The first thing to know is how shedding works with a long-haired cat.
Long-haired cats have two coats of fur they switch between when the seasons change. It's one part genetics and one part reaction to the weather, sunlight, and other stimuli.
When winter starts to creep in and the days get shorter and colder, your cat will start to grow a thicker, fluffier undercoat. This coat is highly insulating and helps keep them warm in the coldest months, even if they spend time outside or on a cold windowsill.
They'll still find those brilliant winter sunbeams to nap in, but they'll have a thicker coat to do it more comfortably.
Of course, your cat will be shedding at least a little bit all year-‘round.
That's why you really should get into the habit of brushing them at least a little every week. The more you help them remove loose fur, the less they'll ingest and end up hocking back up as a hairball.
Different sources recommend different grooming schedules. For example, according to the ASPCA, all cats in general should be brushed once or twice per week.
“Brushing your cat not only removes dirt, grease, and dead hair from her coat, but it helps to remove skin flakes and stimulates blood circulation, improving the overall condition of her skin. One or two brushings per week will help kitty to keep her healthy glow—and you’ll find that regular sessions are especially beneficial when your cat ages and is no longer able to groom so meticulously on her own.”- The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®)
However, for long-haired cats I recommend upping the frequency to daily.
I find that short daily brushing sessions can be a great way to keep your fur baby acclimated to the brush, with a deeper and more thorough brushing about once a week.
You might find a different schedule works best for you and your long-haired furry friend.
“Cats with long, silky, or curly coats require daily brushing to keep their hair from becoming tangled or matted, especially around the ears, in the armpits, or along the back of the legs. Cats with short hair coats may require less frequent brushing.” – VCA Hospitals
In my case for example, I have noticed that Sosa (my 18-year-old fluffy calico) is easier to brush when I do a little bit every day.
Also, I don't have to spend much time per session, and the greatest part is that she seems very relaxed and happy.
However, when for whatever reason a fail to brush her for several days in a row, I find that then she seems tense and annoyed at me and isn't very cooperative.
She totally acts like she’s never been brushed before. Then I find myself reverting back to day 1: Cat-brush introduction 101. Not ideal to say the least.
Brushing your cat everyday shouldn't be difficult. Just take advantage of those relaxing tv-watching times when your cat loves to come to you for quality lap time. Keep your brush handy so you don't miss the opportunity.
It's always very helpful to keep a couple of key types of brushes handy to assist your feline's grooming. A dematting brush can be a good choice if your kitty’s fur is already a little tangled, but it's not typically an everyday tool.
Instead, a natural fiber bristle brush can help remove loose fur without pulling or tugging on fur that hasn't shed, while minimizing the discomfort some cats experience at being brushed.
We always recommend pet parents look for natural fiber bristle brushes. The physical structure of their natural fibers does a much better job than synthetic fibers.
Did you know that the same applies for us humans? Natural fiber brushes do a much better job (compared to plastic fibers) in helping distribute our natural hair oils (sebum) thus helping us maintain healthy and great looking hair.
We also always recommend avoiding traditional slicker brushes. They have sharp metal bristles that can easily scratch your fur baby’s skin making them avoid future brushing sessions.
Additionally, you should always pass on the FURminator deshedding tools. I bought one years ago for our family kitty who loved to be brushed and yet still always left tufts of hair all over the house.
This tool does remove a ton of hair. The problem I found was that the more I brushed the more hair was removed, and if you stay in one spot you can easily remove too much. Yes – I mean you can leave a bald spot.
Think of this tool like a thinning tool you may have seen at the hair salon. These "brushes" actually cut the hair hence all of the “shed” hair being removed.
I normally advise pet parents to leave the use of these types of tools exclusively to professional groomers.
Cats often groom one another, and since you're an honorary cat in their eyes, they will often allow you to help them groom.
They may even try to groom you in return! Just make sure when you’re the groomer you aren't being too aggressive. Consider the gentle nature of a cat’s tongue and try to keep your pressure with the brush similar.
The other reason nutrition is important is weight – and yes weight relates to hair health. Overweight cats can have trouble grooming themselves.
For a short-haired cat this is probably less of an issue, but for a long-haired cat, it can quickly lead to mats, tangles, and other issues that are unpleasant for both you and your fur baby.
Of course, every cat is different. Some will happily over-eat if you let them, while others are picky and need to be cajoled into eating enough. Some turn their noses up at gourmet food, while others are happy eating out of the trash.
Watch what your cat eats. Watch how it affects their disposition, their weight, and their digestion. Make sure issues don't crop up, and if they do, consult with your veterinarian for food that can help solve the problem.
Supplements can also help with keeping a healthy coat. In particular I’m talking about fatty acids.
“There is no question that a diet must contain adequate omega 6 fatty acids to maintain optimal skin and coat quality. A diet found to be “complete and balanced” will have an amount of omega 6 fatty acids that should be optimal for a normal animal.” – VIN. Veterinary Partner.
Fish oil is a great source of fatty acids. Omega-3s and omega-6s are both essential to a healthy coat.
There are a gazillion options in the marketplace and so you shouldn't have issues finding a good option for your cat. There are even some food options that will include omegas in their nutrition profile.
There is a caveat though. And it's a big one. One particular risk found in fish oil supplements is the presence of mercury. Given the unregulated and risky nature of pet supplements, the risk of mercury contamination is always high.
Regardless of how great of a job the manufacturer does in labeling their products, you should know that the risk is high. Don’t be fooled by pretty labels and hundreds of inexplicably long 5-star reviews. The risk is still there.
A great alternative source of omegas can be found in hemp oil extracts. CBD oil is a great source of both. In fact, the many health benefits of hemp seed oil are derived from its high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Did you know that hemp oil is one of the most perfectly balanced oils?
This is due to the fact that it contains a 3:1 ratio of both the essential fatty acids: Omega 6 - Linoleic Acid (LA) and Omega 3 - Linolenic Acid (LNA).
In addition to the well-known benefits found in CBD oils and tinctures, regular administration of a hemp extract specially formulated for pets may help you cat maintain a healthy coat while mitigating the risk of mercury exposure.
3: Handle Bath Time the Right Way
You may have heard that cats hate water and have seen all manner of media about wild cats struggling to escape the dreaded bath. Well, that's true for some cats, but not all of them.
There are many different reasons why a cat might dislike bath time. Maybe they had a bad experience in the past, with shampoo in the eyes or water in the ears.
Perhaps they were dunked too abruptly once and hated the experience, or maybe you've just run the water too cold or too hot for them to find pleasant.
The most likely reason is that your cat has never had a bath until something unpleasant occurred that necessitated a good cleaning.
Most indoor cats will likely never need a bath. If they regularly groom and have no other health issues, cats do an amazing job at keeping their coats in good condition.
However, if your kitty does need a bath, remember, a cat's internal body temperature usually runs 100-102 degrees, which is hotter than ours. What we find lukewarm might be on the chill side for them.
Do what you can to make bath time more pleasant. Some of the reasons cats don't like baths have more to do with the environment and the noise of plumbing than the actual water itself.
When it comes to bath time, make sure to use a shampoo designed for long-haired cats. Look for a good natural conditional to help soften their hair to prevent future matting.
Once you’re made it through the bath (hopefully with no blood drawn) be sure to towel/pat dry your fur baby's coat.
If you leave it damp, they can catch a chill. Leave the blow drying to professional groomers. Using a regular hair dryer can cause drying of the skin and tangled hair.
To Bathe or Not to Bathe Your Cat
When in doubt, of course, take your fur baby to a professional groomer or vet to handle bath time for you.
4: Trimming Fur
Your fur baby's long, majestic coat is one their most beautiful traits, so it might seem difficult to bring yourself to give it a trim.
Luckily, a "trim," in this case, is a very careful bit of additional grooming.
If you choose to give it a shot yourself, all you want to do is use clippers to trim hair from places where it can be… let’s say disruptive.
The biggest offender is around their rear (where unpleasantness can get caught in fur and linger) perhaps you know these hitchhikers as dingleberries?
My little Sosa has had this problem. Keeping her “tail feathers” trimmed helps prevent the unwanted accessories.
The second area of concern is around the toe beans. Toe tufts may be adorable, but they can make it harder to properly trim your fur baby's nails later, and the last thing you want to do is crack a nail or cut the quick!
If you don't feel comfortable with a bit of light fur trimming, you may want to consider having a professional groomer take care of it.
Just make sure that they aren't over-shaving your darling; after all, you don't want them left too bare!
You can also ask your vet to do a little sanitary trimming around the hind end at your fur baby’s next appointment.
5: Beware the Shave
It can be tempting to give your long-haired fur baby a lion's cut or a full-body shave, especially if they seem like they're overheating when summer hits, but they haven't fully shed their winter coat.
Unfortunately, a full shave is occasionally necessary. In most cases, though, taking care of your fur baby properly means you'll never need to opt for a shave – at least due to matting.
Shaving is generally only necessary in a few instances.
Mistreatment or neglect leads to heavily matted fur that can't just be brushed loose. Obviously, you would never intentionally do this to your own fur baby, but if you're adopting a cat that was left as a stray, that someone else neglected, or if your poor feline friend escaped the house and got lost for a while, it can leave their fur matted and hard to handle. When this happens, often the only recourse is to shave out the mats and wait for their coat to grow back in.
Preparation for a medical procedure that needs part of the skin exposed. The most common example of this is neutering or spaying your cat, where fur is shaved to expose the skin for surgery. As they age, medical issues may necessitate further testing, which will requiring shaving (such as an ultrasound).
General medical reasons. Skin infections, parasites, and other issues under the fur may, in extreme cases, necessitate a full shave. It's best to avoid this if possible but, you know, it's not always possible.
One of my childhood kitties, a Persian mix was a poor groomer from the day we brought her home. As she got older during the summers her skin would get itchy – ultimately the vet recommended that we have her shaved.
To be honest, she hated her cute lion cut. She seemed so embarrassed at her little naked body.
The good thing though, her skin irritation cleared up and she was much more comfortable during the warmer months. One of those last resort kinds of situations where a full shave was necessary.
6: Be Thorough with a Skin Check
When you groom your cat, and especially if and when you give them a bath and dry them off, make sure to be as thorough as you can when checking their skin.
It's pretty hard to notice small bald patches, lumps, abscesses, punctures, ticks, and other skin issues beneath that long and luxurious coat.
There's an argument to be made for a blow dryer after a bath, specifically to help move their fur around and check the skin more completely.
This will 100% depend on whether or not your feline friend tolerates the noise and buffeting of the blow dryer. Some don't mind or even seem to enjoy it. Others will run when the scary machine starts to whine.
Even if all you can do is casual brushing without the aid of a groomer, checking their skin thoroughly will help you spot potential problems.
This is especially important if you let your cat outside, even on a lead; they can pick up all manner of parasites and other nasties even when you think your yard is pretty clean and free of them.
7: Help with Relaxation
If your cat is particularly skittish or anxious, especially during grooming or bath time, you can try to help them relax in a few different ways. Some cats find catnip relaxing, for example, though many will get riled up instead.
One of my biggest recommendations is to try out CBD. A good CBD product is beneficial, healthy, and generally safe for your fur baby.
In addition to their fatty acid content, it can help them relax and be more tolerant of things like grooming or the stress they feel in a bath.
It can also potentially help if they're nervous about a car ride when you take them to the groomer or vet.
Long-haired cats are among the most gorgeous, adorable, loving, and cuddly animals you can possibly call your furry children.
Yet, that beauty comes at a price; those long coats are much more work to care for than that of a short-haired cat.
Fortunately, that doesn't mean it's impossible. Caring for your long-furred friend is easy; you just need to know what to do.
Speaking of, do you have any questions? I tried to cover all the bases with my tips up above, but it's always pawsible that I missed something. If I did, or if you just want to ask something I haven't written about before, leave me a comment! I love to hear from my fans and fellow feline fanatics, so drop me a line and let's have a chat!
One more thing, if you are feeling like getting a little special something for your fur dog or cat that is unique, made right here in the USA, 100% pup and cat safe, USDA certified organic and brought to you by a US company, check out Toe Beans online pet supplies store!
K Marie Alto
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer (https://www.amazon.com/author/kmariealto), and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 45K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).