The Litter Scoop Blog

Silver patch tabby Maine coon cat

Vivo is a silver patched tabby. Patched tabbies are also referred to as torbies. They have the black and red markings of a tortie, and also have some of the stripes of a tabby. Vivo is a retired therapy cat who has tortitude. She will hiss at and give Turbo bops on the head (claws in) when he approaches her food.

Catitude vs. Tortitude

Anyone who has ever lived with or been close to a cat knows about catitude. Cats like to be in charge. They decide when to eat, sleep, play and bathe. Cats can be very finicky about what they eat and were they eat it.  They are also choosy about where they sleep. Face it, cats prefer to be in charge and in control.

Tortitude takes catitude to a new level. Torties are not shy about speaking their minds. If they are unhappy about something they tell you. If you are late serving a meal they tell you. If you wake them from a scheduled nap they tell you. Torties are the oxymoron of the cat world. The typical tortie has a very sweet disposition and wouldn't hurt a fly. Yet that same cat thinks nothing of telling you off if they think something is not being done right.

I had a tortie named Savannah Marie. She expected all meals to be served in a timely fashion and served in an appropriate bowl. It didn't matter that she took several kibble out at a time and put them on the floor to eat. Food must be served in a bowl.

At nap time Savannah picked her spot based on where the sun was. If another cat wanted to share the sun that was fine, just don't block Savannah's share. One of my Maine coons quickly learned to allow Savannah to settle first, then arrange herself close by.

All of my cats enjoy being combed. While most accept being combed by whatever comb is at hand, Savannah only allowed it with "her" comb. If I used anything else she promptly walked out of arms reach and carefully washed the fur that was tainted by the "bad" comb.

Although Savannah was the smallest cat in the house, she was always in charge. I often think torties get a bad reputation. They just can't help but speak their minds. Yet every tortie I have ever lived with has been a wonderful companion, happy to play with me, cuddle with me, or just sit with me. I've decided I like having cats that will express their opinion. Because when I need a good cuddle they are the first ones to be at my side.

A pretty tortoiseshell cat, Savannah looking up.  She is a senior in this picture.

Savannah enjoying some fresh air on the catio.

Age Is Not A Disease

But How Does It Affect Grooming?

With age comes a higher risk of certain diseases.  The diseases we see more frequently in older cats include hyperthyroidism, renal failure, degenerative joint disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and lymphoma. While these chronic systemic diseases are common in senior cats, the signs are sometimes vague and often mistaken for simple aging.

Unfortunately many cats do not show symptoms until the disease is advanced, making any treatment more difficult and less likely to be successful.  If diagnosed when the signs are mild or before the cat is showing signs, there are usually more options for helping the cat live longer and feel better.  In most cases, treatment is less expensive and the cat’s quality of life is higher when a diagnosis is made while the disease is still in the early stages. Senior wellness exams with diagnostic testing such as blood work can be critical in an early diagnosis.

One of the signs your cat may not be feeling well is a lack of self-grooming.  Imagine you are feeling nauseous.  The last thing you may want to do is eat.  For your cat, self-grooming is very high up there.  Cats with arthritis may suddenly have trouble reaching areas they used to self-groom easily.  If your cat has always been clean and mat free, and suddenly isn’t, there may be a reason.  There are several things you can easily check.

  • Does your cat’s coat look or feel greasy?  Typically this is first seen on their lower back, just above the base of the tail. They have oil glands in that area, and it also happens to be a place that can be difficult to reach as your cat grows older.
  • Does your cat’s coat feel rough?  Most cats have very smooth fur. When petting them, they feel cottony or silky.  If your cat has always felt like that and suddenly the fur feels rough or coarse, it is an indication that they are not grooming themselves as well.
  • Does your cat suddenly have mats?  If your cat never matted before, and all of a sudden you notice tangles and knots, they probably are not grooming those areas or are not grooming themselves well.

If your cat stops self-grooming or simply is no longer doing a good job, we recommend a visit to the vet. A cat that has always kept herself clean doesn’t suddenly stop grooming without a reason.  In some cases it maybe stress related. In older cats we worry there may be an underlying health concern.  A typical example is an older cat that suddenly has huge mats over their hips.  If they have developed arthritis and the hips are painful, they may not be grooming those areas as thoroughly or may not groom them at all.  A trip to the vet for an exam can determine if there is a health problem that needs addressing.  

Your next stop is to your cat groomer.  We have many senior and geriatric cats that come in for grooming.  Once they are used to the routine they are happy for the help. We are able to remove any mats, help prevent future matting, and remove the loose hair in their coat.  They feel better and can be combed without pulling on painful mats.  A regular bathing schedule can keep your cat from matting, keep them comfortable, and make their job of self-grooming much easier.

Tuxedo Maine coon wearing an air muzzle.

Turbo is wearing an air muzzle. As you can see there is plenty of room around his head and face, even for this large Maine coon.

Do We Ever Use Muzzles?

At Trilling Cat Inn & Spa we would never use a traditional muzzle on a cat. We rely on seeing a cat's facial expression including eye dilation and openness, ear position, and whisker position to let us know if they are becoming stressed or fearful. The traditional muzzles for cats are usually made of nylon and cover the cat's eyes and mouth with a small opening for the nose, making it impossible to see the cat's face.  We are also concerned about their ability to breathe adequately should they be stressed.

We do use a piece of equipment called an Air Muzzle. We like to tell the cats they are getting to play astronaut. This device is globe shaped with a round hole at one end to allow for air flow. The other side of the globe has an opening for the neck. An air muzzle is made from two main pieces so that it can be adjusted to fit properly. This device allows the cat to breathe and speak normally as well as position their ears, eyes, and whiskers the same as they would without it.

We also use an Elizabethan collar, often referred to as an e-collar. The type we use is a half globe that goes over the pet's head and adjusts for the neck size.

Both of these pieces of equipment serve a dual purpose. As you would assume, they help prevent whoever is grooming the cat from being bitten. The air muzzle does this very well. The cat can still bite with the e-collar on but it is more difficult than without it. The reason professionals started using these devices was to avoid injury.

Both the air muzzle and e-collar will also protect the cat during grooming. Sometimes we will use one of them on a cat that is not showing any signs of aggression but may be timid. Both pieces of equipment will shield the cat's head from water in the bath and from air blowing on their face, head, and ears while being dried.

Preventing a bad experience can make the difference between earning trust and scaring a cat. Using the proper equipment can help us reach our goal of each cat being comfortable during grooming. As Fear Free Certified Professionals, we want to earn the trust of each and every cat we groom or board.

Cadi has blue nose leather to match the fur on and around it.

Cadi has blue nose leather to match the fur on and around it.

Topaz has a pink nose to complement her red tabby coat.

Topaz has a pink nose to complement her red tabby coat.

Savannah's nose is speckled to match her tortie coloring

Savannah's nose is speckled to match her tortie coloring.

Nose Leather

While this may sound like leather made from noses, it is not. Nose leather is, in cat terms, the skin on a cat's nose. While browsing for facts on kitty noses, I learned some interesting trivia. Perhaps one day someone will make a trivia category on cat noses so I will not look foolish playing.

Cat nose leather comes in a variety of colors, and is determined by genetics. The popular colors for nose leather include pink, old rose, brick red, brown, chocolate, lavendar, blue, and black. The nose leather on many cats matches their coat. As you can see, while Cadi sports multiple colors of fur, her nose leather is blue to match the fur on and immediately surrounding her nose.

For those who like statistics, I read that a cat's sense of smell is 14 times better than a human's. I am not sure how this number was measured or determined, but it adds another fun statistic to the cat nose trivia.

Light colored cats are susceptible to sun damage. A veterinary recommended sun screen is suggested for cats who enjoy sunbathing outdoors. If your cat prefers indoor sunbathing, the windows should filter out enough of the harmful UV rays to protect her nose.

Although some cats may get sun damage on the nose, overall they are pretty tough. Nose leather is designed to stand up to all of the snooping around cats enjoy. If you have a clowder, taking nose prints could help identify the culprit when one of them has broken the house rules and stuck their nose where it does not belong. Like a human finger print, cat nose prints are unique to each individual.

While checking out information on show cat noses, I learned that some Persians have their noses shaved before each show. This is done to show off their nose mascara. The owners do not use make-up, but some colors have a natural outline in black at the edge of the nose leather where it meets the fur. If the cat's fur covers the mascara, the owner may shave the nose to bring it out.

I searched the Cat Fanciers Association Breed Standards that is current available on their website. The count for references to "nose leather" was 1,084. The majority of these references stipulate the color of nose leather based on the breed and color of the cat. Personally I think all cat noses are cute no matter what the color is.

Riley is relaxing in the salon, feeling clean.

A Typical First Groom at Trilling Cat Inn & Spa

Many new clients will request an appointment knowing their cat needs professional grooming.  Whether it is because of mats, their cat got into something they can’t get out of the fur, or they have an older cat that can no longer reach to groom themselves, they want to know what to expect and what their feline friend will be going through. Our primary goal at the first groom is for the cat to go home comfortable.  While we would love to send every cat home looking their absolute best, this is not always realistic.  For badly matted and pelted cats the first groom sometimes requires splitting the groom into two appointments.  Many cats can be completed in one appointment, but over stressing a cat is not humane to the cat and can affect their health.  It is sometimes best to complete the first groom over two separate sessions. As a Fear Free Elite professional, Ellen is committed to subjecting our client cats to the least stress possible.  That does not mean no stress.  The cat is in a new environment with someone they don’t know doing strange things.  There are funny sounds from the strange equipment.  Introduced properly, most cats acclimate quickly and accept being groomed.  Many find they feel good with what we're doing, and this helps us earn their trust. It is common for cats to need some shaving at the first groom.   This might be anywhere from a sani-trim that will help keep them clean from the litter box to a full lion cut due to severe matting or pelting. Once mats become large or the cat pelts, the only way to humanely remove them is by shaving. Cutting with scissors is not an option since cat skin is thin and easily cut. All cats that we groom are bathed.  Many owners believe cats hate water and will not tolerate a bath. What cats receive is more like a shower, much more similar to Mother Nature’s rain than being put in a tub full of water.  By slowly introducing the water, almost all cats will accept being bathed.  This is the most important step in the groom.  In a previous post I explained how mats are formed.  Bathing cats removes the oils from the coat that start the matting process.  Cats that are kept on a regular grooming schedule of 8 weeks or less, depending on their coat, will not mat. If you start to see tangles in your cat’s fur, it is time for a groom.  By removing the tangles before they become mats, and bathing to remove the oils, your cat will not have to endure the torture of having mats removed!  Small tangles (smaller than a penny) are easily removed in the bathing and drying process. If your cat has larger mats she will have to endure the pain of being de-matted or shaved. By keeping your cat on a regular grooming schedule, mats will not form and your cat will stay clean and comfortable, and be incredibly soft and huggable.

Smoke tortie with white Maine coon cat

How To Tell If Your Cat Has Joint Pain

Do you have a cat that has suddenly stopped grooming or is not grooming as well?  Is your cat suddenly developing mats?  While there are a number of reasons why this may happen, one of the most common reasons is pain.

I was very fortunate to be able to attend the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) fall conference this year.  They did a superb job, offering their sessions both in person and virtually.  I attended virtually.  One of the educational tracks this year concentrated on Osteoarthritis (OA) in cats, chronic pain, and how to help control the pain. Now that Cadi is 15 years old and has OA, I was very interested in both what is available now and the ongoing research.

While I’m not always big on statistics, a couple which were significant are the percentages of cats that have OA pain, how high the percentage gets as they age, and the fact that the x-rays lag behind the actual progression of the disease.  Almost all cats over 12 have some OA.  A significant percentage of cats overall that are over the age of 6 months have OA in one or more joints.  I have OA, so I can truly empathize with these kitties.

The good news is that there are treatments!  It wasn’t that long ago that we had no way to control their pain.  Cadi is on a multi-modal approach, meaning we use two or more methods of pain relief.  The hardest part of treating the pain is diagnosing!

Cats are adept at hiding pain.  Their instincts carried over from their wild ancestors tell them that the one who limps is lunch for someone else.  By the time a cat shows signs that the owner can see there is something wrong, they are very sick or in quite a lot of pain.

Some of the research being done has already reaped a huge benefit for we cat parents.  There are simple things we can look for that will indicate if your cat is in pain from Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) including OA. Please take a few minutes to look at the short video clips and checklists that are available to us on the sites I’ve linked below.  If your cat is showing signs of DJD it is time for a conversation with their veterinarian about pain control.  Trust me, OA hurts! 

The Cat OA Checklist contains short video clips showing what to look for.Pain Free Cats includes a short video for owners about OA in cats.
This is a favorite blanket for cat sleeping in my home.  Notice how dirty the left side is.  When my cats are bathed on their regular schedule, it stays like the right side.

Is A Dirty Cat Sleeping On Your Bed?

Does your cat sleep on your bed with you?  Mine do. Sometimes on the foot of the bed. Sometimes on my pillow next to my head. Sometimes burrowed under the covers, snuggling close to keep warm on a cold winter night.  Of course during the day they usually spend time on my furniture or on one of their own pet beds.  Have you ever wondered how dirty your cat is?  Even indoor only cats can get pretty grungy.  Is that what you want on your pillow or snuggling with you?

We all know cats groom themselves.  What most of us don’t realize is they are not removing all of the oils from their fur. Just like humans, cat skin contains a certain amount of natural oils to keep it soft and supple, and to add to the natural protection barrier of the skin.  Those oils attract and trap in dirt and grime.  So even if your cat lives strictly indoors, he may not be as clean as you think.  For all of those hours spent grooming, I doubt you have seen him pull out a bottle of shampoo to get things out of his fur that his saliva just doesn’t get.

Having your cat professionally groomed on a regular schedule can cut down on the dirt and grime you live with!  Bathing will remove the oils that are trapped on the fur, along with all the dirt and grime trapped in the oils.  Your cat will be more comfortable, stay free of mats and tangles, and best of all you will have a clean cat relaxing on your sofa, sleeping on your pillow, and sitting on your lap.

A big bonus of regular professional grooming is a reduction in the shedding fur you find around the home. During the grooming process any fur that is loose, ready to shed, or lying in your cat’s coat trapped in the oils will be removed.  This means your groomer gets to clean up all that excess fur instead of you!

Consider having your cat professionally groomed if you are washing your pet beds too often, finding dirt or grease on your cat’s favorite spot on the couch, vacuuming excess amounts of shedding fur, or tired of having a stinky cat on your pillow.

Maine coon cat Vivo struts across the rail on the catio after a snow storm.

Do Cats Really Need Grooming?

When you think about a cat grooming herself, think about her process.  She is licking her body to remove whatever she can with her tongue. She may also use her teeth to break or pull out knots in her fur.  While we have learned to consider this cleaning, it is in fact the opposite.  A cat grooming herself may remove food and dirt, but at the same time she is leaving saliva on her fur.  And it is this very saliva that causes allergic reactions in people who have cat allergies.  In addition this does not address the natural oils in the cat’s skin.

I started bathing my cats when I first started taking Cadi to shows.  I quickly learned that in order to be considered for any ribbons, a cat had to look their best.  What I learned outside of the show hall were the benefits to me and my home.  Cats that are bathed regularly shed less, leave less dirt behind, don’t mat, and are easier to care for when they become seniors. And a big one for me is fewer hair balls.

While bathing and drying, any shed hair that is still caught in the coat and any loose hair about to shed will fall out naturally.  Now that this shedding hair is off of the cat, it will not be deposited around your home. That means there is less hair to come off on your clothes, on your furniture, and all the other places in your home where you tend to find lots of fur left behind.

Since this shedding hair is no longer in your cat’s coat, there is less fur for her to digest when she does groom, or lick, herself.  Hairballs are no fun for the people that have to clean them up.  And they certainly are no fun for your cat.  With less hair to ingest, there is less to create hairballs. For cats with a history of hairballs causing obstruction or other medical problems, shaving to reduce coat length along with bathing is a good way to prevent life-threatening hair problems.

I was surprised to see how much cleaner my pillows and furniture were once I started bathing my cats. I couldn’t believe I had been having so much oil and dirt deposited on my bed and pillow by my fur babies!  My cats are indoor only, but the natural oils were ending up on their bedding, my bedding, and our furniture.

Since the oils in a cat’s fur trap the shedding fur and start the creation of mats, removing the oils prevents matting.  Your cat stays more comfortable and may avoid some skin issues.  This is especially important as your cat ages.  Cats with degenerative joint disease (DJD) and obese cats among others have a difficult time maintaining their coats as they lack the flexibility or strength to reach their full body.  Older cats especially may feel vulnerable.  Bathing an older cat who has never experienced being bathed can be quite traumatic for the cat.  If your cat learns at a young age to accept being bathed, it is much easier to help them maintain their coat and keep them clean as they age.

Many cats I groom are not always happy to see me.  Having their nails trimmed, and being bathed and dried was probably not what that had in mind for their day.  These same cats go home and prance around, wanting the rest of the household to see how good they look, how fluffy they are, how clean they smell.  They know they are looking their best and want to be sure everyone else knows too.

With regular grooming using Fear Free techniques, cats learn I am not a threat and that they will feel good when they leave.  If you would like to learn more about what we do during a basic groom or would like to make an appointment for your cat, please call us at 919-536-8920 or email

Cute cat Savannah is enjoying smelling the flowers brought in from the garden.

A Cat With A Mat

Many cats I see were matted the first time they came in to be groomed.  How does this happen?  And how can it be prevented?

Shedding is a natural process for most furry animals, and cats are no exception.  It is the loose hair that starts a mat.  A cat’s skin also has natural oils.  When the shedding fur does not fully escape the cat’s coat, a mat can start.  The oils in the skin are then trapped underneath this forming mat.  More shedding fur gets stuck on this trapped oil, adding to the mat. As you can see, a vicious cycle has started.

When a cat develops multiple mats that start to merge into one large mat, we call this pelting.  You may now be asking why the cat has not groomed the original mat out.  Cats have limited tools to work with.  They lick with their tongues, and sometimes use their teeth.  I often see mats over hips.  This is common because it can be difficult for cats to reach, especially if they are overweight or if they are in their senior years.

My goal when I groom a matted cat is to get the cat comfortable.  Mats can be painful, and the skin underneath is not only collecting oils, it also is not able to breath.  This can sometimes lead to dermatitis and even infection.  Not to mention that mats will pull on the cat’s skin, causing pain and sometimes restricting movement.  

Shaving rids the cat of these awful mats in the least painful way.  Bathing then removes the collected oils and leaves the skin clean and able to breath.  The cat will immediately feel better.

The cat’s human(s) also benefit from a freshly groomed cat.  Many cats who have not been able to clean themselves will suffer from dirty rear ends, messy ears, smell bad, and be leaving dirt, fur, and oil where they sleep. I recommend laundering your cat's bedding or any spots used for sleeping while your cat is being groomed.  When your cat returns home, you will find a fresh smelling feline that does not leave dirt and hair behind from a nap.  Another benefit is that during the grooming process, much of the loose fur about to shed will be removed.  This means you will see less shedding in your home.

If you’d like your cat to look good, smell nice, and feel comfortable, call or e-mail for an appointment. Cats that are kept on a regular grooming schedule of every 6 to 8 weeks, no matter the hair length, will be less likely to mat, shed less, and feel great!

5018 Dresden Dr.
Durham, NC 27707
By Appointment Only
Grooming Hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
Click here to request a grooming appointment.Click here to request boarding reservations.

Copyright 2022 Trilling Cat LLC