Do you dream of the day when your cat will lean into the brush? Here’s how to make it happen.
I know some of you have cats who simply won’t tolerate brushing. But I bet there are as many others who may never have tried to brush a cat, or who have cats who are ambivalent about brushing. I tend to forget this task when life gets busy. The way I keep myself motivated is by convincing myself that brushing keeps more cat hair from eventually landing on the floor or the furniture. It can also be a pleasant way to bond with your cat. And it’s got to be healthy for the skin and the circulation, not to mention the fur.
When I approach brushing with a cat, I use a lot of the same tactics I do for claw clipping. Here are some suggestions to try and make brushing a more pleasant (or at least tolerable) experience for your cat.
1. Pick a quiet, non-stimulating time
You don’t want to try and brush your cat if he’s all worked up — riled up from playing, for example. Take advantage of a time when your cat is relaxed and fairly still. If your cat is napping or just waking up from a nap, that’s a good time. If your cat is circling your feet at mealtime, or has just emerged from a wresting match with your other cat or dog, that’s not as good a time.
2. Start small and gentle
Easy does it. Start small and gentle, and have patience. Use the brush at first without a lot of pressure. If you know your cat well, pick a part of the body that is least threatening for that cat. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to start by brushing your cat’s belly — many cats would hate that. Where does your cat love to be touched? This will vary for each cat. Does your cat loved to be scratched behind the ears, for example? You could gently run a brush through that area. Does your cat love to have her chin scratched? Some cats will rub their chin against the brush, obviously enjoying the experience.
3. Simulate brushing with a gentler tool, at first
If your cat goes ballistic at the sight or the feel of a cat brush, perhaps you need to lead up to the experience with a more gentle sensation. For example, you might take a dry washcloth and run it gently across your cat’s body. Or start by simply petting your cat with long, smooth strokes. Gradually, add a washcloth; then, add a gentle brush.
4. Give a treat!
Help the cat associate the brushing experience with a reward and pleasant time with you. Give your cat a treat right after your brushing session. Even if the brushing session only lasted for a moment, have the treat ready and give it immediately, so your cat associates brushing and the reward. Pet your cat and tell her how great she is.
5. Do what you can to make the environment peaceful
Is your cat more secure in a quiet space? If you have other cats in the household, is your cat more relaxed when she’s alone? If so, remove the other stimulation (cats, dogs, children, noise) to see if your cat will tolerate your brushing attempts. I’ve recommended Calming Essence and Rescue Remedy for other situations, and it might work here. I give Calming Essence on the skin, using one drop in front of the ear (not in the ear), and rubbing in the drop. Consult with your vet on the best way to give this to your cat. I find that it does work if it’s not overused.
Keiran is the most enthusiastic cat I’ve ever known when it comes to brushing.
If you’re really fortunate, perhaps you’ll end up with a cat like my Keiran, who comes running with delight when the brush comes out. For Keiran, brushing is as good as playing or eating — perhaps even better. Keiran serves as a good reminder of what a pleasant, bonding experience brushing can be for cats. Catherine Holm