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How To Brush a Cat: 6 Vet-Approved Steps

man brushing norwegian forest cat
Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Kit Copson

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	Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore


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If you’re a new cat parent or have a reluctant brush-ee, knowing how to brush them in a way that doesn’t result in your hand being mangled is key. Long or short-haired, it’s important to brush your cat to help get rid of dead hairs and dander, and distribute healthy oils throughout your cat’s fur and skin to keep it in tip-top condition.

Brushing also helps keep hairballs at bay and can be really enjoyable for cats once they come around to it. Furthermore, it’s great for strengthening your bond with your cat as it’s an enjoyable activity you can do together. So, without further ado, let’s get into our step-by-step guide on how to brush a cat safely.

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How to Brush a Cat

brushing cat fur
Image Credit: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock

How you brush your cat and what you’ll need depends on the type of coat your cat has. There are no two ways about it—you’re going to have to put a bit of elbow grease into brushing your long or medium-haired cat. Long-haired cats are prone to matting and tangles, so we recommend brushing your extra-fluffy friend daily to help reduce this.

Brushing a short-haired cat takes less time and, with our own short-haired cats (with no undercoat), we’ve found that a slicker brush is all that’s necessary to get the job done. You also only need to brush short-hairs once per week, but feel free to do it more if it’s shedding season and/or your cat enjoys it.

Follow these steps to brush your cat. For long-haired cats, you’ll need to equip yourself with a brushing tool kit to tackle mats, tangles, and day-to-day brushing.

What You’ll Need

  • Slicker brush
  • Comb
  • Deshedding tool (for long-haired cats)

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The 6 Simple Steps

cat brushing a home
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Note: If you’re dealing with a cat with mats in their fur, gently detangle the mats with your fingers and a comb before going ahead and brushing. If the mats are too large for you to detangle and comb out, you might need to use cat hair clippers (NOT human clippers).

If you’re not experienced in using cat hair clippers, we strongly recommend you seek the help of a professional groomer who can show you how to do it in the future.

  1. If your cat is new to brushing, let them spend some time with the brushes and combs sniffing, batting, and rubbing against them to allow them to get used to their presence and show them that they’re not a threat.
  2. Stroke your cat to soothe and relax them before starting.
  3. (Long-haired cats) Start with the deshedding tool. Gently brush your cat’s back in the direction the hair grows to get them used to the feeling. If they move away, don’t force them to stay. Let them go and come back to you as they wish—we don’t want to risk scaring them.
  4. (Long-haired cats) If your cat is taking to the brushing well, move on to harder-to-reach areas like the tummy, legs, and head. Again, let them go if they move away.
  5. (All cats) When you’re done with de-shedding, take the slicker brush and repeat the above steps. This makes sure you get rid of any leftover loose hairs. If you have a short-haired cat and you’re just starting out with brushing them, you might want to try brushing them gently with a small comb first to get them used to the feeling.
  6. (Long-haired cats, optional for short-haired cats) Finally, comb your cat all over to detangle and smooth them down.

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Final Thoughts

Bear in mind that your cat may not take to brushing straight away, and for these cats, patience and consistency are key. Don’t be disheartened if it takes a bit of time—here at Excited Cats, it took a while for some of our cats to get used to the feeling but now, they love it!

Pick a time when your cat is feeling chilled out to start brushing. Never force your cat to be brushed if they’re moving away from you—this teaches them that brushing is a traumatic experience.

You may need to experiment with types of brushes as some cats will tolerate a slicker brush and others a rubber brush or glove.

Instead, have some treats on hand that you can give them every time they sit and tolerate the brush, even if only for a short period. Praise and stroke your cat throughout the process, too.  This teaches them to associate brushing with something positive and may help them warm up to the experience. Good luck and happy brushing!


Featured Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

About the Author

Kit Copson
Kit Copson
Kit Copson is a freelance writer and lifelong animal lover with a strong interest in animal welfare. She has parented various furry beings over the years and is currently a proud cat mom of two—one very chilled (unless hungry) Siamese and a skittish but adorable Domestic Shorthair—and dog mom of one—an adopted Bichon Poodle cross. When not writing about or spending time with animals, Kit can be found doodling in her sketchpad, reading, or more often than not, drinking tea.

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