The Flip-side of Grooming Your Longhaired Cat

I must admit I am not a professional groomer. I don’t know a lot about the details of grooming and when people call us at the clinic wanting their longhaired cat to “just have a trim” I tell them “Ma’am, we only have two sizes of clipper blades. Short and shorter!” Besides, we are a veterinary hospital, NOT a foo foo styling salon for pets.

However, that doesn’t seem to slow down our shaving business.

Just last week we shaved about 10 cats. When we only schedule about three or four services per day that require anesthesia, Monday – Friday, that’s a big percentage. On average, we do about two shaves a day.

Believe it or not, there is at least one medical reason to shave cats.

Persians, in particular, have very hard to manage hair. The majority of Persian cat owners are, unfortunately, not schooled in the proper management and grooming of the cotton candy hair for which Persians are known.

First of all, they need to be combed EVERY day…sometimes twice per day. And I’m not talking that slicker brush people like to use. A nice, metal long-tooth comb is a must for any longhaired cat! Brushes only take care of the topcoat. The bottom coat, or under coat, is what causes the problem.

When you brush the topcoat, the under coat gets neglected and knots up creating mats. These mats get worse and worse until:

A) The cat grooms the mat out

B) The owner combs the mat out

C) The mats take over and the cat has to have a full shave

I have a neighbor who makes a great example of option C. She has a penchant for longhaired cats, but she never quite understands the grooming part. Her poor Persian became ill one time. Katy was listless, not eating, and was having diarrhea so she brought the cat in to the clinic.

What we found completely amazed me.

Katy’s hair was matted SO BAD that her chin was matted to her chest. She couldn’t move her head (or the rest of her body for that matter) to eat or drink and therefore her liver started getting fatty deposits. This condition is called Hepatic Lipidosis (fatty liver) and can be deadly. It is generally a secondary condition (in this case, due to not eating) but can be come more deadly than the original condition that allowed it to happen.

At any rate, after a quick shave (her hair came off in one big mat) and a few days of intensive medical treatment, Katy went home. We admonished my neighbor that if she couldn’t keep Katy combed out properly she should have full shave at least every six months.

I also have a longhaired cat (only part Persian) and, fortunately for me, he has great hair. I never have to comb him (he absolutely hates it) but I always check him to be sure no mats are forming. I usually have him shaved in the spring anyway just to cut down on the hair he likes to leave in big clumps about the house.

Some cats seem to be embarrassed, at first, by what we term “the lion cut” but usually get over it after a few days of hiding under the bed. Other cats LOVE it. My cat acts like a kitten again when we have him shaved. A lot of cat owners are concerned about shaving their cats in winter. As long as they are indoor only cats, it is not a problem, however, I would hesitate to shave a cat that likes to go outdoors. My cat is indoor/outdoor so I do not shave him in winter.

I am constantly surprised at how many pet owners are shocked and dismayed when we suggest they have their pet shaved. I mean, it’s only hair! It’ll grow back! I tell them if they don’t like it to groom their pet better. When a cat walks around matted to the skin it feels like someone is pulling their hair with every move they make.

How would you like that?

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