Yes, cats groom themselves. So do they really need you to brush them? That’s what a reader asked; here’s my answer.
Q: Why do I have to brush my cat? Don’t cats groom themselves?
A: Cats do a great job of grooming themselves, but brushing has a lot of positives beyond helping cats stay clean. It’s a basic step in monitoring your cat’s physical condition, for one thing.
When you brush your cat, you’re learning how her body looks and feels normally. You’ll notice when brushing feels good to her — “Ah, yes, right there!” — and when she flinches away because there’s a painful spot that you otherwise might not have noticed. Brushing is a time to check your cat for parasites such as fleas; flakiness that might be caused by dry skin; and to make sure she doesn’t have any lumps or bumps, especially as she gets older or if she goes outdoors and might have gotten into a scuffle with another cat.
Brushing has benefits for you, too. In cats with long fur, it prevents tangles from forming. You probably remember from when you were a kid how painful it is to have tangles combed or brushed out. Brushing removes loose hairs that would otherwise drift onto your clothing, carpet and furniture. And it keeps your cat from swallowing loose hairs that then form hairballs that she hacks up onto your floor for you to step on in the middle of the night. (By the way, did you know that the scientific term for hairball is trichobezoar? The word comes from Greek and refers to a mass formed from hair.)
Last, but definitely not least, brushing your cat is a way to strengthen your bond with her. It’s time that you spend together doing something that’s pleasurable for her. You can do it while you’re watching TV or as a form of meditation for yourself. Brush on!
There’s more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.