The 6 Best Brushes For Cats That Hate To Be Brushed

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Brushing your cat’s fur regularly can remove mats, tangles, and loose hair while keeping their coat shiny and healthy. However, not all felines like being groomed — and if your cat is one of them, you’ll need to choose your tools wisely. To find the best brushes for cats that hate to be brushed, I consulted a veterinarian and certified Fear-Free groomers for tips on choosing the right grooming tools. According to Texas-based veterinarian Jamie Whittenburg, DVM: “When starting out, or when you encounter a cat that does not like being brushed, you should always start with a soft-bristle brush.” Once a cat is accustomed to being brushed, however, you might be able to introduce them to other grooming tools to keep their fur in tip-top condition.

The Experts

Ani Corless is a New York-based Fear Free-certified groomer with over 24 years of experience. She is the owner of Luxury Groomer, which offers mobile grooming services in New York City and New Jersey.

Ingrid Johnson is a Fear Free-certified groomer and a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (CCBC). She is also the manager at the cat hospital Paws Whiskers & Claws in Marietta, Georgia.

Ellen Vogel is a Fear Free-certified groomer and the owner of Trilling Cat, a cat grooming salon in Durham, North Carolina. She is also a certified Cat-Friendly Veterinary Professional.

Jamie Whittenburg, DMV, is a Lubbock, Texas-based veterinarian at Kingsgate Animal Hospital with over 25 years of experience. She graduated from Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine and completed her post-graduate training at Texas A&M University.

Why Do Some Cats Hate To Be Brushed?

“Like humans, cats have different personalities,” explains Dr. Whittenburg. “Some cats love being brushed while others dislike forced contact.” If a trusted veterinarian has given your cat a clean bill of health and they still don’t love brushing, your cat simply might not be accustomed to grooming. In which case, you can start by using a gentle tool and work your way up to other more effective tools slowly, using positive reinforcement throughout.

But an aversion to brushing could have to do with discomfort. Dr. Whittenburg says, “If a cat is matted or has tangled hair, the pain of brushing will definitely cause the cat to not enjoy being brushed.” For this reason, it’s important to groom a cat before it develops tangles. Vogel explains: “Unfortunately, many owners have busy lives, and brushing or combing is not thought of until they notice tangles or mats while petting their cat. Brushes and combs will pull on the tangled fur causing pain, which many cats will then associate with the brush or comb.”

A cat’s discomfort with brushing can also be the sign of underlying health issues. If your cat has handling sensitivities, it is important to rule out any medical issues with your veterinarian before attempting to introduce brushing at home.

What To Look For In A Brush For Cats That Being Brushed

Start With Soft Bristles

Once your cat has been cleared of medical issues, choosing a gentle brush is key. Johnson explains that “a soft-bristle brush could be a nice way of introducing the sensation of brushing to a cat.” However, Johnson adds that “the soft-bristle brush is really more for pleasure so it’s not going to get out knots and tangles and all the fur out.”

Other Types Of Brushes & Grooming Tools

Once your cat is comfortable with the soft-bristle brush, you might consider introducing cat grooming tools that will more effectively remove loose hair and prevent tangles. The available options vary widely, but some tools recommended by the experts include curry brushes, slicker brushes, and combs for routine grooming. You might also consider a de-shedding tool to periodically remove excess dead hair.

  • A curry brush has rubber bristles, and it can be ideal for removing dead hair without potentially irritating your cat. Corless, a professional groomer, suggests this for cats with short hair. “All you’re dealing with is shedding,” she explains. “Use the curry-style brush with the little rubber bristles on it. The point of those rubber bristles is that they grip the dead hair.”
  • A slicker brush has thin, often metal, pins and while you can use it on cats with short and long coats, Corless often recommends it for cats with long hair.
  • Johnson likes to use wide-tooth and fine-tooth combs to groom cats, regardless of whether they have long or short hair, starting with a wide-tooth de-matting comb to untangle knots and mats. “You don’t want to use a fine-toothed comb that would just yank and pull, so what I like to use as the very first line of defense is a de-matting comb,” says Johnson. As for Vogel, she specifically recommends a Greyhound comb — she describes, “A good Greyhound comb can help with a shedding undercoat and remove small tangles before they become a big problem.”
  • Another commonly used grooming tool is a de-shedding tool, such as the FURminator, to remove dead hair. I’ve listed the tool as a nice-to-have option because it can take some skill to use. Corless reminds pet owners to be extra gentle: “You have to be careful with how you use it because sometimes people tend to be rougher than they realize, which can be painful.”

Shop The Best Brushes For Cats That To Be Brushed

In a hurry? Here are the best brushes and other grooming tools for cats that hate to be brushed:

  1. A Soft-Bristle Cat Brush That’s Gentle On Fur & Skin: Mars Coat King Bristle Cat Brush
  2. A Fan-Favorite Dual-Sided Cat Brush: Hartz Small Combo Brush
  3. A Curry Brush For Short-Haired Cats: Le Salon Essentials Rubber Curry Grooming Brush
  4. An Expert-Recommended Slicker Brush: Millers Forge Soft Slicker Pet Grooming Brush
  5. A Wide-Tooth Comb For Cats: Hertzko De-Matting Comb
  6. A Finer-Toothed Greyhound Comb For Grooming: Chris Christensen Butter Comb

With all this in mind, here are some of the best cat brushes and combs, plus a de-shedding tool to round out the grooming experience.

1. A Soft-Bristle Cat Brush That’s Gentle On Fur & Skin

Pros:

  • Bristles are gentle on fur and skin
  • Feels sturdy but easy to hold, according to reviews

Con:

  • Not ideal for removing loose hair, tangles, or knots

Multiple Amazon reviewers have attested that this soft-bristle brush changed their cats’ reactions to being brushed. One shopper described, “My cat hates being brushed, but she actually allows me to brush her without a fight when I use this brush.” The 100% boar bristles are gentle on the skin and fur, and the brush features a sturdy, high-quality handle made from solid wood. While it likely won’t do much for tangles and loose fur, it could be a great tool for slowly acclimating your cat to grooming.

One cat owner wrote: “Our tuxedo is very picky with her brushes and hates being brushed. I got this one because I read it would help with dandruff (she had a very light case) and I thought maybe something different would finally find something she likes. She does! And it does seem to be good for her skin too and the dandruff improved. She loves to smell it and sometimes thinks it’s a toy, but overall it’s better for her than any others. I think she likes it because it’s gentle, and while it doesn’t help with hair as much as ones designed for shedding, it’s absolutely better than forcing her to go through a brushing she hates.”

Tool type: Soft-bristle brush

2. A Fan-Favorite Dual-Sided Cat Brush

Pros:

  • Has a 4.5-star overall rating after more than 6,000 Amazon reviews
  • Combines two cat brushes into one tool

Con:

  • It’s hard to remove fur that has accumulated on the bristles and brush pad, according to reviews

With a 4.5-star overall rating after more than 6,000 reviews, this dual-sided bristle brush is well-vetted by pet owners. One side of the brush features soft, nylon bristles that can help get cats accustomed to the sensation of being brushed — and many reviewers were quick to report that their cats loved it. Multiple reviewers also mentioned that the rubberized handle made the brush easy to maneuver, with one cat owner describing it as “sturdy and comfortable.”

On the opposite side of the soft-bristle brush is a pin brush, which can be a great option to try on long-haired cats. Its longer metal bristles can reach deeper through long hair. None of the experts I consulted specifically recommended a pin brush, but Johnson explains, “I would simply say that the best brush is the one the cat likes and enjoys the sensation of.” If your cat seems to enjoy the pin-brush side, you should feel welcome to use it. But keep in mind that some cats “have sensitive skin and it could be uncomfortable for them,” according to Johnson. She adds: “If they tolerate one and not another then the one they tolerate is the one that should be used!”

One cat owner wrote: “I didn’t think my cat would like this brush, but I was wrong. He loves it. The bristles on both sides are sturdy, but soft on the cat’s fur. I don’t have to worry about scratching his skin. His fur is shiny. It was a good purchase.”

Tool type: Soft-bristle brush and pin brush

3. A Curry Brush For Short-Haired Cats

Pros:

  • Ideal for cats with short coats
  • Strap makes it easy to hold

Con:

  • Not recommended for long-haired felines

According to Corless, a curry brush (like this one from Le Salon) can be great for cats with short hair. This brush is made entirely out of rubber, including the nubs, and it has a strap that loops around your hand to make it easy to hold. Several shoppers have confirmed that the brush helps reduce shedding in their pets, including both cats and dogs.

One cat owner wrote: “My 2 short-haired chihuahuas and my cat all disappeared when it was time to get brushed – until I got this. Now it’s like they get a mini-massage instead of being brushed, and they all love it. It does as good a job as the brush for getting rid of the loose hair, which makes me happy, and they’re happy to get their ‘massage’ every week.”

Tool type: Curry brush

4. An Expert-Recommended Slicker Brush

Pros:

  • Recommended by groomer Johnson
  • Appropriate for both short- and long-haired felines

Cons:

  • Not as sturdy as some reviewers would like

Johnson swears by this Millers Forge slicker brush. “I like it because it’s soft,” she says. “It’s a productive tool, but it’s not super rigid, whereas a lot of the dog ones are not very comfortable. This isn’t even a cat-specific tool — it just happens to have a softer feel, and I think it’s a lot kinder on cats.” The brush features stainless steel bristles, and it also has a lightweight handle that allows you to use it with ease. It comes in two sizes too, small (featured above) and large for a few more dollars.

One cat owner wrote: “My cat who was not fond of being groomed loves it! Not the stiff, uncomfortable slicker brush like I have tried and thrown away in the past. Bought it for my dog and use it for both.”

Tool type: Slicker brush

5. A Wide-Tooth De-Matting Comb

Pros:

  • It meets Johnson’s criteria for a de-matting comb
  • It removes and prevents mats and knots from forming

Con:

  • The handle is flimsy, according to some reviewers

When it comes to selecting a de-matting comb, according to Johnson: “I prefer a stainless steel comb with wide teeth.” This de-matting comb from Hertzko features stainless steel teeth that are widely spaced apart. While it’s effective at removing small mats and knots, the teeth have rounded tips to protect your cat’s skin from unwanted nicks or cuts. (It’s important to note that if your cat is severely matted, you should have them professionally groomed.) The comb is complete with a rubber handle to offer you a steady hand and a metal rest for your thumb.

One cat owner wrote: “I have a Ragdoll cat that has suddenly started getting terrible clumps of matted fur. It’s impossible to brush them out. I had started trying to cut them out but it was way too stressful for him. This little comb is amazing for detangling the fur and removing the clumps, and he actually enjoys it!”

Tool type: Wide-tooth de-matting comb

6. An Expert-Recommended Greyhound Comb

Pros:

  • Recommended by groomer Vogel
  • Ideal for felines with different hair lengths and textures

Con:

The Chris Christensen Greyhound comb is a splurge, but Vogel assures that it is well worth the price. “It will remove shedding fur and most cats enjoy the feel,” she says. The comb is made of solid metal and designed with fine and extra-fine teeth. And while it will ensure that your cat’s fur is free of knots, tangles, and loose hair, the comb’s rounded tips are gentle on the skin.

One cat owner wrote: “We take our cats to a cat-only groomer twice a year […] and she recommended this comb to us. We have two DSH rescues with different coat textures, but this comb works magic on both. Apparently, it feels great because both of our boys glue themselves to my leg when I pull it out of the drawer. It gets a decent amount of hair up from one of our boys, but hardly any from the other. Either way, they both look sleeker after a quick comb-through.”

Tool type: Greyhound comb

A Nice-To-Have Option: A De-Shedding Tool To Remove Loose Fur

Pros:

  • Removes loose fur from short- and long-haired cats
  • Easy to clean

Con:

  • Not suitable for senior or cats with arthritis

Both Corless and Johnson use the FURminator to remove loose fur, especially when dealing with cats who tend to shed a lot. It’s designed with a blade that captures excess fur from a cat’s coat, and when you’ve collected a significant amount of fur, just press the “release” button to dislodge the fur from the blade (and straight into the trash). It comes in small and large sizes, and in versions for short- or long-haired pets. Just be sure to use it with care and infrequently — Corless suggests every one to two weeks. You should also avoid using it on senior, sick, or arthritic cats.

Tool type: De-shedding tool

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should You Brush A Cat’s Fur?

“Use a brush as often as your cat tolerates, and I would use the FURminator less often. With any tool, just be gentle and make it a good experience,” says Corless. As for Johnson, “I would use the de-matting comb the most frequently, the FURminator only once a week or once every other week if I was grooming like a cat at home.”

How Can You Help Your Cat Like Being Brushed?

“The best way to make your cat comfortable with grooming, including brushing, nail trims, and shaving, is to begin when they are young,” says Dr. Whittenburg. “Kittens should be introduced to all of these procedures between six and twelve weeks of age so they will accept them throughout their lives.” But you can still introduce a brush to an adult cat who dislikes being brushed. Just make sure to “start slow and small,” according to Dr. Whittenburg. And Dr. Whittenburg warns, “Never try to brush an excited, hungry, or grumpy cat. Aim to begin sessions when the cat is fed, calm, and happy.”

“You can clicker-train or use positive reinforcement to train your cat to accept being brushed,” adds Johnson. “If a cat really does not like to be groomed, owners should speak with their veterinarian about pre-medications that can help with anxiety and stress and also pain so that they can have a fear-free grooming experience.”

Experts:

Jamie Whittenburg, D.M.V., veterinarian at Kingsgate Animal Hospital

Ingrid Johnson, fear free-certified groomer and certified cat behavior consultant (CCBC)

Ellen Vogel, fear free-certified groomer and owner of Trilling Cat

Ani Corless, fear free-certified groomer and owner of Luxury Groomer

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