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How do you brush a cat that hates being brushed?

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huey the cat posing with his pawpaya orange bailey brush cat brush

If you have a cat that runs away when you bring a brush out, swats at you or stares deep into your soul with a look that could only mean one thing: “I’m gonna puke in your bed later if you touch me with that”, then yes, you probably have one of those cats that hate to be brushed.

But fret not! Not all cats are lucky enough to have been trained early or have gotten used to ‘the brush’, but there are ways to fix that. With a little routine and some grooming tips and tricks you’ll have a brush-loving cat in no time. Well maybe. I mean, they’re cats. These aren’t rules, they are more like…guidelines. But if you love your cat, you should try these tips nonetheless.

Related Post: Should I brush my cat?

Why does my cat hate being brushed?

cat being cuddled who used to hate being brushed

If your cat hates being brushed, it could take thousands of dollars of animal therapy to get to the root of the real reason why your cat isn’t into it. To save you a bit, you can assume it’s probably at least one of these things:

  • Fear: It’s possible your cat just simply doesn’t know what it is and is fearful of it. This could be because it’s a brand new object touching its body, a new sensation that it’s unfamiliar to, or possibly something much worse, like a past experience that has emotionally affected them.
  • Comfort levels and personal space: It’s possible that your cat just doesn’t like physical touch. This is common with cats that haven’t grown up being held or groomed. They hate it just because they aren’t used to it and have no idea what they’re missing.
  • Too much of a good thing: You never know when a cat’s about to be all done with being groomed, but when you know, they’ll let you know. If you over stimulate a cat, they’ll hate being brushed. It’s easy to irritate a cat because all cats have sensitive skin.
  • The Grudge: Cats can be picky. They can hold a grudge for a bit. If you switch brushes, change their foods, move their bed to a different spot or even bring home someone new, they might get grumpy.

Why is it important to get your cat to like being groomed?

Despite what many people think, it’s very important to groom your cat every day. Daily grooming (even short sessions) help improve the health of your cat. Brushing prevents harmful hairballs and blockages, improves digestive issues and that’s just on the inside. On the outside a good daily grooming prevents matting and tangles, removes dead skin cells and stimulates the skin, distributes oils and helps create healthier fur that sheds less over time.

The personal time you spend with your cat is also very important. It will allow you to see and feel if they are having any issues with their bodies, feeling any pains or sensitive parts that you can’t necessarily see. It’s even beneficial to check for ticks, sore areas or bad things like bugs or parasites.

How to groom a cat easily

If your cat hates it, no matter the reason there are some things you can do to start getting them used to the idea.

Baby steps and rewarding them

The best way to motivate a cat is to reward them with their favorite treats. This is just the phase where you want to let them get familiar with the brush. Let them sniff it and interact with it a little while you are supervising. If they get familiar with the bristles and rub against them then reward them with a treat.

Depending on the brush, ensure you have a safe one, perhaps start with a gentle brush first, like a cat brush with long flexible silicone bristles.

For the next step, when they are comfortable,  hide the brush in your hand and gently brush the areas that they would normally like to be petted. This would be the top of the head, between the ears, under the chin,  the area along the middle of the back and gently around the back above the base of the tail. Don’t hold them down, don’t cradle them, just let them walk freely around and come back to you when they are ready.

If you’ve made it this far, don’t push it. Your cat hated to be brushed, remember? One step at a time!

Now go have a glass of wine and be proud of yourself. Don’t forget to give your cat a treat too.

Groom just a few minutes at a time

close up of a beautiful cats face with a white studio light reflecting in his eyes

To get a cat used to being brushed, persistence is key. The best technique is to keep doing it in place of petting many times a day for only a short while. If your cat is allowing this, once again, don’t push it. Look out for signs of irritation or fear, flicking tails, twitching, big eyes, ears down, you’ll know, stop there and go back to the baby steps.

Pheromones and medicine to get your cat to calm down

If you live in a high anxiety location like an apartment with lots of bumps and thumps from upstairs or downstairs, loud tv’s or traffic noise, you might find your cat is never able to relax. This would be in general, and not just because it’s hating to be brushed.

There are some special cat diffuser kits that have natural pheromones that mimic the natural pheromones that your cat leaves behind in places they feel safe. Cats do this by rubbing their faces on all their favorite things they think they own in your house. If you have these during brush time your cat may be more relaxed and feel more comfortable with being brushed.

Develop a routine

Many cat owners underestimate the power of developing a routine for your cat. If you stick to a schedule with everything, like feeding at the same time each day, brushing each day, play time each day, etc, then your cat will get comfortable with its day. They really love their routines, it makes them feel safer and relaxes them and you’ll end up having a more well behaved and relaxed cat because of it.

Stick with brushing your cat at the same time every day and eventually they’ll start looking forward to it because they expect it to happen.

Choose the right cat brush for your cat

There are so many types of cat brushes. Check out our complete guide to cat brushes to help you understand which cat brushes are safest and best for your breed of cat. (again, this is a guide, all cats are different). The truth is, if a cat hates a brush today, it might love it later. Don’t give up!

Summary

If your cat hates to be brushed and you’re losing hope, be sure to try all the things we listed above before completely giving up. Even small improvements can be a huge benefit for your cat. In most cases, it takes a few weeks or sometimes a month or two of a regular routine to help a cat that hates to be brushed get used to it, stick with it!

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