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Cats: To Brush Or Comb

By Kim Raisanen

When I have a cat on my table, the first thing I do is evaluate the skin and coat. I check for tangles and mats. And by using my hands first to feel for troublesome areas, I am also preventing a painful tug of a comb. Once I have a better idea of the condition of the cat, I know whether to use a clipper or a comb.

Brushing a cat isn’t the best technique in removing shedding hair and undercoat, and a lot of the time it just adds static. Brushes do not reach down to the skin where the problem may be. But if you decide to brush the cat anyway, I recommend using a soft bristle brush versus a metal slicker brush. The slicker can scrape the cat’s skin so I don’t use them.

Our objective in combing the entire cat is to remove shedding hair, locate hidden tangles and assess the overall coat. It’s important when doing so not to pull the hair but rather gently comb the feline and stop when you come upon a mat.

Depending on the severity of the matting, it may be more humane to either clip the mat out or remove the pelt. If the coat has a lot of matting, I would perform a Lion Cut. Clipping a feline is a better option than trying to de–mat the coat with a comb. If you are just clipping a few mats, you can camouflage the area where the mat was removed by back combing the hair above it, so when the mat is removed you can comb the hair over the hole in the coat.

If you are going to be using the clipper anyways, there is no need to traumatize the cat by trying to comb out the tangles. However, if the mat isn’t tight against the skin, you can gently try to break up the mat using your blending shears. This technique can be done safely if you work the comb under the mat while you scissor the mat with blending shears. Do not use chunkers, they are too large of a blender to work on cats. You may very well take off too much hair if you’re not careful so I recommend using a much smaller blender shear.

If you decide that the coat isn’t beyond the need of a good combing, there are a few combs that I would recommend. But how do you know what comb to use and in what manner? Before you begin, I suggest that you try to scratch yourself with the comb you want to use on the feline. If it scrapes your skin or leaves marks, it will injure the skin of the cat you’re working on so make sure your combs have rounded tines.

There are 3 different combs that I have in my arsenal of equipment. (Fig 1) The first is the flea comb or a similar type of comb that is graduated, meaning the tines are spaced equally on half of the comb and the other half the tines are spaced a bit further apart. A flea comb can be a groomer’s indispensable tool.

(Fig 2) I use this type of comb on the head, between the ears, face, chin and cheeks. On a short hair cat I also use the comb on the front legs. You may be pleasantly surprised just how much shedding hair you can remove from the top of the cat’s head and around the ears with the correct comb.

The second type of comb I use is a medium width greyhound comb (Fig 3). The tines are 1” long. Depending on the length of hair, this comb can be used on the feline’s back, sides and underneath the belly. I prefer the black combs that are anti–static. When combing in the armpit area, be careful not to snag any skin folds.

If the cat is a longhaired breed, depending on the density and length of the hair on the body and tail, you can use a medium greyhound comb. This comb is my “go to” comb when grooming medium and longhair breeds. Begin by combing with the wider pinned side first and then go over the coat once more by using the finer end.

The third type of comb I like to use is the 10” long, 1 ½ inch tined greyhound comb. This comb is best used on the breeds and mix–breeds of the Maine Coon, Persian and Siberians. Their hair tends to be thicker or denser than the other breeds.

When I begin grooming a longhair cat I start with this type of comb. If the comb isn’t removing the undercoat and shedding hair adequately, I move down to the medium greyhound comb. Comb once with the wider side then follow up by using the other side of the comb. This will help loosen shedding hair and, following up with the finer tined side, will remove the hair from the coat.

In summary, the type of comb used really depends on many factors. The length of the hair, density and severity of the matting should all be considered in your decision. When you have a few different comb choices, it makes the grooming continue smoothly. When you take a few moments to evaluate the coat’s condition, you will know what type of comb to use and in what manner to use them. Common sense tells us that a deeply matted coat should be removed with a #10 blade while going with the grain. There is no reason to tug and pull on the hair when a clipper can do a better job of eliminating the problem.  ✂

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