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!
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.
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 Ellen@TrillingCat.com.
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!