In part 1 we talked about raising your expectations for cat grooming. There is no reason to expect less in cat grooming than dog grooming and be charged more. When we talk about tools, we are talking about the equipment used to groom our cats. With varying degrees of tolerance, even from day-to-day, cats may give you only a small window of opportunity for at-home combing. You must be prepared and make the most of every second you have and have the right tools.
If you go to the local pet supply store you will either face a complete lack of grooming tools or tools that are identical to dog grooming tools except typically coloured in pink or purple and on a slightly smaller scale. Dogs have 8 different types of coat, cats only really have one type of coat, but it varies in length and in the volume of undercoat.
My dog grooming kit is a workshop cabinet. It has three drawers full of brushes, combs, clippers, stripping knives, clipper blades, products, and spare parts. Over the years I have pared down my tools in what works best and avoid duplication. It's still a cabinet full. My cat grooming kit is contained in a tiny tool box. That is all I really need to effectively and humanely groom a cat, aside from cat-appropriate clippers for lion and teddybear trims.
I will share with you what is in the cat tool box, by telling you what is NOT in it.
1. NO slicker/wire brushes. This might work well for dogs, but is a big no-no for cats. You can demat dogs using slickers carefully, but you cannot demat cat hair. The only thing a slicker-type brush accomplishes on a cat is damaging the hair by damaging the hair follicles and scratching the skin.
2. No pin brushes. This is great for long coated dogs but rather useless on cats. Cat hair is too fine and any small mats will be missed.
3. No cat nail clippers that have holes for fingers or guillotine style nail clippers. Use a small scissor-type nail clipper instead. Cats can be wiggly. There is nothing more annoying and potentially dangerous than nail clippers you can't immediately drop or disengage from because it is wrapped around your fingers or a nail. Safety first.
For at-home grooming the only tool you will need for a medium to long-haired cat is an aluminium "Greyhound-style" comb with coarse teeth on one end, and fine teeth on the other. The coarsely spaced teeth are good for easing out small mats and combing out the tail. The fine-toothed side is excellent for general body combing and removing loose hair.
For short-haired cats I recommend a rubber curry or boar bristle palm brush. These will remove the loose hair when used in a circular motion, followed by a sweeping motion. Most cats enjoy this type of grooming and it is an excellent entry level of grooming even for longer haired cats. It may not be effective on long-haired cats but it is a good training step to build tolerance and trust before the comb. Don't dwell in this phase too long for your long-haired cat, otherwise your cat will mat without regular combing.
Always use a comb on the body to check your work on short or long hair. (Yes short-haired cats can and do mat). Your work is done when it glides easily through the whole coat. This is the professional groomer's secret for all pets.
Location is another important tool. If you have a lap kitty, your lap will do fine as the grooming location. If you have a a cat who is more independent or prefers to bolt after a few strokes with a comb, find a location that is high and smooth. A smooth surface works in your favor and advantage. Give a cat traction and they are more likely to give you a hard time. This could mean the top of the washing machine (when it is off), a table top, counter, etc., the point is to be consistant. Use the same location every time and treats and favourite toys everytime. This is training time. Don't expect to accomplish more than a 1/4 of a cat the first few times. With a patient attitude, speedy and efficient technique, you'll be able to do more each time. Never try to tether your cat like a dog. You run the risk of serious injury should they decide to make a jump for it.
If you have a cat that tries to constantly avoid the situation, you may need to scruff them gently but firmly by the back of the neck just as momma cat used to do. This is only done with all four paws still on the ground. Use scruffing only for a few moments while you comb the underside or backend; those difficult to get to, but very necessary spots. It will give some measure of control and safety from biting should your kitty object. Speed and efficiency are necessary skills when it comes to combing certain personalities.
One other tool in my kitty arsenal is a Furminator-type shedding blade. I do not recommend using one of these tools at home. I have seen a lot of damage done to cats and dogs by improper use. If you really do want to use one of these shedding blades be sure to take your tool to a professional groomer and get a lesson in its proper useage. You must learn what to do with the blade to make it safer for use before ever applying it to the hair and skin of your pet, plus where it can or can't be used.
In summary, all you need at home is good quality comb, a bristle or curry palm brush, and scissor type nail clippers sans finger holes.
Next week we will talk about cat grooming products.
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Janet Wormitt, CFMG CFCG
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