How to Comb Your Cat's Belly

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Many cats who are amenable to having their shoulders and backs combed are resistant to anyone combing their bellies. However, gunk, dirt, mats, and other undesirable things can accumulate on kitty's undercarriage just as they can on other parts of the body. So there are definite advantages to getting your cat to let you comb in that area.

Here's one approach to acclimating your "just on top, please" cat to belly-combing. The usual caveat to cat-related endeavors—"your results may vary"—applies. In addition, any new routine involving a feline-human combination tends to proceed best when the two parties have developed a trusting and caring relationship.

(Note: In this article, "comb" also refers to any brush that can make its way through your cat's fur and pick up loose fur, dirt, and other extraneous particles.)

  1. Start the combing session by concentrating on places kitty most likes to be combed, such as her forehead, back, and upper sides. A few (or more) chin scratches wouldn't hurt, either.
  2. When it's time to venture into the belly area, sit or kneel on the floor right behind your cat, continuing with some gentle combing, and put your non-combing hand on your cat's upper chest-lower neck area, as sort of a gentle brace. It typically helps if you maintain a steady, soft, reassuring, and upbeat dialog. The idea is for everyone to be calm, relaxed, and secure at this stage.
  3. Take your non-combing hand off kitty's upper chest-lower neck, and position your non-combing forearm under your cat, just in back of her front legs, up against her belly. Let her know that you're about to comb her tummy, by giving a brief announcement, such as "Give me your belly." Always use this phrase just before combing her belly. Consistency and predictability are important from your cat's point of view.
  4. Gently and deftly, lift the front part of your cat up—her back paws should remain firmly on the ground—and start to comb her belly. Be acutely aware of her reactions, and stop combing her belly and let her back down as soon as she makes it clear that she's becoming anxious or annoyed. It may be that the first time you try to comb her belly, she only tolerates it for a few seconds. That's okay; there's plenty of time for her to get used to the procedure, and one of the keys to reaching that goal is to take it only to the point where she resists, and then to try again the next day. Eventually—especially if you and your cat have a friendly rapport—the chances are good that she'll feel comfortable enough to let you comb and brush her tummy, and she may even grow to like it.

End the session with kitty's favorite brush, in her favorite areas, as well as some petting and of course the obligatory chin scratches.

You may want to experiment with different types of combs and brushes. Each one works a little differently in terms of how it traps fur, picks up gunk, stimulates the skin, and so forth—and perhaps most importantly, every cat has different tastes.

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