Dogtor Andy - Eat, Sleep, Brush, Repeat

Clients often ask, “Should I brush my cat?”.

''Is it even necessary seeing as cats groom themselves?''

The answer is most certainly yes. Brushing your cat is more important than you think. Let’s have a look at the reasons why and some tips on how to do it well.

Brushing your cat is important for maintaining the skin and overall health, identifying diseases and also for emotional bonding.

A handful of health benefits

There are numerous health benefits to brushing your cat. Brushing removes damaged hair which would otherwise be shed into the house or removed via self-grooming and ingesting too much hair can easily lead to constipation. Just take a look in the pet store at all the hairball diets and laxatives available for cats if you don’t believe what a common problem this is! The worst part is that many people don’t recognise that their beloved cat is suffering from constipation and think that their cat is normal. Something as simple as regularly brushing your kitty cat could avoid this uncomfortable problem in the first place.

Inspect the skin

Aside from removing damaged hair and reducing the risk of constipation, brushing also helps to clean the coat and stimulates blood flow to the skin, helping to provide that beautiful shine.

Regular brushing is also a great way to inspect the skin and coat to identify problems. Cats with long coats are particularly prone to matting. You’d be surprised how often we see cats who have formed hidden mats that painfully tear at the skin. Once again, easily avoided with some time spent grooming and brushing.

Flick the fleas

I’ve said it in the past, and I'll say it again! Fleas can be easy to miss, but a single flea bite can lead to allergies and dermatitis. Regular brushing is a great way to check for fleas and flea dirt. Any signs of these is a great indication to let you know that it's time to update the flea treatments.

Hint: if you are seeing tons of tiny black dots that aren’t moving like fleas, then this could be flea poo. (Yes, you read that correctly!)

In your regular brushing session, check the skin for spots, lumps, patchy fur and rashes and have your vet examine anything new.

Get on the highway to their heart

If the health benefits aren’t enough of a reason to get the brush out, then the promise of some cat love may be. If you’ve got one of those cats that makes you feel like a crazy stalker ex-girlfriend, desperate for just a little of their attention, then try some brushing to bond with them. Brushing is a great way to steal some of their time while they are blissfully unaware.

“But, my cat grooms itself and what about cats in the wild??”

Yes, it's true that both wild cats and domestic cats groom themselves, but thanks to modern diets, veterinary medicine and lots-a luvin’, domestic cats tend to live longer than they would in the wild. As they age, cats start to sleep more and develop arthritis. This means they have less time for self-grooming and less inclination to do so, thanks to the pain from arthritis. Arthritis is likely underdiagnosed in cats as they are good at hiding it. With all the sleeping, we often don’t notice their sore backs and knees.

Additionally, as they get older, cats start to develop age-related diseases that affect the skin and coat. In a nutshell, as cats age, grooming becomes more important and cats tend to do it less, so they need our help!

How to brush like the best

Have I convinced you of the importance of brushing? Let’s have a look at some tips on how to do it well.

1. The first thing that I would say is start young! If you introduce brushing as a regular part of the week for a kitten, they are more likely to tolerate it. You can still float the idea to an older cat but start slow, with short sessions focusing on areas they like, give the lower spice just above the tail a go. As we know, cats wear the pants in the relationship and if they simply refuse to come to the party despite your best efforts, then talk to your vet about professional grooming.

2. How often to brush depends on the coat length. Once or twice per week works well for a short-haired cat but this should be more often for medium to long-haired cats. Always brush in the direction of the fur, it feels nicer for your cat and helps to spread their natural oils through the coat.

3. The next thing? Invest in a good brush. Hopefully, your cat will be lazing around and scratching your couch for the next 15-20 years! So if you buy a good quality brush, you can be sure to get some use out of it. Dr Zoo has a beautiful Bamboo Grooming Brush which I like because it has different bristles on each side. The pin side is great for removing mats and if I can give you a tip, get some grooming cream and use it on mats to soften them up before brushing them out. These really are painful to brush out otherwise and I’m sure your cat will let you know about it. If they don’t brush out after using a grooming cream, do not attempt to cut them out with scissors. It’s very easy to cut the skin. Have your vet or groomer clip them out, but don’t leave them be as they pull painfully on the skin.

Cats are gorgeous and your cat may think that he just “wakes up like this” but the truth is that brushing your cat is as good for their health as it is for their soul. So, get some grooming cream, a quality brush and mark a regular brushing session on the calendar (in between snacks and naps of course).

Xo Dogtor Andy