Although I don't have a cat of my own yet (sad!), I am a proud member of Cat TikTok™, and lately, I've been seeing a lot of people grooming their cats with wet toothbrushes.
Yes, you read that right. Apparently, grooming your adult kitty-cat with a damp toothbrush mimics the feeling of being groomed by their mother as kittens, and by the looks of it, these cats are loving it!
As much as I enjoy seeing a cat being (tooth)brushed as the next person, how accurate is this method, really? Does it ACTUALLY mimic cats being groomed by their mothers?! To find out, I decided to bring in some professionals. Hunter Finn, an associate veterinarian practicing in Arlington, Texas, told BuzzFeed it's definitely a possibility!
He added, "Although I can’t actually put myself into the mind of a cat (what a world that would be), I can imagine this could remind them of being groomed by their mother at an early age. The mom will normally groom the kittens, especially around the head and neck, until they are old enough to groom themselves. So, when an owner takes on the role of grooming their cat, it certainly could reinforce the fact that they are a mother-like presence, or a companion at the very least."
"Although not exactly the same, most toothbrushes have nylon bristles that could feel quite similar to the keratin spikes (papillae) that give cat tongues that sandpaper feel. These hundreds of tiny, backward facing spikes are actually thought to help with grooming and other tasks."
BuzzFeed also spoke to Dr. Max Emanuel, VMD, a Los Angeles–based veterinarian who expressed doubt that this can actually bring back the good ol' days of being groomed as a kitten. "We can't converse with cats, so we can't really know if it actually brings back the memory of being groomed." BUT, he also said that even if it doesn't stir up any fond memories, "It's tactile stimulation, and brings pleasure to the cat. It's a social behavior. Just like we enjoy massages, cats enjoy grooming!"
Luckily, according to both Hunter and Max, using a toothbrush won't cause any harm to your precious kitty. Hunter said, "There are certainly more effective ways to groom your cat, but if you want to give this a shot and see if your cat can be brushed into a deep state of relaxation, it’s worth the loss of your favorite toothbrush."
As for proper ways to groom your cat and keep its coat nice and healthy, Hunter and Max said that cats luckily do a great job of grooming themselves on their own. But, some extra things owners can do include regular brushing (also a great way to bond!), making sure your cat maintains a balanced diet, and keeping annual checkups to identify any underlying problems.
Lastly, Hunter reiterated that although some cats may LOVE the wet toothbrush trick, every cat is unique and it's important to be aware of that. "Going viral on TikTok is NOT worth the cat scratch or bite you might receive if you misread some of the cat's body language. Signs of a stressed cat include: dilated pupils, ears pinned back against the head, crouched posture with legs under body, tail tucked or forcefully flicking, and of course vocal growling or hissing."
And Max made sure to mention, "It's probably not the best idea to turn on an electric toothbrush and place it on your cat's head. So if you do decide to do this, make sure to use a manual toothbrush and be gentle."
Would you try this on your cat at home? Let us know in the comments below! And quick PSA: If you'd like me to test it out on your cat first, I'm like, super available.
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