Health & care

Bad fur day? Read our cat grooming 101

Date updated: 17 11 2017

Looking this fabulous doesn’t happen by accident. Our feline friends know this better than anyone, which is why self-grooming comes second only to napping on their list of fave things to do.

But even the most image-conscious cat needs a helping hand from time to time. From brushing basics through to banishing bath time woes, here’s our essential guide to grooming for a happy, healthy cat…

So… why grooming?
Grooming makes life easier. In the Spring,  many cats lose their heavy winter coat ready for the warmer weather. By brushing your buddy’s coat, you can pick up much of that loose hair at source - so there’s less of it to chase with the vacuum cleaner.

More importantly, it makes life a lot more comfortable for your cat. Through self-grooming, cats have a tendency to pick off loose hairs with their tongue, swallow them and sometimes vomit them up later as fur balls (gross, but natural!). But things can go wrong with fur balls; especially if they get too big and get stuck in the stomach. Regular brushing can help remove much of the hair before it gets swallowed, reducing the amount of fur ingested in the first place.

And no matter how thorough your buddy is, there will be some tangles that even they can’t shift. Tangled fur can quickly become matted. It’s really annoying for them, and can lead to skin irritation and infection.

On top of all this, a grooming sesh is a great excuse for some quality time with your buddy. It gets them used to being handled, and lets you check for fleas and ticks, skin, eye and ear problems.

Long or short-haired, all cats deserve regular grooming. And once you get into a routine, those grooming sessions become second nature - for both you and your buddy.


Essential grooming kit
Brushes, combs, clippers: here are what to look for…

Brush types  
A slicker brush can be a good choice for long or medium-haired cats. These have a curved shape and tightly-packed, fine wire bristles for picking up loose hair and for removing matting. For short-hair cats, a standard dual-sided brush can be just the job. You use the fine tooth side to get rid of tangles and the soft bristle side to smooth and help spread the natural oils across the surface of the body.

Mitt brushes are another option for long and short-haired cats. It’s basically a glove; so grooming is just an extension of petting - great if your buddy loves being stroked but gets nervous at grooming time.

These can be useful for Persians, Maine Coons and other long-haired breeds that are prone to matting. A mat-breaker consists of a row of blades designed to cut through the tough, dried-up dirt quickly and painlessly.

Nail clippers
No need for any specialist kit here: a human nail clipper works just fine!

Cat shampoo
Never use human shampoo on your cat (did you know that tea tree oil is toxic to cats?). So get a shampoo designed specifically for cats - and follow the advice of your vet on specialist medicated shampoos if your cat has any skin issues.


  • Check your buddy’s coat. The fur should be glossy and spring back under your hand to the touch. There should be no wounds, bumps or bald patches. Check the armpits and groin for signs of scratching, blood and black spots (all signs of fleas).
  • Short-haired cats. From head to tail, work the wire side of your dual-sided brush over the fur, following the direction of growth. Repeat the process with the soft side of the brush.
  •  Long-haired cats. Run your fingers through the fur, checking for tangles and matting. Small knots can be teased apart with your fingers. For thicker matting, use the mat-breaker. Next, comb through the fur with the wire brush. For a bushy tail, make a parting in the middle and gently brush out the fur on each side.

Cats and baths aren’t always a happy combination. The good news is that a cat bath is a pretty rare event. Exactly how rare depends on lots of things: breed, age, activity level, any health issues and how much time they spend outdoors. Your vet will advise you on what’s normal for your cat.

Here are our suggestions for a pain-free bathtime…

  • Use the sink or tub (it’s a less daunting prospect than a full-size bath). Put a bath mat inside it to avoid slippages.
  • Fill it with 3 to 4 inches of warm (not hot!) water.
  • Use your hand as a cup to wet the fur. Now work the shampoo into the fur from head to tail. With a spray hose on a gentle setting, rinse thoroughly.
  • Gently pat dry.


Claw trimming
As well as helping to save your sofa from scratch marks, trimming helps to prevent ingrown claws and painful broken claws. Your aim is to get the trimming done swiftly and painlessly so kitty doesn’t get spooked!

Here’s how you can approach it…

  • From a young age, get your cat used to having their paws handled in preparation for trimming. When your buddy’s in your arms, hold each of their paws for a few seconds - and press each paw pad so the nails extend.
  • Choose a time when your cat is relaxed (e.g. after dinner).
  • While massaging the toe, gently press the toe pad and clip the white of each toe. Only clip the WHITE part of the nail (the pink part is where the blood vessels and nerves are).

Follow these maintenance tips and the end result should be a clean, happy, healthier cat!

Clipping the nails of ‘outdoor’ cats isn’t always recommended because nails are their defence against other predators.