Guide: What clippers are best for cats?

Shaving a cat with clippers is not often a first choice, but for their health and well-being sometimes it becomes the only option. Whether it's because you need to get rid of matted knots that cannot be brushed or combed out, because a cat has become too unwell or overweight to groom themselves properly, for severe hairballs, to clear fur around the nipples for an upcoming litter to feed more easily, or shaving prior to surgery… whatever the reason you need to clip a cat, this guide will help you select the right tools for the job.

Precautions before clipping a cat

A cat’s skin is far thinner and looser than a dogs. That makes cats more prone to being nicked by a blade, especially if the coat is matted, so it’s important to take extra care. Stretch legs to avoid nicking loose skin, such as around the armpits, and keep the coat taught while clipping to avoid bumping over folds or rolls of skin.

Watching YouTube videos for ‘how to clip a cat’ is recommended if you don’t have an experienced professional to teach you. Always clip the cat’s claws first to reduce being scratched. If you’re not confident using a nail clipper, you can use a nail grinder instead (you'll find both options under Health > Nail Care).

Knots that have turned into felted mats may have to be removed by shaving (rather than brushing), where you use a short blade on your clipper (like a 10 or 30 blade), to go underneath the knot right up against the skin to carefully remove it. More about blades coming up. You can also carefully use scissors for targeted knot removal, in which case a short, blunt-end, safety tip scissor is recommended to reduce the risk of injury. 

Remove all tangles and knots that you can before you clip, unless you plan to shave the coat short by going under the knots, as knots will be removed by the clipper instead. A line brushing technique is recommended for brushing longer coated cats. Start with a pin brush first, not a bristle brush, then when you find a knot, use the appropriate tool depending on how bad it is (such as a slicker brush or detangler comb). A slicker is popular to 'pat' out a knot from the end to the root, a little at a time.

Knowing how to handle a cat during grooming will help avoid stress and injury also (for you and them). Search YouTube for videos of groomers handling cats. There are a few different methods covered in the video below from Pet Prepper also:

TIP when using combs for removing knots: Start with a wider tooth comb first, working down to combs with a finer teeth spacing. This speeds up knot removal and is less stressful for the cat as it won’t pull on skin as much. Save finer teeth tools, like a detangler comb or flea comb, for tangles that pin brushes and wider tooth combs miss.

How to choose the right clipper or trimmer for a cat

Please note all info in this guide applies in general to clippers, trimmers and blades. Individual brands and models may vary in best use and product specifications may have changed since this guide was written. Use this information as a starter guide, however always refer to the information about the exact product you are buying, on the product page, before you decide.

Step 1: Do you need clippers or trimmers?

A full size clipper is the choice groomers usually go for, for badly knotted or matted coats, for general all-over use including the body and stomach, for all breeds and all coat types - especially for dense, double or more difficult coats like the Persian. Clippers can be used for dogs and cats (and many are rated for horses also).

Clippers are more powerful than trimmers. If you search ‘how to clip a cat’ on YouTube, you’ll typically see groomers using clippers with standard blades for cats of all breeds and for all type of clips, including the popular ‘lion cut’. There are specialist cat blades available also that fit all brands of A5 model clippers. Clippers can be corded or cordless. Trimmers are cordless. Clippers come in single speed, 2 speed and 5 speed options. Trimmers come in single speed.

Clippers normally come with a standard 10 blade included free, also called an A5 blade. A 10 blade leaves the coat under 2mm. For badly matted cats, you may want a size 30 blade (more about blades coming up). If the clipper is an A5 model, that means it fits all brands of standard blades, in all lengths, from size 50 (under 1mm) up to size 3 (over 1cm), and all universal comb attachments (3mm to 3cm) - so look for an A5 model clipper if you want to keep all options open for grooming at different lengths, and grooming both dogs and cats.

Trimmers are always cordless, and are smaller, lighter and quieter than most full-size clippers. Trimmers are used for delicate, smaller or sensitive areas like paws, feet and faces, and for targeted knot removal. Trimmers come in 2 sizes, mini or midi. You wouldn't use a mini trimmer to shave the entire body for a cat. However there is a type of midi trimmer - called a '5 in 1' - which is half-way between a clipper and trimmer. Midi-size, 5 in 1 trimmers are popular for shaving cats and come in a few models, included below.

Step 2: The best clipper & trimmer models for cats

There are a few models mentioned below for clippers, midi and mini trimmers. This is not a complete list, so don't rule out other clippers and trimmers just because they're not listed below...

Clippers for cats

The Andis AGC Brushless is a full-size, full-power, 2 speed, corded clipper. It's much lighter and quieter than a traditional clipper due to the brushless motor but has the extra torque needed for difficult or matted coats. It's an A5 model, so is recommended if you want the most features, and options for blades and accessories. The AGC Super 2 Speed is rated for cats, dogs and horses, handles matted cat fur with ease, fits all standard blades by all brands in all lengths, fits universal comb attachments by all brands in all lengths, and fits the specialist cat blades. You don't have to use a cat blade but will find it easier to clip and you'll get smoother results if you do. Another popular full-size, full-power, 2 speed corded clipper option for cats is the Wahl KM5 which has the more traditional brushed motor (not brushless).

MIDI clippers & trimmers for cats

If you want something smaller, lighter and cordless that costs less than most full size clippers, consider a 5 in 1 trimmer instead. They are a type of midi trimmer (midi meaning medium, versus mini trimmers which are a lot smaller). A 5 in 1 is roughly half-way between a clipper and a mini trimmer in size. 

There are three popular 5 in 1 models for cats > the Andis Pulse Li5, Wahl Arco, and Wahl Creativa. All come with a 5 in 1 blade, meaning 1 blade with 5 settings to adjust to the length you want. They have their own unique blade (they don't fit standard blades or universal accessories). They can be used for full body clipping for cats. They can be used to trim dogs, but aren't rated for full body clipping for all dog coat types. They do not fit the specialised cat blades.

You can get an idea of the size of the Wahl Creativa shown below. This cat groom was done by specialist cat groomer Jacque from Pet Agree. Jacque uses the Wahl Creativa 5 in 1 for the body when grooming knotted and matted cats, and the Wahl BravMini for delicate and sensitive areas (the BravMini is a mini trimmer, the Creativa is a 5 in 1 midi).

If you want an even cheaper, cordless option than those models, you can try the Codos CP-9200 Trimmer. Although it's not officially rated for full body clipping for cats, it is frequently bought for that purpose anyway (probably because the price is so low compared to the models above).

It's important to note we can't claim or guarantee the Codos will definitely do the job, so if you want to be sure what you buy is rated for full body clipping for cats, it's best to get a 5 in 1 or full size clipper that fits cat blades. 

New Zealand Maine Coon breeder Zena Pigden uses the Codos for her cats. She's got the older Codos model (CP-6800), but the newer model we sell (the CP-9200) has a better motor and battery life. You can read Zena's Codos review here >

The Codos motor's not as powerful as the 5 in 1 models above. It has lithium-ion batteries like the Andis Pulse Li5 and Wahl Creativa do, but the battery quality and therefore battery lifetime is not as good as the Wahl and Andis models. The replacement Codos blades are a great price also, as is the clipper itself. The Codos has a 4 in 1 adjustable blade.

MINI trimmers for cats

Last are mini trimmers. These are the smallest, quietest, cordless trimmers available. With a 3cm blade width, they're much smaller than all the models above (a full size clipper has a 5cm blade width). Mini trimmers are popular for trimming around delicate, touch-sensitive, smaller or injury-prone areas, such as the bum and genitals, face, ears, neck and paws, and for targeted removal of individual body knots and mats. However they are not rated for full body clipping for cats.

Jacque from Pet Agree (a professional cat groomer who also teaches other groomers how to groom cats), uses the Wahl BravMini. Another mini trimmer model for cats are the Heiniger Mini. There is a cheap model option also - the Shernbao Mini - but although the price is superb, they're not the same level as the others. You'll find these 3 mini trimmers, as well as the Codos, and the 5 in 1 Wahl and Andis models, all under Clippers > Cordless Trimmers. 

Blades for shaving and clipping cats

Before you decide on your clippers or trimmers, check the prices for replacement blades as well. A sharp blade is needed for easy, smooth clipping for cats due to their finer denser coats than dogs have, and because you rarely wash a cat before clipping like you would with a dog. So using a sharp blade is more important for clipping cats. A dull blade will grab or chew a cat's finer coat. If you use your clippers for both dogs and cats, save at least one blade to put aside for your cat clients. A dog's coat will tend to blunt a blade faster than a cat's coat will.

If you opt for an A5 model clipper, consider buying a specialist cat blade, both the size 10 and size 30 are popular (30 is better for matted coats). You'll find them under Blades > Cat Blades. Specialist cat blades have different teeth than standard dog blades. Cat blades handle a cat's finer, denser coat better, and leave a smoother finish with less track marks.

Standard steel blades (that fit A5 model clippers) and cat blades, can be sharpened over and over, saving you buying a new blade each time it goes dull. Trimmer blades are not usually sharpened, so consider the cost of replacement blades if you opt for a 5 in 1 or other type of trimmer. Cat fur tends not to dull blades as fast as most dog coat types, so both clipper and trimmer blades tend to stay sharper for longer. 

Here's are a couple of reviews from customers who use the size 30 cat blade made by Andis > "I have an older long haired cat who won't let me brush her and gets dense mats on her back and around her tail and backside. This blade was great for getting rid of the mats. Prefer this to the number 10 blade, got underneath the mats much more easily. Do get a cooling spray and go slow." and another said: "worked great...shaved without nicking the cat...so he's happy too!"