How Bad Is It to Use a Human Hairbrush on a Long-Haired Cat?

Brushing long-haired cat
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Using a human hairbrush on your cat probably won't harm your feline, but it's not the best way to groom her.

A brush is a brush is a brush, right? Not so, Lynn Paolillo, CFMG, CFCG and head instructor at the National Cat Groomers Institute of America, says.

Although a human hairbrush probably won’t harm your cat, it may not help much. “Cats have very dense coats, and human hairbrushes only brush the top coat,” Paolillo says. “They don’t penetrate to the hair closest to the cat’s skin.” In long-haired cats, it’s especially important to remove the dead undercoat next to the skin to help prevent matting.

But there’s another reason why it’s best to keep your brush to yourself: If your cat has a skin condition, such as ringworm (a fungal infection), it’s possible for you to become infected via the brush.

Ditch the Brush, Get a Comb

So what’s a diligent cat owner to do? “The best tool for a long-haired cat is a metal comb,” Paolillo suggests. “Plastic combs break too easily.” She recommends looking for a metal comb with rounded tines, so they won’t damage the cat’s skin.

Although high-quality combs may cost more, Paolillo says they’re worth it, because they last longer. “At our salon and school, we use combs by Chris Christensen, and I also recommend the Cat Shedding Comb by Safari.”

Some Other Words of Advice

Though the FURminator is a popular brush with many pet owners, in Paolillo’s experience, it’s best to avoid using it on long-haired cats. She feels that, like human brushes, it doesn’t penetrate to the hair next to the skin. “It may seem like it is removing a lot of undercoat,” she says, “but it is actually cutting some hair at different lengths, which can lead to damaged, matted hair.”

Because long-haired cats should really be groomed every day, it’s best to start with short sessions when your cat is relaxed. Providing treats and praise at this time can help your cat make positive associations with grooming. As your cat becomes more comfortable with the routine, gradually lengthen each session. Eventually, daily grooming can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience for you and your cat.

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