Cat Grooming Guide: Coat Care

Though cats clean themselves, cats benefit from regular grooming. Grooming lets you detect injuries and strengthens the bond between you and your cat.

Grooming, Stress-Free

Scaredy Cut is the gentle clipper designed for grooming sensitive pets.
Learn More

Cats have a reputation for keeping themselves clean and many do. However, all cats benefit from regular grooming. Grooming serves several purposes: to help keep the coat clean and tidy, to detect injuries or illness and to strengthen the bond between owner and cat. The right tools and a laid-back approach will go far towards keeping your cat clean and healthy.

Why Groom a Cat?

Have you ever seen a mother cat with kittens? Grooming keeps the kittens clean and reinforces the bond between mother and kitten. Between people and pets, grooming has many benefits, which include:

  • Removing loose and shed hair
  • Preventing/reducing hairballs
  • Detecting injury or illness
  • Accustoming a cat to regular handling
  • Providing valuable interaction between cat and owner

To learn more about why regular grooming is important, read our article about In-Between (Maintenance) Grooming.

Tools of the Trade

The right tools make grooming fast and much easier for both cat and owner. Different coat lengths require different tools. Short haired cats may only require a slicker brush to remove hair and a flea comb to check for parasites. Long haired cats may require several different combs and brushes. Above is a suggested list of coat care tools you may want to investigate to help you keep grooming time short and sweet.

Introducing Cats to Grooming

If you are lucky, you will have a confident cat that accepts all manner of grooming. However, if you're not - if you have a sensitive cat, a kitten, or a cat from an abusive background - you may find that grooming is a challenge. The first thing to do is to accustom your cat to its grooming tools. Have them out when your cat is being fed, when you're playing with her, when you're petting her... whenever something good is happening, make your grooming tools part of it. Less is more when introducing a cat or kitten to grooming. If your cat only tolerates brushing for a minute, great. Brush her for a minute, feed her a kitty treat and back off for a little while. Gradually, you can extend your cat's tolerance for grooming if you approach it positively and respect your cat's boundaries.

  • Keep handling sessions short - even one minute is plenty for a sensitive cat or active kitten
  • Offer plenty of treats, positive reinforcement and play during handling
  • Avoid associating grooming with being forced to stay still.
  • Feed your cat immediately after handling and grooming training

Coat Care

No matter what length of coat, all cats benefit from a thorough brushing. A slicker brush has bent wire bristles that catch dead hair and pull it from the coat. This can be enough for many short- and medium-haired cats, to prevent furballs and help with cleanliness A coat conditioner spray can reduce static, encourage loose fur to come out and make small mats easier to detangle. If your cat does not approve of sprays, you can coat the comb or brush you are using and get it on the coat that way. Brush in the direction of the coat to start. Once your cat is relaxed, you can take small sections of the coat and brush against the grain. Do this carefully, as not all cats like the sensation. Be gentle, especially with tools that have untipped wire bristles. Long- or thickly-furred cats can benefit from the lifting and separating action of a pin brush - a brush with straight wire bristles. 

Want More StressFree Tips?

A rubber grooming glove or clean cloth can wipe away loose fur on the coat. Use the flea comb to check for parasites. Flea dirt can be detected by shaking it onto a piece of paper and adding a drop of water. A reddish brown stain indicates that you're looking at flea feces. If you see signs of fleas on your cat, you can be sure that they are also lurking in your cat's home. There are many options today for parasite treatment and prevention; a quick response will stop them in their tracks. This may be enough for a shorter haired cat, but longer haired cats require a little more attention. A metal comb with a combination of wide and narrow teeth can get into areas of thick fur and search for mats. Be careful not to tug on them. Mats can occur anywhere, but main problem areas for long haired cats include:

  • Behind the ears
  • On and around the legs
  • Under arms
  • Tail
  • Around the anus

These areas are also among the most sensitive areas on the body. Exercise great care in brushing and combing through them. Imagine how you would feel if someone yanked a comb through your hair and caught on a tangle! Ouch! While the Tiny Trim can be used to cut out small mats or break them up for combing out, it's generally not recommended to use scissors on really thick mats close to the skin. For this, you will need a mat splitter, which is a tool available in pet stores or grooming shops. Ask your vet or groomer for the best approach with this tool and a sensitive pet. You can find out more about mats in our article "Mats and Sensitive Pets: Strategies for Removal".

  • Brush in the direction of the fur at first, then ease into brushing against the grain
  • Be gentle with grooming tools; a lighter touch is better
  • Comb out longer hair, checking for mats, tangles, and dirt
  • Remove hair loosened by brushing with a rubber grooming glove or damp cloth.
  • Use a flea comb to check for fleas and other pests

Clipping the Fur with Scaredy Cut

Scaredy Cut is designed to safely remove fur without the attendant buzzing and vibration of conventional clippers. For sensitive cats, it is an alternative to the fight and stress you may experience trying to keep fur at a manageable length with vibrating clippers. With practice, you can learn to wield your Scaredy Cut system to produce an attractive clip on your pet with ease. Use the attachments to comb through your cat's fur before starting to trim the fur. Scaredy Cut works best when going slowly against the grain of the fur, clipping as you go. Use Scaredy Cut to thin out the fur on legs, belly, and tail for easier coat maintenance. The Tiny Trim can neaten tricky areas, like around the anus and the paws.

Julie MacTire is a writer and educator devoted to the world of dogs. She also writes a blog ( about her adventures with her Shiba Inu, Tierce, and is a supporter of many pet welfare organizations.

References & Resources

Grooming, Stress-Free

Scaredy Cut is the gentle clipper designed for grooming sensitive pets.
Learn More

Want More StressFree Tips?