I know some of you have cats who simply won’t tolerate brushing. But I bet there are as many others who may never have tried to brush a cat, or who have cats who are ambivalent about brushing. I tend to forget this task when life gets busy. The way I keep myself motivated is by convincing myself that brushing keeps more cat hair from eventually landing on the floor or the furniture. It can also be a pleasant way to bond with your cat. And it’s got to be healthy for the skin and the circulation, not to mention the fur.
When I approach brushing with a cat, I use a lot of the same tactics I do for claw clipping. Here are some suggestions to try and make brushing a more pleasant (or at least tolerable) experience for your cat.
You don’t want to try and brush your cat if he’s all worked up — riled up from playing, for example. Take advantage of a time when your cat is relaxed and fairly still. If your cat is napping or just waking up from a nap, that’s a good time. If your cat is circling your feet at mealtime, or has just emerged from a wresting match with your other cat or dog, that’s not as good a time.
Easy does it. Start small and gentle, and have patience. Use the brush at first without a lot of pressure. If you know your cat well, pick a part of the body that is least threatening for that cat. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to start by brushing your cat’s belly — many cats would hate that. Where does your cat love to be touched? This will vary for each cat. Does your cat loved to be scratched behind the ears, for example? You could gently run a brush through that area. Does your cat love to have her chin scratched? Some cats will rub their chin against the brush, obviously enjoying the experience.
If your cat goes ballistic at the sight or the feel of a cat brush, perhaps you need to lead up to the experience with a more gentle sensation. For example, you might take a dry washcloth and run it gently across your cat’s body. Or start by simply petting your cat with long, smooth strokes. Gradually, add a washcloth; then, add a gentle brush.
Help the cat associate the brushing experience with a reward and pleasant time with you. Give your cat a treat right after your brushing session. Even if the brushing session only lasted for a moment, have the treat ready and give it immediately, so your cat associates brushing and the reward. Pet your cat and tell her how great she is.
Is your cat more secure in a quiet space? If you have other cats in the household, is your cat more relaxed when she’s alone? If so, remove the other stimulation (cats, dogs, children, noise) to see if your cat will tolerate your brushing attempts. I’ve recommended Calming Essence and Rescue Remedy for other situations, and it might work here. I give Calming Essence on the skin, using one drop in front of the ear (not in the ear), and rubbing in the drop. Consult with your vet on the best way to give this to your cat. I find that it does work if it’s not overused.
If you’re really fortunate, perhaps you’ll end up with a cat like my Keiran, who comes running with delight when the brush comes out. For Keiran, brushing is as good as playing or eating — perhaps even better. Keiran serves as a good reminder of what a pleasant, bonding experience brushing can be for cats.
Do your cats love to be brushed? Or are they ambivalent or against brushing? Do you brush, and if so, how do you try to make it a better experience for your cat? Tell us in the comments!
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of a short story collection about people and place. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.