As shorthair cats with fairly low activity levels, British Shorthairs don’t need enormous amounts of complicated grooming. Even so, it’s important to take care of your cat’s fur, teeth and nails, not to mention their eyes and noses. These 17 simple tips won’t just help you keep your cat looking handsome and well-groomed – they’ll also support your pet’s health and wellbeing. Grooming is the perfect opportunity to check for injuries and health problems; a proper grooming programme can also prevent some common health issues in cats.
1: Choose the right brush for your British Shorthair.
The brushes recommended for long hair breeds may not be ideal for shorthair kitties. A metal shedding comb works well for the British Shorthair’s dense coat.
- I find the ones made for dogs are actually ideal for my BSH kitties -their fur is just so thick and crisp than a regular kitty comb just doesn’t cut it.
- A mitt brush is a good option for British Shorthairs who don’t take well to grooming – just stroke her as you normally would, making sure to run your hand over her tummy and down her legs.
- Rubber brushes are excellent for picking up loose hair so that your cat doesn’t ingest it.
- If you have both shorthair and longhair cats in your home, a double-sided brush is a good investment.
Some people swear by vacuum grooming tools: small low-powered hand-held vacuum cleaners that can be run lightly over the cat’s fur to pick up hair, dander and other detritus. They have the advantage of not needing to be run through the cat’s fur, which some kitties object to. I have never been able to get on with them because all of my cats have been scared of the motor; I know some other British Shorthair owners who love theirs, however. Your mileage may vary.
2: Brush or comb your cat’s coat in the direction of the hair growth.
Have you ever heard the expression, “it rubbed me the wrong way?” Cats hate having their fur pushed against the direction of the fur growth.
Pay attention to the way your cat’s fur lies and brush or comb in that direction. British Shorthairs are very patient and will often put up with the discomfort of careless brushing but it makes the whole process much less pleasant for them.
Your cat will be much less resistant to brushing and other grooming activities if you make the experience as pleasant as possible.
3: Before and during brushing, check your cat’s skin.
Grooming is a great time to give your British Shorthair a once-over for any injuries or skin problems. Look out for bald patches, lumps, bumps, minor injuries and insect bites.
- If you have an outdoor cat (I personally don’t recommend this; British Shorthairs do better as indoor kitties) check carefully to make sure she hasn’t picked up any ticks.
- Pay close attention to any flinching or unusual discomfort — this could be a sign of a strain, sprain or internal injury that needs attention.
- Look for black specks in your cat’s fur and for any traces of dried blood — these can be signs that she’s being bothered by fleas and needs to be treated with flea repellent.
- Introduce Salmon Oil in the diet – a good quality fish oil full of Omegas 3 and 6 will not only boost the immune system of your cat but also will improve skin and coat. American Journey Salmon Oil would be my best recommendation.
Ask your vet to recommend a good flea repellent. Personally, I like spot treatments and oral preparations – they’re very easy to use and only need to be topped up once a month. (Avoid using so-called “natural” repellents. They often contain concentrated essential oils that are toxic to cats, such as eucalyptus. You cat can easily ingest enough when she cleans herself to cause a serious health issue.)
4: Brush your cat at least once a week.
Even though the British Shorthair’s coat doesn’t really mat or develop tangles like pets with longer hair, it’s still a good idea to brush her coat fairly frequently. A once-weekly brushing will keep your pet’s coat in good shape, distributing the skin’s natural oils and removing the loose hair. If not picked up, that hair is often ingested by your cat during her normal cleaning sessions and can form hairballs.
Another benefit to brushing your cat regularly is that there will be less cat hair in your home, on your clothes and stuck in your dryer lint trap. (One of my British Shorthair-owning friends told me how he opened up a malfunctioning PC to find the case absolutely clogged with cat hair, blocking the fan and all the exhaust vents; he became a regular grooming convert thereafter). Brushing more frequently is good, especially during Spring when your British Shorthair will be moulting.
Run the comb or brush gently through your cat’s coat, going with the lie of the fur and not hurrying to tug. Make sure you brush her all over, including the tricky tummy region. British Shorthairs tend to be better about having their tummies groomed than some breeds — they’re often fans of a good belly-rub and I suppose being groomed feels similar. Take your time and let the cat run off for a break if she gets uncomfortable.
5: Get your BSH used to her claw clippers before you use them.
Claw clipping can be a major headache for cat owners but it’s possible to reduce the stress a great deal by doing a little preparation. When you introduce your cat to the Clippers, it’s important to ensure that she’s comfortable with them.
- Leave the clippers in places she likes to hang out — her favourite napping spot or next to her food dish are good places.
- Accustom your cat to the sound of the clippers by cutting small pieces of dry spaghetti near her and then giving her a treat.
- Gradually progress to clipping the spaghetti near her feet, then while pressing her toes as if you were pushing her claws out for a clipping.
Do not progress to actually clipping her nails until she’s comfortable with every stage of the process.
6: Clip your cat’s claws with the cat on your lap and facing away from you.
This is usually the easiest position for trimming a cat’s claws. British Shorthairs don’t usually enjoy extended lap time so try to keep the procedure short. Take her paw in your hand and very gently squeeze a toe to expose the claw, then lightly trim the very tip of her claw.
When clipping her claws, be very careful only to snip away the white tip of the claw. Cutting the pink quick is very painful for the cat so err on the side of cutting too little rather than too much. It’s not necessary to take off more than the very tips of the claws.
7: Only clip a few nails at a time.
Cats generally don’t like having their claws fiddled with. Even the stoic British Shorthair will lose her temper eventually if you don’t desist when she tries to take her foot away. It’s stressful and unpleasant, and the longer the process goes on for the harder it is for your BSH to retain her trademark composure.
Do one foot at a time and be prepared to let your cat get down when she’s had enough. If your cat sits comfortably through having the first paw clipped she might tolerate a second — but don’t push it. The easier you make it on your cat, the more relaxed she’ll be about future nail care appointments.
8: Trim claws every two weeks.
Every ten days to two weeks, give your cat a manicure. This will help prevent accidental scratches (either on herself, your other pets or you). Cats can sometimes suffer from ingrown claws if they don’t get their nails trimmed regularly. This is important for British Shorthairs as their lower activity levels can lead to claw overgrowth — especially in later life, as your cat will become less and less active.
Providing a scratching post can also help with this. Scratching posts help your cat to wear down her claws and remove old claw sheaths, while also encouraging exercise.
9: Check your cat’s pads when you clip her nails.
Take a moment to check over your cat’s paws and make sure she’s not hiding any injuries or skin problems. Her paw pads should be soft and look smooth, with no nicks, scabs or flaking skin.
Check between her toes, too. Bathe minor injuries and keep an eye on them as they heal. More serious cuts, foreign bodies etc. may need to be treated by the vet. The same goes for ingrown claws.
10: Bathe your cat regularly.
For the most part, a weekly or bi-weekly brushing will be sufficient. Your cat will look after her day-to-day washing herself. If your cat has been in contact with something sticky, oily or dirty, though, it may be better to wash her yourself. Severe infestations with fleas or other pests may also require a bath. Brush your cat first to remove any loose hair and plug her ears with cotton wool to prevent water from getting in.
Gently wash her in the bath with the shower head or in the sink with a shower attachment. Use warm water, not hot. Your cat may object to this process so trim her nails first if you can. When you’re done, reward her with a treat and reassure her.
11: Make sure any bathing products you use are safe for your cat.
When your British Shorthair needs to be bathed, use a pet-safe shampoo as directed on the bottle. Be sure to rinse thoroughly to remove any trace of soap from her fur.
Do not use detergent or soaps and shampoos made for humans — they may contain ingredients that can harm your pet. The best shampoo is one with a mild flea and parasite repellent.
12: Check ears.
Once a week, inspect your cat’s ears for any problems. A little wax is normal but her ears should be free of mucus and excessive wax buildup.
There should be no discharge and no signs of scratching or excessive grooming, which can indicate that something is bothering your kitty. Look carefully for ear-mites or any signs of inflammation.
13: Check your British Shorthair’s eyes and nose regularly.
British Shorthairs aren’t prone to eye issues — they have large, well-formed eyes and lack the extreme brachycephaly of certain “flat-faced” breeds, which means they don’t suffer from issues relating to their tear ducts. That said, any breed of cat can develop eye disorders; conjunctivitis is quite common and cats can also develop issues such as glaucoma or cataracts.
Use a cotton ball and a mild solution of salt to gently wipe away any mucus or fluid build-up around your cat’s eyes. If the mucus returns, your pet may have an eye infection. Check your cat’s eyes for any signs of redness, cloudiness or swelling and look to see if there are any injuries.
Your cat’s pupils should respond rapidly to light and her eyes should move in sync with each other. If one of both of your pet’s eyes seems not to respond to light or isn’t moving as it should take her to the vet.
Your British Shorthair probably won’t have any special problems with her nose but you should still inspect it regularly. Check for injuries, blockages or inflammation. A persistent runny nose can be a sign that your cat has an infection or an allergy.
14: Check under your cat’s tail.
It may be distasteful but this is a necessary part of looking after your cat. You can buy disposable pet-safe wipes that make any clean-ups less problematic. Any matted or dirty fur should be snipped away with scissors.
Check your cat’s anus for small brown objects about the size of a grain of rice. These may be tapeworm eggs and would indicate that it’s time to get her de-wormed. Irritation, discharge or bleeding can be a sign that she has a medical issue and needs to be examined by a veterinary professional.
15: Brush your cat’s teeth at least once a week.
Like any other cat, your British Shorthair can suffer from tooth and gum problems. You can avert these by cleaning her teeth regularly. Ideally, this should be done every three days or so but once weekly is an acceptable minimum. Some cats absolutely hate this while others seem to thoroughly enjoy a good tooth-brushing session. If your British Shorthair falls into the former camp, there are ways to make the process much less unpleasant for both pet and human.
Meat and fish flavoured toothpaste are available here; experiment with different flavours to find one that your pet really likes. There’s bound to be at least one flavour she can’t get enough of and will tolerate brushing for. Acclimate your cat to the toothbrush by putting a dab of her favourite toothpaste on it and allowing her to lick it off.
If your cat still looks askance at her standard pet toothbrush, try a finger brush instead. This is a plastic or rubber finger cot with bristles on the end. It allows you to push your finger into the cat’s mouth, which may make scrubbing easier. If your cat still can’t cope with a brush, you can try wrapping your finger in a clean rag and just wiping her teeth. Brushing is much more effective, of course, but a wipe is better than nothing at all.
16: Reassure your cat during grooming sessions and reward her afterwards.
Keep your voice low and comforting and try to reassure your cat while you’re grooming her. British Shorthairs tend to be quite patient but they don’t like being held or manhandled; try to keep grooming sessions short unless your cat is actively enjoying the process.
Reward her when she cooperates and offers praise — British Shorthairs are smart cookies and will understand this kind of positive reinforcement. When you’re done, give her a treat. If possible, schedule a fun activity directly after grooming, even if it’s just mealtime. If you connect brushing, claw-trimming and so on to something your cat enjoys, she’ll take more readily to the process.
17: If your cat fights during any part of the grooming process, don’t punish her or raise your voice.
Some cats absolutely hate some or all of these procedures and will try to escape. It’s important to keep your temper. Your British Shorthair is unlikely to be trying your patience on purpose and won’t learn anything from being punished or told off. Instead, you’ll be causing her needless distress.
If grooming time always ends up with your cat being yelled at or swatted, she’ll start to associate those negative experiences with being brushed or having her nails clipped, etc. This will make her less keen to cooperate with grooming in future, creating a vicious circle.
If there’s some part of the grooming process you really struggle with — trimming claws is many people’s least favourite — you can enlist the help of your veterinary practice. They will be able to trim your cat’s claws, clean her teeth and so on if you really can’t do it. As an alternative option, you could schedule sessions with a professional cat groomer, who will also be able to give you some tips.