Should I shave my cat?

June 7, 2024 - 8 min read

The information in this article has been reviewed by Dr. Rebecca MacMillan on June 28, 2024 . Although it may provide helpful guidance, it should not be substituted for professional veterinary advice.

On orange cat with a shaved body laying on a pink blanket

Article snapshot

Cats have fur for a reason! Shaving them requires careful consideration of the pros, cons, and alternatives.

  • Cat fur: Provides insulation, protection, and sensory functions. Different grooming needs for short-haired and long-haired breeds.

  • Reasons for shaving: Medical (matting, skin conditions, post-surgery) and non-medical (reduce shedding, aesthetics, allergen reduction).

  • Risks: Skin irritation, possible sunburn, stress, behavioral changes, disrupted temperature regulation, and sensory function impact.

  • Alternatives: Regular grooming, professional grooming services, managing shedding through diet and grooming aids.

  • If shaving is necessary: Prepare by assessing your cat’s temperament, using the right tools, and providing proper aftercare.

  • Consult a vet: For severe matting, skin conditions, or behavioral changes. Vets offer crucial advice and treatment.

Is it okay to shave a cat?

Shaving your cat might seem like a practical solution to manage shedding or to help your cat stay cool, but there's a lot to consider. Before you give your feline friend a haircut, it's important to understand the role of their fur and the potential consequences of shaving it off.

There are times when shaving might be a good idea, like in cases of severe matting or in the case of certain medical conditions. But shaving isn't always necessary and.

Let's explore the reasons behind shaving and the alternatives available, so you can make an informed decision that prioritizes your cat’s health and happiness.

Understanding cat fur

A balding area of fur on a cat, with obvious hair loss

Cat fur serves multiple vital purposes that go beyond just making your feline look fluffy and adorable.

The role of cat fur

Cat fur serves several important functions. First, it provides natural insulation, helping cats regulate their body temperature in cold weather by helping to keep them warm.

Plus, cat fur offers protection against environmental elements. It shields their skin from the sun's harmful UV rays, reduces the risk of cuts and scratches, and acts as a barrier against dirt and other contaminants. The fur also plays a sensory role, as cats have sensitive hairs called vibrissae (whiskers) that help them detect changes in their surroundings, enhancing their ability to navigate and hunt. These are predominantly found on your cat’s face and forelimbs.

Types of cat fur

Cats come in a variety of fur types, each with its own unique characteristics and grooming needs. Understanding your cat's fur type can help you determine the best grooming practices and whether shaving might be necessary.

Short-haired breeds, like the Siamese or the Domestic Shorthair, typically require less intensive grooming. Their fur is less likely to mat and can be managed with regular brushing. But long-haired breeds, such as the Persian or Maine Coon, have more demanding grooming needs due to their dense and often tangle-prone fur. These cats benefit from daily brushing to prevent matting and to remove loose hair.

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Reasons for shaving a cat

Shaving your cat can be necessary for various reasons, ranging from medical needs to personal preferences. Whatever you decide to do, you should always prioritize your cat's safety and comfort.

Medical reasons

Shaving a cat can sometimes be necessary for medical reasons. Severe matting and tangles in a cat’s fur can cause discomfort and even pain. When mats become too dense, they can pull on the skin, leading to irritation or sores. In such cases, shaving may be the best solution to provide relief and prevent further issues.

Skin conditions and infections can also warrant shaving. If your cat has a skin infection, shaving the fur can make it easier to apply topical treatments and monitor the healing process. Similarly, before surgical procedures, the area where the incision will be made  is shaved and cleaned by the vet team. This is important for surgical sterility and reduces the risk of infection.

Non-medical reasons

Some pet parents choose to shave their cats for non-medical reasons. One common reason is to reduce shedding, which can be particularly helpful for those with allergies or for maintaining a cleaner home environment. However, it's critical to weigh the benefits against any potential risks. 

Other pet  parents opt for a cat haircut for aesthetic reasons. But while a neatly trimmed coat might look appealing, it’s important to consider whether the aesthetic benefits justify any possible stress for your cat.

Shaving can also help reduce allergens in the home, as cat dander is a common allergen. However, regular grooming and cleaning can often manage these issues without the need for shaving.

Risks and considerations

Before you take the clippers to your cat’s fur, you should carefully consider the potential risks and implications.

Physical risks

Shaving a cat comes with several physical risks. One of the most common issues is skin irritation and cuts. Cats have delicate skin that can easily be nicked by clippers or razors, especially if they're anxious or move suddenly during the process. This can lead to infections and prolonged discomfort.

Another significant risk is increased vulnerability to sunburn. Like humans (and dogs), cats are vulnerable to the sun's harmful UV rays. Your cat's fur provides a good deal of natural protection–but without this protection, their skin can burn more easily leading to long term damage. In reality, a thin layer of fur is usually left after clipping (most cat’s are not shaved completely bald) so sunburn is not common.

Finally, shaving can cause general discomfort and stress. The process itself can be frightening and uncomfortable. For this reason, some vets will advise admitting your cat for sedation to clip them safely, particularly if their matting is extensive. The sensation of having very short fur or no fur at all afterwards can also be unsettling for them, to begin with.

Behavioral and psychological impact

The act of shaving can be stressful for cats, leading to anxiety and behavioral changes. Cats are creatures of habit and can become stressed when their routine is disrupted. The noise and sensation of clippers can be particularly distressing.

Changes in appearance can also affect a cat’s behavior. Some cats might feel more vulnerable or less confident without their fur, which can alter how they interact with their environment and with other pets or people in the household.

However, this needs to be weighed up against medical issues like extreme matting or skin complaints.

Health considerations

Shaving can disrupt a cat’s natural temperature regulation. Their fur helps them stay warm in cold weather. Without this insulation, they can become more susceptible to temperature extremes, which may impact their overall health.

Shaving can also affect a cat’s sensory functions. The hair follicles on their skin are sensitive and play a role in helping them navigate their surroundings. Removing their fur can reduce their ability to sense changes in their environment, which can make them feel disoriented and anxious. If you do shave your cat, it is important to try and leave their whiskers intact.

Alternatives to shaving

two photos side by side of a brown Persian cat being brushed by a handIf you’re hesitant about shaving your cat, there are several effective alternatives to consider. These options can help manage your cat’s grooming needs without the potential risks of shaving.

Regular grooming

Regular grooming is one of the best alternatives to shaving your cat. Brushing and combing your cat’s fur can help prevent matting and reduce shedding. It also helps distribute natural oils throughout their coat, keeping it healthy and shiny.

Using the right tools and techniques, such as a slicker brush for long-haired cats or a grooming glove for short-haired breeds, can make a significant difference in maintaining your cat’s coat.

Professional grooming services

Seeking professional grooming services can be beneficial, especially for long-haired breeds or cats with severe matting. Professional groomers have the expertise and equipment to handle your cat’s grooming needs safely and effectively. It's unlikely that an amateur clipper-wielder will know how to shave a matted cat without nicking their skin or causing new problems.

They offer services such as baths, trims, and "cat haircuts," which can help manage your cat’s fur without the need for a full shave. Plus, professional groomers can identify and address any skin or coat issues early on.

Just be aware that some cat’s will need to be shaved by a vet, particularly if sedation is required. This may be due to the cat’s temperament or because of the severity of their tangles.

Managing shedding

You can help manage your cat's shedding through a combination of grooming aids, diet, and sometimes supplements (with a vet's guidance).

A diet rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can improve the health of your cat’s skin and coat, which may help reduce shedding. Using a pet-specific fish oil supplement may also help. And grooming aids like deshedding tools can help remove loose hair before it ends up all over your home.

Preparing for the shaving process

To reiterate: Shaving your cat is usually reserved for very specific circumstances, like severe matting or medical reasons. And you should absolutely consult a vet before proceeding. A professional groomer may be able to help, but it could depend on how amenable your cat is and the severity of their coat problem.

 If you do take the clippers into your own hands, it's important to assess your cat's temperament and stress levels. Some cats are more tolerant of grooming and handling than others. Again, if your cat tends to get anxious or aggressive during grooming, it might be better to seek professional help.

Steps to shave your cat safely

Shaving your cat safely requires careful preparation and a step-by-step approach:

  1. Gather your tools: Make sure you have clippers, scissors, a comb, and a quiet, comfortable space to work in. A second person to help hold the cat is also useful.

  2. Calm your cat: Use treats and gentle petting to calm your cat before starting.

  3. Trim excess fur: Use scissors to trim long or matted fur before using clippers.

  4. Clip gradually: Start with a small area to see how your cat reacts. Use slow, gentle strokes with the clippers, moving in the direction of hair growth, and avoiding cutting too close to the skin.

  5. Avoid sensitive areas: Be cautious around sensitive areas like the face, belly, and paws. Try and leave whiskers intact.

  6. Monitor your cat: Keep an eye on your cat’s behavior throughout the process. If they become too stressed, take breaks or consider stopping.


After shaving, keep an eye on your cat for any signs of discomfort, such as excessive licking or scratching. Monitor the shaved areas for redness or signs of infection. If your cat’s skin is particularly exposed, you may need to consider a pet-safe sun lotion to prevent sunburn.

When to consult a veterinarian

It's a good idea to consult a veterinarian if your cat has severe matting or skin conditions, or if they show behavioral changes after shaving. A vet can offer expert advice and appropriate treatment options for your cat's grooming needs.

Vet holding a kitten with stethoscope visibleSigns indicating professional help is needed

Here are some signs you should talk to your vet:

  • Severe matting or skin conditions: If your cat has extremely matted fur or noticeable skin issues, a veterinarian can provide the safest and most effective treatment options.

  • Your cat’s behavior makes grooming them tricky: Some cats may need sedation for clipping. Your vet can also explore any underlying reasons as to why your cat’s fur is becoming matted in the first place. For example, they may struggle to groom themselves or may not like you brushing them due to arthritic pain.

  • Behavioral changes post-shaving: If your cat exhibits unusual behavior, such as increased aggression or anxiety after being shaved, a vet can help address these concerns and recommend alternative solutions.

Veterinarian’s role

Veterinarians play a crucial role in maintaining your cat’s overall health, and this can include their grooming needs. Your vet can offer professional advice on whether shaving is necessary and how to do it safely.

Vets can also treat any underlying skin issues that might be exacerbated by shaving and recommend the best grooming practices to avoid future problems.

So can you shave a cat?

Domestic bengal cat with striped fur lying on gray sofa in the sunshine.The bottom line: It's rarely necessary to shave a cat–and even when this level of grooming is needed, a professional might be better suited to the task.

In certain situations, you might consider undertaking this hairy task yourself. Just make sure you're aware of the risks and benefits, and that you proceed carefully. Understanding the role of cat fur, the reasons for shaving, and the available alternatives can help you make an informed choice.

Always prioritize your cat’s comfort and health, and consult with a veterinarian when in doubt. Regular grooming and professional services can often address many of the concerns that lead pet parents to consider shaving in the first place.

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And don't forget about cat insurance. While pet insurance typically doesn’t cover grooming, it can provide financial support for the kinds of unexpected health issues that lead to grooming in the first place, like skin conditions. By combining regular grooming, professional advice, and nose-to-tail insurance coverage, you can help your cat receive the best possible care at every step.

David Teich
Lead Editor

David oversees content strategy and development at ManyPets. As Lead Editor, he focuses on delivering accurate information related to pet care and insurance. David’s editorial background spans more than a decade, including a pivotal role at Digiday, where he wrote content and managed relationships with media and tech companies. As an Associate Editor at Cynopsis Media, David wrote the Cynopsis Digital newsletter and interviewed executives and digital marketing experts in the TV industry. His background also includes film journalism. His diverse experiences in journalism and marketing underpins his role in shaping content within the pet care industry.