Cat grooming: how to support your cat’s fur care

Cat grooming - what is important

Many cats enjoy grooming, which also boosts the relationship between humans and animals.

A thick, shiny coat is a sign of a cat being in good physical and mental health. Cats largely take care of grooming themselves. However, you can support your feline friend by brushing it regularly. A balanced diet also ensures a healthy coat.

Cat fur: 25,000 hairs per square centimetre

The colour and texture of a cat's coat differs depending on the breed. In principle, their fur consists of the top coat and undercoat, but some cat breeds only have one layer.

The top coat determines a cat's colour and markings. It is made up of longer awn hairs, which the cat can bristle, or slightly shorter guard hairs. The undercoat refers to the insulation layer of fine, short hairs directly above the skin.

With around 25,000 hairs per square centimetre, a normal cat coat is extremely thick in terms of hair density. In comparison, dogs have a hair density of 1,000 to 9,000 hairs per square centimetre. In contrast, humans only have around 175 to 350 hairs per square centimetre on their heads. So it's no surprise that your home is often full of cat hairs.

Cats lose a huge amount of hair during the moulting periods in spring and autumn. In spring, the thick winter coat is replaced with a lighter summer coat. In autumn, the summer coat then comes away and the cat grows a winter coat.

persian cat being shaved at vet
Regular grooming of many cat breeds is important. In severe cases, heavy matting may need to be removed by the vet.

Brushing supports cat grooming

Even though cats normally take care of their own grooming, you can support it with regular brushing – especially if you have an indoor cat. With outdoor cats, the wind blows through their fur and hair can even get caught in the bushes when they roam through them. Indoor cats don't have these opportunities.

Brushing keeps the coat silky and shiny, encourages blood circulation to the skin and is good for the relationship between cats and humans. Many cats enjoy being stroked with the brush. You as the owner also benefit from grooming cats: every cat hair that gets caught in the brush can't end up on the sofa, under the bed or on your smart black trousers.

Health aspects

Support with grooming is also important because cats swallow a lot of hair when cleaning themselves. These can accumulate in the stomach and form hairballs (bezoars).

In order to get rid of a hairball, the cat has to regurgitate and spit it out. This isn't particularly pleasant either for the cat or its owner. Regular brushing helps cats to reduce the amount of hairballs in their digestive tract.

Brushing once a day is obligatory with long-haired breeds such as Persian cats. If not, there is the danger of their coat getting matted. In particularly stubborn cases, scissors are the only remedy. Sometimes matting even has to be removed by the vet.

Grooming cats: Getting them used to brushing

Unfortunately not all cats appreciate support with grooming and immediately take flight at the sight of a comb and brush. Others use their claws and teeth to defend themselves from this unbeloved procedure. They bite the brush or even your hand if you're unlucky.

In such cases, patience is the only remedy.

In order to get your cat used to the brush for grooming, just leave it lying around for a few days at first so that your cat can sniff at this unfamiliar instrument and get used to it.

Wait for an opportune moment for the first brush strokes. If your cat is feeling dozy or is cleaning itself, the right time has come.

First stroke your cat with your hand and then – rather cautiously to start with – with the brush, then carry on with your hand. Always alternate between your hand and the brush as long as your cat puts up with the treatment. Don't force anything. If your cat doesn't want to continue, leave it be and carry on another day.

Never brush against the grain

Never stroke or brush your cat against the grain, because they cannot bear it. At the start, limit yourself to your cat's favourite spots: for instance, if your cat particularly likes you scratching its chin, start by brushing there. You can gradually expand the radius to other parts of the body.

It's important to stay calm and patient – and a treat or two can also help to make grooming appeal to your cat.

long haired cat being groomed
Often the right tool determines whether a cat will like being groomed.

Testing different brushes for grooming cats

If your cat doesn't want to brushed whatsoever, this could be down to the wrong tool. In general, combs and brushes shouldn't be too sharp in order to not damage the tender skin beneath the fur. The teeth shouldn't be too close together so that it doesn't tweak. For sensitive cats, soft natural hair brushes or rubber massage brushes are suitable.

Not every instrument is suitable for every breed: With its thick, fluffy coat, a British Shorthair cat needs different brushes than a Siamese cat with short hair.

Specialist stores offer special products for thorough removal of the loose undercoat. Hence, the FURminator comes in different varieties tailored to the hair length of different cat breeds.

Attractive fur thanks to a balanced diet

A balanced diet is also important for healthy skin and an attractive coat. It should be especially rich in protein, because hair consists primarily of the protein keratin. Food supplements like salmon oil can also boost the immune system and encourage a healthy coat.

Special foods and pastes can help to excrete cat hairs swallowed during cleaning through the intestines, which reduces the risk of hairballs in the stomach.

If this does happen, cats eat grass. That helps them remove hairballs from the stomach. Thus, a pot with cat grass should always be on hand for indoor cats.

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