Imagine what it would be like if a hairdresser pulled on your grandmother’s arms and legs while doing her hair. Would your grandmother be happy or upset? Would you feel good about the situation, or would you feel worried?
Grooming the older, matted cat poses challenges which are distinct from the challenges involved in grooming a young or middle-aged cat. Cats whose fur is matted require either de-matting with a comb/brush, or shaving/trimming the fur, in addition to bathing. Bathing relieves the skin of excess oil, dandruff and dirt. Trimming the claws is part of the health care process, since elderly cats can develop ingrown claws which penetrate the paw pad.
A younger cat may object to being groomed, but as long as the groomer is careful, discomfort can be avoided.
With an older, matted cat, discomfort may be unavoidable due to arthritis.
“In one study published in 2002, 90% of cats over 12 years of age had evidence of degenerative joint disease. This included cats with so-called ‘spondylosis’ of the spine (a form of degenerative joint disease). However, even when these cases were excluded, around ⅔ of the cats still had radiographic signs of arthritis affecting the limb joints. More recent studies have shown radiographic evidence of arthritis in the limb joints affecting between 60% and more than 90% of cats. All these studies show that arthritis is actually very common in cats, that it is much more common (and more severe) in older cats, and that the shoulders, hips, elbows, knees (stifles) and ankles (tarsi) are the most commonly affected joints.”
(Published in International Cat Care, “Arthritis and degenerative joint disease in cats.”)
I prefer to groom senior cats on a two to four week schedule, so that mats don’t get the chance to form. When shaving matted underarms and groins, it is difficult to avoid holding the elderly cat in a position that will put stress on their joints, since the skin must be stretched taut to avoid nicking their fragile skin.
The best option is frequent brushing and combing sessions with a cat groomer, so that the stresses of shaving can be avoided. Letting the cat live with mats is not an option. Mats pull at the skin, prevent air circulation, and create fertile ground for infection.
It is far easier to gently brush fur and comb fur than it is to complete a full body shave. Think of your grandmother (the nice one, not the mean one) . . . now call the cat groomer.