I’m sure you’ve all heard this phrase before. But is it actually true?

Well the answer is Yes & No.

Firstly let’s talk about what Grooming is exactly. Most people think it’s all about the hair coat but it actually relates to a lot more including trimming nails and cleaning eyes and ears.  In this post we will hopefully bust some of the myths and give you an overview of what determines a cats grooming needs.

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So when cats lick themselves what are they trying to do? Our domestic cats are driven by the same things that motivate their bigger wild cousins. For both grooming serves to :

  • keep their coats clean
  • helps to prevent parasites
  • remove the scent of their kill/food
  • spread their own scent over their fur

Grooming can also be a way of self-soothing for cats if they are stressed or over stimulated. And when they groom each other it is a way of saying “hey, I love you man”… cat grooming basics two kitties.png  I’m sure you’ve all seen how blissed out some cats can get when they’re grooming. And who hasn’t seen them use it to cover their embarrassment when they do something silly (like falling of the arm off the chair when they’re asleepcat grooming basics mickey laugh.png ).

As for us humans the main issues that concern us when it comes to grooming are :

  • shedding
  • matting
  • dirty / smelly bottoms
  • and, something you probably don’t think of as grooming, scratching


  1. Cats groom themselves
    • Well they do to a point, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make life easier for them by giving them a helping hand. The type and length of a coat plus health issues and age can all affect how easy it is for a cat to be able to look after its coat.
  2. Well maybe long haired cats need grooming but short hairs don’t
  3. Long haired cats shed a lot more than short haired cats
    • OK 2 & 3 go together
      • Rather than hair length it’s actually the coat type that affects how much a cat will shed and also their grooming needs. This is determined by their genes. Basically the 3 types of coats in cats are: 
        • single e.g. Burmese, Turkish Angora
        • double e.g. Persian, Manx
        • triple e.g  Siberian


So when I say single, double or triple coat what does that mean? It actually refers to the types of hair that makes up that cats coat.


  1. Guard hairs (outercoat)
    1. A single coated cat will only have these hairs. The coat will be smooth, fine and silky
  2. Bristle / Awn hairs (undercoat)
    1. Both double and triple coated cats will have these hairs. The difference is that a triple coated cat will have a lot more of these hairs
  3. Down / Wool hairs (undercoat)
    1. Both double and triple coated cats will have these hairs. The difference is that a triple coated cat will have a lot more of these hairs


Although double and triple are more common in long haired breeds there are still some short haired breeds like the Manx, that are also double coated. There are also some short haired breeds, like the British Shorthair, that have extremely dense single coats which mean they shed a lot more than a cat with a single but silky coat like a Burmese.

cat grooming basics British Shorthair.jpg         cat grooming basics burmese

British Shorthair         Burmese

Obviously with rescue cats it’s often not easy to know their breed. As a generalisation though the “domestic shorthair, medium hair & long hair” are most probably “double coated” cats.

So even though you might be one of the lucky ones whose cat doesn’t shed very much and doesn’t need grooming it is still a great way to bond with your cat as most cats will enjoy it. Who doesn’t enjoy a nice massage? And I bet, if you’ve never done it before, you’ll be surprised by how much hair actually comes out.

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In our next post I’ll discuss the pros and cons of the various grooming tools on the market and some basic recommendations on how use them.


This post was written by Jenny Steel, a professional cat groomer, owner and operator of The Cats’ Pyjamas, who has fantastically and generously volunteered her time for this.