Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, no one tool suits all cats.
As discussed in the previous article the type of coat a cat has plays a big part in what tool will work best. The other factor is coat length. A brush might work well on a shorthaired cat because the bristles don’t have far to go to reach the skin but, in a long haired cat, the same brush will only pick up the hairs on the surface of the coat.
So, for example you might have a domestic shorthair and a Persian. Both will have a double coat i.e. awn & down hairs (under coat) and guard hairs (outer coat). A slicker brush might do a good job of picking up the loose hairs from the DSH’s coat but your Persian is still getting mats because the bristles on the brush aren’t long enough to get down into their undercoat to pick up the loose hair.
The other thing I hear a lot is “my cat hates being brushed”. There are a few things that could be contributing to this.
The way you are brushing
Cats generally prefer short strokes of the brush/comb rather than long ones
The type of tool you are using
Not all brushes are made equal and you actually might find a comb is a better choice for the job
Brushes can really pull on the hair & skin whereas combs generally slide through more smoothly. Think of what it can be like using the wrong brush on your own or your kid’s hair and how they react. It’s the same for kitties but more so as they have much looser skin
How sensitive the cat’s skin is.
Some cats are have very sensitive skin, especially in areas like the tummy and lower back. I have even come across a few cats that are “ticklish” all over and even patting them can be too much stimulation for them.
So the things to keep in mind when selecting your grooming tool are:
That cats have delicate skin which can be scratched/nicked easily
How sensitive your cat is to being touched/brushed
As a cat groomer we generally recommend a comb over a brush but I have found, even with my own cats, that it often takes a combination.
And a good tip for those cats who you think don’t like it, just do a few minutes at a time and preferably when they are already relaxed e.g. asleep on your lap. It gets them used to it and they will start to associate it with something nice.
So here is a breakdown of some of the common pet grooming implements pros & cons and what type of coats I would recommend them for. NB some of them are designed for dogs and then marketed as fine for cats too when they really don’t do a great job.
This post was written by Jenny Steel, a professional cat groomer, owner and operator of The Cats’ Pyjamas, who has once again fantastically and generously volunteered her time for this.
Easy to find
The “slicker” (metal pins) side can break up small tangles
Both will give kitty a nice massage
The bristles won’t hurt a cat if it rubs against them
They are more designed for dog coats and their hair is totally different to cats.
The “bristles” are too close together to properly get down into a cats coat so will only pick up loose hairs sitting near the top of the coat
Short, wiry coated dogs.
This is a human brush I have seen used for cats
Will pick up some loose hairs on the top of the coat
Your Dad can use it for his comb over when he visits
Can be a bit scratchy on a cat’s skin
Doesn’t penetrate far into the coat so will only brush out the loose hairs at the top of the coat
Humans and even then I think it’s a bit dodgy and should have been left in the 70s (my dad had one!)
Slightly better than the “Scalp Brush”
Can get into the trickier spots without as much complaint from the cat e.g. armpits, back of the rear legs
Gives your cat a nice massage
Again more designed for dog coats
Will only pick up hairs in the top part of the coat
Can be a bit scratchy for cats
I personally wouldn’t use one on a cat but if you got it cheap and wanted to try it on your Shorthaired cat OR for those tricky armpits on a long haired cat give it a try
It’s basically an ineffective plastic wide tined comb with some teeny rotating blades inside. It’s marketed as being able to cut through knots but the size of the knots it would work on could just as easily be teased about in your fingers or with a comb
A waste of $15
I wouldn’t recommend it for dogs or cats
Comes in a Short and Long Haired versions
Does remove some of the shed hair
Works best if the cat is combed/brushed thoroughly first as this will bring a lot of the loose hairs to the top of the coat where it will pick them up
It has a small blade in it which basically cuts/breaks hairs if not used properly or used excessively in one area
The “long haired” version still only combs through the outer section of the coat
Tugs on the hair which cats don’t like
Single coated short hair cats
You can try it with short coated cats too but it is more likely to tug in their coat
This is basically a “de-shedding” tool which is a bit different to brush/comb
Because it’s rubber it grips the loose hairs more effectively. This means it will release any hair that’s ready to be shed from the coat but not fallen out yet.
Works well on most coat types and lengths.
Great for a really good “de-shedding” i.e. removing the dead hair from the coat
Gives a nice massage
Lasts a long time
Unlike a brush or a comb it’s not that effective at holding onto the hair it’s pulled out so you will often find yourself in a bit of a “hair storm”
It’s a good idea to comb/brush through the coat afterwards to pick up the hair it’s loosened.
Not cheap $15-20
This works well on most cat coats and lengths but should be followed by a good comb or brush
Soft Cat Brush
Won’t hurt the cat
Gives a little bit of a soft massage
Won’t pick up much hair and what it does pick up is basically on the outside of the coat
Old/skinny cats with short single coats just because it will feel nice to them without hurting them
Standard “Slicker” Brush & Flexible “Slicker” Brush
(no coating on the tips of the bristles)
Gets down to the skin of shorthaired cats or short haired areas of long haired cats (e.g. head, armpits) as it gets down to the skin
Picks up shed hair without breaking or cutting the still growing hair
Easy to find at most pet shops
Comes in different sizes/widths
Relatively cheap $10-$15
In this “standard” type of Slicker Brush the bristles are rough and scratchy
Can irritate a cats skin very easily
Dogs (their skin is a lot tougher than cats)
Only recommended for use in cats by experienced owners or groomers
“Coated” Slicker Brush
Gets down to the skin of short haired cats or short haired areas of long haired cats e.g. head, armpits
Picks up shed hair without breaking or cutting the growing hair
Easy to find at most pet shops, though you may have to look in the dog grooming section
Wont scratch a cats skin
Comes in different sizes/widths
Gives a nice massage (Cats LOVE rubbing their chins and cheeks against them)
Relatively cheap $10-$15
Doesn’t get down to the skin in most long haired cats
Great for Shorthaired cats or the short haired areas of long haired cats.
Easy to find
Great for checking if your cat has fleas (tines are very close together so the fleas get caught in them)
Tines are very close together and will pull on the hair
Tines are usually short so aren’t suitable for long haired cats.
Undercoat Cat Comb
A lot of pet stores will have them
Handle is usually easy to hold
Will work fairly well
Can pull at the hair
Metal or “Greyhound” Comb
“Greyhound” is actually a brand of combs rather than being meant for use on Greyhounds 😊
Recommended lengths are
6-7 inch coarse / fine comb
4-5 inch coarse / fine comb (face & feet)
Come in a variety of sizes for different types of animals, coat types and areas of the body
Although you probably won’t find them at a pet shop some groomers will sell them and you can get quit cheap ones at places like EBay, Amazon, AliExpress
You can get them all in one tine width or, which is preferable, with 2 tine widths in the same comb. (Fine & Coarse are the best for cats)
Great for long haired or dense coated cats (e.g. British Shorthair)
The 4-5 inch comb is fantastic for coming foreheads, cheeks, ruffs. Basically anywhere the hair is a bit shorter. PLUS Cats generally enjoy being combed in these areas.
The longer coats work well on most coats
The “coarse” tines are great for picking up and combing out any small knots/tangles and loosening hair
Once the “coarse” tines have done their work the “fine” tines pick up the shed hair and remove it from the coat
Can be harder to find than other options.
May not work well for some single coated cats like Burmese by itself. Would need to be paired with a Zoom Groom
Can seem a bit unwieldy at first
De-Shedding Blade For Cats
These basically are a jagged blade being dragged through the coat and cutting the top layer, damaging the hair
It only works on the top layer of hair and doesn’t actually do any “de-shedding”
It is really easy to cut an animal with it
No one should use these
Cat De-Shedding Tool / Coat Rake
Good for removing shed hair from the coat of long haired or densely coated cats
A very slightly tamer version of a professional groomers tool
Easy to cut a cat if not used properly
Very easy to create bald spots if you don’t know how to use it
Not cheap $19 >
Not for the novice. A very experienced owner or a Groomer only tool
Will get down to the skin to loosen hair
A regular “greyhound” style coat will do the same if not better job
Can be quite pointy at the ends so easy to hurt a cat.