Should you pet your cat with a toothbrush? Experts debunk viral posts

“If you get a wet toothbrush and you pet a cat with it, it supposedly reminds you” of your mother who nursed you when you were a kitten.

This claim has been doing the rounds online and recently went viral thanks to videos posted on Reddit and TikTok. In both cases, the footage shows a cat having its head and face massaged with a toothbrush – and apparently becoming “emotional,” almost as if the brush evoked childhood memories.

So, is it true that the bristles evoke memories that calm your cat? Should you rush to the grocery store to buy a replacement toothbrush for your pet?

What is the medical evidence?

Zazie Todd, cat behavior expert and author of Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat HappyShe said it was an interesting idea, but that she “didn’t know of any evidence to support it”.

she said news week: “Cats are used to us petting them with our hands, and some cats may feel stressed and react badly if we change our modus operandi.”

dr Christian Broadhurst, senior veterinarian at the Clay Humane non-profit clinic in Orange Park, Fla., also said there was no medical evidence to support the idea, but added that most cats like to be brushed anyway.

“I could see that very young kittens respond well to this because that is where they would need their mother’s care the most. If you had an abandoned kitten that you wanted to raise, it would probably be very comforting and very comforting to you.

“Whether they believe it’s actually their mother, we don’t know. There’s no evidence of that,” he said news week.

When to pet or brush your cat

Any changes in your cat’s routine can affect their mood and increase anxiety levels. They also love having their space and being in control of the situation, so make sure they’re okay with being petted before you do.

“We should always give cats the choice of whether or not they want to be petted,” Todd said, explaining that the best way to “ask for their permission” is to go down to their level and use a hand or a finger reach out and see if they do approach it and rub it.

“If they do, they’ll probably appreciate some pets, but if they don’t, it’s their choice.”

The way a cat responds to human attention generally depends on its personality and the context. There are no hard and fast rules and what they liked a few minutes ago may not feel appropriate later.

Because of this, Todd recommends not petting her for too long. “Keep the cuddles short. You can take a consent test by pausing and seeing what the cat is doing. If she wants more cuddles, she’ll make it pretty obvious.”

Where you can pet or brush your cat

Many cats like to be petted near the head and face, “where the scent glands are,” Todd says. However, this can also vary. “Because every cat is an individual, it’s important to pay attention to their body language to identify their personal preferences.”

Broadhurst said many cats also like being brushed across the shoulders and mid-back. He advised against brushing near the base of the tail or on the belly.

“Hold it by the head, shoulders and first half of the back. You may be able to stroke the rest of the way with your hand, but don’t use bristles. Further down it can be very irritating to the sensitive skin at the base of your back.”

What kind of brush is best?

Some cats seem to like being petted with a wet toothbrush, judging by the number of social media clips showing people trying the “hack” on their pet.

However, according to Broadhurst, most cats prefer a very fine wire bristle brush. “Grooming them gently with it really pulls out a lot of undercoat and they seem to really enjoy it. Well, that tends to be my preference – as are some thick bristle brushes and brushes with plastic bristles.”

Whether brushing your cat hurts or not depends more on your technique, he added.

“You will be able to read your cat. If you brush your cat and she tries to get away from you, you are probably brushing too hard or your cat doesn’t like being brushed. If your cat comes over and you brush and fall onto her side so you can brush her side better, that’s a good sign she’s enjoying it and you’re doing it right.”

With all the whiskers and sensory organs that are on their faces, you might not want to use the wire bristles there. “That might be a place where you want to use a softer brush, maybe more like a hairbrush.”

cat with toothbrush
A cat having its teeth brushed. Your cat will quickly let you know if she doesn’t enjoy being petted or brushed.
Getty Images Should you pet your cat with a toothbrush? Experts debunk viral posts

Rick Schindler

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