How to Shave a Cat the Right Way & When You Shouldn’t

Shaving your cat at home might seem intimidating, but with the right technique and tools, it’s not too tough.

Updated August 28, 2023
Cat grooming in pet beauty salon

Even though cats are generally self-cleaning creatures, there may come a time when you’ll need to give yours a haircut. Knowing how to shave your cat at home can help you save on groomers' fees, remove mats that don't respond to brushing, or keep the area around their bottom clean if they have long hair. The key to safe shaving is getting your kitty comfortable with the equipment you're using and preparing yourself with this step-by-step guide. 

How to Shave a Cat

You can take your cat to a groomer to have them shaved, but it might be just as simple to do it yourself at home. Keep in mind that every cat is different, and some will resist shaving more than others. Use these tips and procedures to make sure your cat gets a safe and comfortable shave.

A Maine Coon cat gets shaved

1. Trim Their Nails First

Many cats will try to defend themselves when being shaved. Play it safe, and clip their claws before you begin the shave.

2. Test the Sound

Test the sound of the clippers near your cat. If your cat becomes very fearful at only the sound, you may want to consider using a harness or restraining device or asking your vet for a mild sedative before you begin. 

3. Hold the Skin Taut

Cats have very flexible, pliable skin that moves easily. This means that it can easily bunch up under the clippers, potentially giving them a pinch or cut. Hold the skin down firmly, pulling it taut as you shave to avoid cuts.

Quick Tip

Be extra careful around the armpits, groin, elbow, and knee areas where the skin tends to naturally wrinkle. And be especially careful when shaving your senior kitty, because older cats tend to have more fragile skin. 

4. Shave Tip to Tail

Hold your cat gently but firmly and work your way around their body, always starting towards the back of the neck and working your way towards the tail.

5. Check the Blade Temperature

Clippers heat up quickly, so you'll want to check the temperature of the blade frequently throughout the shave. To do this, just press the clippers against the top of your own hand. If they're too warm, change out the blade or use a cooling clipper spray to bring the temp down, as hot clippers could burn your cat if they come in contact with their skin.

6. Take Frequent Breaks

The key to a successful shave is not to hurry. The more calm and unhurried your actions are, the calmer your cat will be. Work slowly to avoid cutting the skin, and take breaks if you feel your cat is becoming too agitated to continue.

It may take several shaves before your cat realizes this procedure won't harm them, and they can finally allow themselves to relax while you work. Try to keep from frightening your cat more than necessary to build this trust in the long term.

Quick Tip

Speak soothingly to your cat and give them plenty of pets throughout the process to reassure them. It can be helpful to have one person at the head simply stroking the cat's head while you clip. 

How to Shave a Cat With Mats

One of the most common scenarios when you'll find yourself shaving your cat is if they develop mats. Matted fur happens when the shedding undercoat gets stuck in a cat's top coat or if they're not able to groom themselves. If you find a few of these knots, you can easily shave them with these steps. 

  1. Hold the matted fur by its end and gently move it from side to side as you shave around and under it.
  2. Depending on how close the mat is to the skin, you may be able to reach it better from one angle or from multiple angles.
  3. Keep moving it gently and cutting it slowly until it comes free.
  4. If possible, have a helper pull the skin around it flat to avoid it coming up into the mat and getting cut.

Supplies for Shaving Your Cat

The only thing that you really need for shaving cats is a good pair of clippers. However, depending on the temperament of your cat and how amenable they are to being shaved, you may find a few other things helpful as well.

  • Various clipper guards 
  • Towel for easy clean up if you don't have a floor that can be easily swept
  • Gloves can help keep your hands from getting scratched, although they are optional
Quick Tip

For full-body jobs, such as a lion cut, you'll probably want to use number 10 clippers, whereas for de-matting your cat, number 40 clippers work best. 

Scenarios When Shaving Is a Good Idea

Are you unsure whether you should shave your cat or not? There are plenty of scenarios where a partial or even full shave can provide your cat with relief.

  • They’ve developed very matted fur
  • The hair around their bottom keeps getting soiled
  • They have a severe flea infestation
  • They’re slipping and need the hair between their toes shaved
  • They have a hotspot
Need to Know

Shaving your cat won't actually keep them cool in the summer. In fact, it can negatively impact their ability to regulate their temperature and puts them at risk for sunburn. 

When to Leave It to Your Groomer 

While there may be times when you feel it would be better to shave your cat at home, there may also be times you need to seek professional help. Stop and ask for assistance from a vet or groomer if:

Shaving a cat
  • Your cat's fur is heavily matted, and the mats extend to the skin
  • The skin beneath a mat is bloody or appears infected
  • You accidentally cut your cat during a shave 
  • Your cat is extremely agitated and unable to be calmed or restrained enough to safely clip them

Can You Shave a Cat?

Regular and frequent grooming can help prevent mats and the need to shave your cat. Practice proper grooming, like brushing, to help avoid this unpleasant task, and if shaving does become necessary, work with care to avoid frightening your cat. That way, you can both be more comfortable with shaving. 

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How to Shave a Cat the Right Way & When You Shouldn’t