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Cat Mats - Part 2

Posted on March 19, 2015 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (2)

Last time, I discussed what causes matting and what needs to be done if your cat is matted. So what can owners do to prevent matting?


The most effective way to prevent that undercoat from building up and leading to mats is to keep your cat on a regular grooming schedule. Regular professional grooming, regardless of the type of groom, will keep the undercoat under control. Pestkey here is groomed every 6 weeks to keep that dead hair from matting in her coat.




Using a metal greyhound comb at home can help to remove some undercoat, but it is not as effective as a full coat groom. Both bathing and blow-drying typically remove more undercoat than simply combing. They also do not pull and tug the way combing does, which can lead to discomfort and stress for the cat in addition to damaging the skin. Furthermore, the warm water from the bath and the warm air from the dryer both help to relax the hair follicle, encouraging the release of undercoat. My favorite analogy for this is that it’s the opposite of goose bumps. Cool air can cause goose bumps, which is the tightening of the hair follicle, while warm air relaxes the follicle. This means that de-shedding the coat at the end of a groom will remove that much more undercoat than combing alone.


Bathing at home is typically only recommended for very short-coated cats. Cat hair will felt, and I have seen firsthand that bathing a cat with excess undercoat present will cause the hair to mat when it may not have had any tangles prior. If an owner does want to bathe their cat, it is important to ensure that the coat is completely dried afterwards. Leaving it damp will lower the cat’s body temperature and will encourage matting. Noel’s coat is matted and was beginning to form a solid pelt across his back.






The main cause of this was the excess undercoat that was not properly shed from the coat but the matting process was accelerated by his mother’s attempts to bathe him at home. She meant no harm, obviously. In fact, she was trying to help keep him clean, but leaving his coat damp worsened his overall coat condition.


So, not only does a professional groom help remove that undercoat and prevent matting, but also it keeps your cat feeling, looking, and smelling clean… and it saves you the trouble and worry of maintaining your cat’s coat. With house call, you don’t even have to leave home. What’s not to love?

Cat Mats - Part 1

Posted on March 11, 2015 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (0)

In general, cats have two different types of hair in addition to their whiskers – undercoat and guard coat. The guard coat is the outermost layer of hair, which is typically thicker and coarser than undercoat, since its main purpose is to guard the skin. The undercoat is the softer, finer hair that serves as insulation to help cats regulate their body temperatures.


A cat in the wild would shed a small amount year-round but would experience seasonal changes in its coat in the springtime and in the fall when it changes from its winter coat to its summer coat and vice versa, during which time, it would shed considerably more than usual. Housecats may follow similar shedding patterns or they may exhibit excess shedding all the time. Excessive year-round shedding is thought to occur as a result of selective breeding and/or as a result of living indoors. A cat that lives indoors is not exposed to the same seasonal changes in temperature or daylight that an outside cat is exposed to, and both of these factors can affect coat growth.


Why is excessively shedding undercoat important? Because it causes tangles in the coat. When that undercoat is released from the skin, it sometimes ends up all over your house or it is sometimes ingested and regurgitated as a hairball. Often times, it becomes tangled in the coat. Over time, more undercoat is released, and it becomes further tangled with the other undercoat. If left unchecked, these tangles lead to matting, which can lead to pelting. Pictured below are hard clumps of hair shaved from an older cat who had been unable to full extend his hind legs because his coat condition was allowed to worsen. 




Once the hair began to mat, fecal matter became entangled in the hair. Could you imagine having that occur each time you used the restroom?! 




Matting is bad, but pelting is worse. Pelting greatly restricts movement, pulls on the skin, hides wounds, irritates the skin, and generally makes cats feel miserable. Once matted or pelted, the coat is no longer able to serve its purpose. In fact, it does just the opposite. Instead of protecting the skin, it pulls it and can cause rashes and irritation. Instead of helping regulate body temperature, it increases the risk of both lowered body temperatures and overheating. The photo below is from my fellow CFMG, Gabi Tiefenbrunn of Gabi Kat Grooming in Tuscon, Arizona. It shows how encased this poor cat had become as her coat continued to pelt. 




What should you do if your cat is matted or pelted?


Step 1) Schedule an appointment with a professional feline groomer as soon as possible. We have the tools and experience to remove those mats and pelts with the least amount of discomfort to your cat.


Step 2) In the meantime, do NOT bathe the cat, no matter what. If the coat is matted or pelted, wetting it will cause the mats to tighten, making them even more uncomfortable for the cat. Not only that, but matted hair is almost impossible to dry completely, and leaving the coat wet risks dropping your cat’s body temperature too low.


Step 3) Do not let it happen again. Regular professional grooming, regardless of the type of groom, will keep that undercoat from building up, thereby preventing mats. Because there is a lot of misinformation about cat grooming and because there are so few cat groomers around, I am very forgiving the first time I groom a matted cat. Once an owner learns the cause of matting and how to prevent it, however, the costs for mat removal increase substantially. This is in part due to the fact that mat removal is painful, no matter how carefully it is done. The pain of mat removal teaches cats to resent the grooming experience, making it more stressful for them and for me.


Join us for next time for Part 2: What Owners Can Do – to learn more about preventing mats.

Avoiding Sedation

Posted on March 4, 2015 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Over the years, veterinary medicine has made vast improvements in both anesthetic medication and sedation techniques to continue to reduce health risks involved with sedating your pet. That said, far too many cats are unnecessarily sedated to be groomed. Health risks are still involved, even as the veterinary industry works to reduce those risks, and it can be stressful for a cat to experience that diminished sense of awareness and then wake up without its full coat.


One such cat who no longer has to face those risks is Tigger. He is an older Domestic Shorthair whose owner likes to have him in a lion cut to reduce shedding and improve his attitude. I can attest that Tigger does, in fact, like to prance and strut as soon as his groom is finished, and he will continue to be noticeably more outgoing until his hair has grown back – about 10 weeks later.




I first met Tigger while grooming at a veterinary clinic here in Birmingham. He was quite upset upon his arrival the morning of his appointment. I was told that being placed in a carrier caused a great deal of stress to him and his owner. Meowing the entire drive over certainly didn’t help to calm his nerves, either. Because he was already so distraught, I knew before beginning that he would become too stressed to complete his groom. I talked to his mother about our options, and she ultimately decided to sedate him so that he could receive a lion cut. It was a difficult decision for her, but she felt that the relief of a lion cut outweighed the stress and risk of sedation.



A few months later, Tigger eventually became one of my very first house call appointments. His mother had very little faith that I could successfully groom him without the use of sedatives and without serious injury to me or to Tigger. Because he was able to stay in a familiar environment, however, I was able to complete his groom with very little stress or fussing from him. The best part was that as soon as he was finished, he was able to immediately return to his normal routine, which now involved showing off his new groom.




In order to keep his skin healthy and his coat maintained, Tigger needs to be groomed at least every 3 months (ideally between 8 and 10 weeks but no longer than 12 weeks). This is often enough to reduce shedding, to keep him feeling fabulous, and to teach him that the grooming process is nothing to fear. Could you imagine the stress of traveling and being sedated that often when it isn’t even medically necessary? It makes me worry about all the other cats that are sedated for grooms every day whose owners don’t realize that other options exist – options that will better meet their cat’s grooming needs without the health risks and stress of sedation.




Tigger’s owner no longer has to weigh the advantages of a lion cut against the disadvantages of sedation. Can you say the same?


P.S. Want a haircut but think the lion cut is too drastic? Get a comb cut instead! 

What is a Comb Cut?

Posted on February 25, 2015 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

A comb cut is a type of groom that is similar to a lion cut but the coat is left longer. Think of it as turning a longhaired cat into a shorthaired cat. The body is clipped down short but not shaved naked.


A comb cut is a great alternative for cats that may not be good candidates to receive a lion cut. For example, Sophie here is very painful in her back legs, and in order to keep from cutting her with the clippers during a lion cut, I must stretch those legs and be sure her skin is pulled taut, which causes her great discomfort.



With a comb cut, however, a comb attachment keeps the blade from coming into direct contact with the skin so I don’t have to be as meticulous about stretching and extending her leg in order to prevent cuts and nicks. This keeps her more comfortable during the grooming process, teaching her that it is nothing to fear, while reducing the amount of hair that has to be kept maintained.




Additionally, a comb cut can be a great alternative to a lion cut for cats that go outside. Unless there are medical reasons or severe pelting, I will not perform a lion cut for cats that spend time outside. Without their coat, their skin is exposed to the elements and at risk of sunburn. Because cats have a thinner epidermal layer than humans, they have a higher likelihood of developing skin cancer from sunburn. A comb cut allows these cats to have their hair cut shorter while leaving enough hair to offer protection for their skin.


One minor, cosmetic disadvantage to a comb cut is the resulting “choppiness” of the trim that can be seen in the picture above. The texture of cat hair makes it practically impossible to have a smooth finish on a longer trim, and unlike dogs, cats cannot receive a scissor finish to their groom, since using shears on a cat would be both unsafe and impractical. Fortunately, this choppiness becomes less noticeable as the hair grows back. Within 1-2 weeks, the trim typically begins to look more plush and full. Here is Sophie 2 weeks after receiving her comb cut.



Regardless of appearance, it allows her hair to be cut without the stress and discomfort of a lion cut. Keep in mind that there are multiple grooming options available to cats, and be sure to contact us for help deciding what will work best for you and your cat! 


IEK's transformation

Posted on February 9, 2015 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Meet IEK. 


IEK (pronounced "Ike") stands for "Into Everything Kat," a name he comes by honestly. I first met IEK in September of 2011 when he came to me for a groom. I'll never forget the terrified look he gave me that day or how panicked he was during his groom. We worked slowly and gently, and although we survived the groom, it was nerve-wrecking for us both. 


Since that first groom, IEK and his sisters have been groomed on a 6-week schedule. For the first few visits, IEK was still terrified to receive his groom, but he began making progress as we began to establish a routine together. It's one of many benefits of a regular grooming schedule. Establishing a routine taught IEK that nothing bad was going to happen to him during his groom. This was nervous IEK... 



...and this IEK now. 


He's become quite fond of rolling around on the floor. 



Of all the cats I've groomed over the years, IEK deserves the gold star for "most improved," but nearly every cat benefits from being groomed on a regular schedule - often enough to become familiar with the process. Being shaved once a year or bathed every six months can actually make the process more stressful for timid cats such as IEK. Now his groom is merely part of life. He may not look forward to it, but he certainly doesn't fear it... not anymore! 

The Importance of Certification

Posted on February 3, 2015 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Before I began grooming cats, I wanted to be sure that I knew how to properly groom and handle them. In January of 2011, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend the National Cat Groomers School in South Carolina, the only grooming school in the country that offers training and education exclusively for cats. For two weeks, I gained hands-on experience from the country’s leading cat groomers. Towards the end of the course, I took 9 certification exams – 5 practical and 4 written exams on various topics related to grooming. By passing those exams, I earned the title of Certified Feline Master Groomer™ (CFMG).


One reason I aspired to become a CFMG was to prove to myself that I had learned the necessary information to embark on a career as a cat groomer. But I could have learned everything I needed to know without taking any exams – exams that cost nearly $600 to take. So why spend the money for a simple title? I was driven to become a CFMG to demonstrate to owners that I am knowledgeable and passionate about what I do. Cat grooming is not my job – it is my career.


Additionally, I wanted to offer owners the comfort of knowing that I have a thorough education. It is important to remember that the grooming industry is unregulated, meaning that there is no level of training or education required for someone to call themselves a groomer. Anyone can say they are a groomer, but not everyone is a CFMG.



Our trip to the Birmingham CFA Cat Show

Posted on February 2, 2015 at 9:35 AM Comments comments (1)

We were happy to participate in the Birmingham Feline Fanciers' 43th annual CFA cat show this weekend at the Zamora Temple in Irondale! Our lovely client, Hepburn, came all the way from Louisiana to be our mascot at the booth to help demonstrate the difference a groom makes. Of course, that was only when he wasn't in the ring for Household Pets. With so many entries, though, Hepburn faced a lot of competition! Several of the kitties in the Household Pets class were also available for adoption from local rescues (such as MommaKat Rescue and Save Our Strays). The show offered such great exposure for those kitties that many of them found their forever homes before the weekend ended. 


In addition to the lovely household pets, the show featured countless CFA purebred cats - from more common breeds such as Maine Coons and Siamese to the newly established Burmilla to the more rare Norwegian Forest Cat. From the fluffy Persians to naked Sphynx, there was something for everyone! Not only were these breeds showcased, but many of their breeders and owners were more than happy to answer questions and offer insights and education into their breeds. Did you know that Tonkinese come in four colors - Champagne, Platinum, Natural, and Blue? Of those four colors, they may appear in a pointed pattern, mink pattern, or solid pattern! Or that Cornish Rexes are very people-oriented, active cats who often like to play fetch and chase toys, despite their fragile appearance? Each breed has unique physical characteristics and personality traits that mean no two are the same, and the show was a wonderful place for cat enthusiasts to learn more about these fascinating animals. 


We were happy to meet new people and new cats at the show, and hope to see you there next year! 


Our view from the show hall:

 


Hepburn worked hard looking handsome in his "Stars of the Silver Screen" themed kennel at our booth. 



When he wasn't at the booth, he was in the ring! 


Rodeo's handsome coat and playful personality would go on to win him first place overall in the Household Pets! Congratulations to Rodeo! 



Q-Tip's silly antics won the hearts of everyone in the audience and won him the best prize of the weekend - a new home! 



In between rings, we visited several purebred kitties, including this handsome young Ocicat male.



...and this gorgeous odd-eyed Cornish Rex kitten:



Other breeds we saw included this stunning American Shorthair:



This sweet Devon Rex: 


This laid-back Maine Coon


And this teeny tiny Burmese! 



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