for your cat, test it out on your forearm to make sure the bristles are not too sharp and scratchy. In fact, you might consider skipping brushes altogether and using a wide-toothed metal comb instead.

“Most dog grooming brushes are too rough on a cat’s fragile skin,” Paolillo says. “I recommend [that] my clients keep a comb next to their TV remote. While you watch TV, have the cat sit on your lap and comb her hair. Focus on areas that mat first: chin, chest, armpits, belly and the back of rear legs. Even 10 minutes a few days a week will not only build a trusting relationship between the cat and the grooming process but also prevent painful matting.”

What should you do if your cat has mats?

If you feel lots of tangles and knots in your cat’s fur, don’t attempt to cut or remove them out on your own. Seek the help of a professional groomer. Using a professional is also good advice if your cat isn’t used to being bathed.

“If your cat is already matted, or you are worried about the cat’s stress level, it is best to seek the help of a professional for the initial appointments,” Paolillo says. “A trained cat groomer will be able to offer recommendations with schedule frequency, grooming services and what the owner can do at home.”

Tell us: In your experience, what cats need grooming? How often to you bathe, brush or groom your cat?

April is Spring Cleaning month here at Catster! Stay tuned for a few articles every week on all things spring cleaning and cats — whether that’s cat-safe ways to clean your home, spring-cleaning your cat’s grooming routine with advice on brushing and bathing — and much more.

Thumbnail: Photography ©anurakpong | iStock / Getty Images Plus. 

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