Grooming long-haired cats

Find out how to groom a long-haired cat and look after their coat properly with our vet-approved tips.

Most cats are no strangers to grooming themselves, but long-haired breeds need a bit of extra help in this department – and it’s worth bearing that in mind before acquiring a particularly fluffy feline! If you’re already the owner of a long-haired cat, chances are you’ve been grooming them since kittenhood. But if you’re new to owning a long-haired breed, or would like to brush up on your skills, we’ve got everything you need to know about grooming long-haired cats.

Do long-haired cats need to be groomed?

Absolutely! Selective breeding in cats has led to a wide range of coat lengths and thicknesses – from semi-long-haired cats such as the Ragdoll and Ragamuffin to the long-haired Persian and Himalayan breeds. Most breeds have a top coat made up of guard hairs, the longest and coarsest type of fur, which help keep the rain off as well as protecting your cat from the wind and cold. The middle layer of a cat’s fur, known as awn hair, is generally shorter than the guard hairs, but longer than the undercoat below. The shorter, downy undercoat helps trap air close to the cat’s body, keeping them warm. It tends to be very dense in breeds that originate in colder climates, such as the Maine Coon. Cats naturally shed old hair all the time as new growth comes through, but you may find that your long-haired cat sheds more in spring, as they lose their thicker winter coat.

Even though cats have excellent grooming skills, breeds with particularly long, silky or curly coats may struggle to keep tangles under control and remove all of the loose hair they shed. This can lead to knots of matted hair forming, which can tug painfully at a cat’s skin and cause skin irritation.

Grooming long-haired cats also provides an opportunity to check them over for parasites, injuries or lumps that might be hiding under all that fur. Plus, if your long-haired cat is coughing up a lot of hairballs, it can help reduce the amount of hair they’re ingesting.

How often do long-haired cats need to be groomed?

Semi-long-haired cats will need grooming at least twice a week or more to prevent knots forming, while long-haired breeds like Persians should ideally be groomed every day. If you’re not sure how often to groom your long-haired cat, ask your vet for advice.

How to groom a long-haired cat

If you’ve read our general guide to grooming cats, you’ll already know the basics – but read on for our tips for extra-furry felines!

Choose your grooming tools

There’s no shortage of grooming tools for long-haired cats. Slicker brushes with thin wire teeth are good for getting rid of debris and loose hairs. A comb with long, wide teeth will be required to tease out tangles in long-haired cats – a short-toothed bristle brush probably won’t get to the root of the problem. A specialised de-matting tool may also be helpful for tackling any knotty areas.

If in doubt, ask your vet or groomer for advice, says Pamela Campbell of Ayrshire Grooming Salon and Grooming School, the only National Pet College training school in Scotland. ‘They’ll be able to suggest the right tools for your cat’s particular coat type.’

Grooming long-haired cats

Always groom your long-haired cat gently, keeping the brush close to their body, but without pushing it into their skin or tugging hard on the hair. It may be helpful to brush your long-haired cat all over with a slicker brush to remove any loose hair caught in their coat, before gently combing their hair through from the root with a wide-toothed comb. Brushing alone may not get right down to a long-haired cat’s undercoat.

Pay attention to problem areas

Pamela identifies areas behind cats’ ears, tails, hips, groins and underarms as places where excessive friction can cause fur to matt and tangle. ‘Make sure you use the correct tools to brush and comb out regularly, giving particular attention to these tricky areas.’

Dealing with hair matting in cats

Grooming long-haired cats regularly should help prevent matted fur developing. But if you do find any matted hair on a cat, proceed with great care. Tugging on knots can cause your cat pain or tear their thin skin. Instead, try to tease out the knots using your fingers.

You may be able to tackle minor mats with a fine-toothed comb, using just the first few teeth of the comb and starting with the hair tips before working lower into the mat. Sprinkling a little talcum powder on the matted area may help reduce any stickiness. Your cat may well be restless and defensive at this point, so speak to them soothingly, be ready to reward them with treats, and just do a little at a time. Specialised dematting (or mat-breaking) tools may also be useful for these mats.

If mats in cat hair can’t be untangled, they need to be cut or shaved out. But be warned: it’s very easy to catch your cat’s skin if removing mats in long-haired cats with scissors. Some cats will tolerate electric clippers, although it can take them a while to get used to these and they can be fiddly to use – so you might want to take your cat to a professional groomer to clip the mats out.

Severe cases of hair matting in cats are best tackled by a vet, who will be able to sedate your cat before giving them a thorough shave, as well as treating any skin inflammation and irritation that the matting has caused. But with regular and careful grooming, things hopefully shouldn’t get to this stage.

Be patient

Although long-haired cats need help with grooming, that doesn’t mean they’ll always relish it – particularly when you’re approaching sensitive areas such as their tummy, paws or tail! You may need to break their grooming sessions down into shorter periods rather than doing it all in one go. Make grooming a regular part of their day, and be sure to reward them with treats or fuss to keep the experience a positive one. It’s a great way to bond with your long-haired cat while also looking after their health.

Check out our veterinary expert’s video guide to cat grooming and get more tips on keeping your cat’s coat in top condition.

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