Grooming cats to cut down on hairballs

Vomiting up hairballs once in a long while is okay.  Vomiting them up once a week, or even once a month, is too much. I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy throwing up.  My guess is that your cat doesn’t either. If your cat lived outdoors, shed fur would be pulled off or blown off by wind, branches, sand, rain and so on. Living inside, your cat winds up eating much more fur than is healthy or comfortable.

Cat grooming really isn’t about show cats and superficial good looks. It’s about health and comfort. If the cat looks more beautiful afterwards, that’s a bonus, but it’s not important, unless you think looks are the most important thing in life.  I know you don’t think that:)

cat_hairball cartoon

Picking up wiggly cats

I got an email asking for a visit to trim the claws of a BIG cat.  Creamy soft fur.  Athletic. In the prime of his life. Friendly.

Put him on the counter. Trimmed a claw.  He rabbit-kicked me, leapt off the counter, and off he went, ha ha. The joke was on me.

Followed him to the hallway.  Wrapped him in my towel, held him on my lap, and snip, snip, claws trimmed. He didn’t mind after all.  Settled into it like a champ.

One of his owners asked, “How did you do that?!”

Just another day in the life . . . .:)

Allergic to cat? Solutions. Part 1


Dander and dandruff.  Let’s not get hung up on the difference.  They’re the same according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, while other sources define dander as specifically the “almost invisible skin cells that flake off.”

“Dander is made up of tiny bits of dried skin that flake off your cat’s body and become airborne. This may sound like dandruff, but it’s actually much, much smaller and invisible to the human eye.”

“These bits of skin contain a protein called FelD1 that is responsible for the allergic reaction. FelD1 is found in a cat’s urine, sebaceous glands, and saliva. When a cat licks their body, the protein attaches itself and dries, and when the dander flakes off, the allergen becomes airborne.”

So a protein called FelD1 (Felis domesticus allergen I) is the problem for people who are allergic to cats. Some cats have less of this protein, but that’s a whole other topic.

What can you do? Avoid or minimize contact with FelD1.

  1. Don’t let your cat on the bed.
  2. Don’t rub your face and hands against your cat’s body, unless you’re going to wash afterwards.
  3. Keep a clean house.
  4. Don’t keep the litter box in an area where you spend a lot of time. Don’t use a dusty litter. Keep the litter box scooped.
  5. Bare floors are better than carpeting. Don’t choose upholstered furniture.
  6. *Vacuuming, air filtration systems. Not convinced either helps much. Some vacuums blow allergens into the air.  The problem with vac & air fit. is that the equipment needs to be maintained. If not maintained, can become a reservoir of allergens.
  7. Bathing and brushing at least once a week.  If you can’t bathe your cat, wipe your cat down with a hypo-allergenic pet wipe or a wet washcloth as often as you can.  You have to do it at least once a week. For real. See below for study.

“Cats carry large quantities of Fel d 1, only a small proportion of which (approximately 0.002%/hr) becomes airborne. Washing cats by immersion will remove significant allergen from the cat and can reduce the quantity of Fel d 1 becoming airborne. However, the decrease is not maintained at 1 week.”  (From J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1997 Sep;100(3):307-12.  Evaluation of different techniques for washing cats: quantitation of allergen removed from the cat and the effect on airborne Fel d 1.)

My opinion is that shampooing is going to be more effective at decreasing dander than just soaking a cat in water. Why? Shampooing makes cats less oily. Allergens stick to oil.  How do I come to that conclusion? Everything sticks to oil. I don’t need a study to prove this:)

I’m better at shampooing than most owners, so what makes sense is to schedule a bath once a month or as often as you can, while wiping the cat down as often as you can.








More on how to hold a cat . . .

“How to hold a cat who is wiggly” is a hot topic among readers of my blog.  People come to this site in search of answers.

The image below will help you to understand the logic behind safe and comfortable cat restraint. I often review this book. Since I spend my work hours handling cats, knowing their anatomy definitely helps.

First, notice that cats walk on their fingers and toes, both of which are called phalanges.

Walking on their toes gives cats grace and lightness.

Second, notice that cats crouch when they walk.  The front legs (humerus, radius and ulna) are in a wide V shape, as are the rear legs (femur, tibia and fibula).

The crouching walk is part of what enables cats to perform an explosive jump, propelling them from the floor to the top of a cabinet.  They are perpetually in a pre-jump position.  There is power in those bent legs, particularly the rear legs.  Cats use rabbit-kicks to pummel opponents during battles and play time.

If you look at photos of runners at a starting line, you will notice that they are in a similar position to the cat below.  They are poised for explosive movement forward or upward.

Which explains this.

Keep feline anatomy in mind so that you won’t be surprised if your cat suddenly leaps up and out of your arms.  If they are positioned to be able to successfully kick at you, you’ve probably already lost your chance to restrain them.


Cat fur feels stiff or dry

When cat fur gets coated with cat skin oil, the fur can feel stiff or gluey.  All that’s happening is grease + fur = stiffness.  To fix the situation, you can use ball-tip scissors and carefully, CAREFULLLLLLY, trim off the oiled-up fur. The skin underneath will still be oily, so you can use a wet wipe made for cats/dogs. That will help a little.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can use a diluted degreaser like Dawn or Palmolive — unscented original versions, diluted heavily — to wash the greasy skin and fur.  Be SURE to rinse, rinse, rinse and rinse some more because you don’t want your cat to lick that soap.

A common place to find stiff, oiled-up fur is between the shoulder blades.  I can’t believe how gluey and sticky this area can be.  Very hard to degrease without washing a few times.

If fur is dry, that’s different. Could be that the fur was washed with a degreasing shampoo too many times in too short a time. More likely it’s not related to grooming but to some other situation.  I’m not a vet, so I don’t know what would cause dry fur.  I’ve never seen dried-out fur on a cat. I’ve seen oily fur many times.

Red is my color.



Winter Allergy Cats Uh Oh. sneezes, red eyes, meow!

Sitting inside watching the snow — yes, it’s pretty! — while breathing in dander, dandruff and cat fluff?  Windows closed. Heat pouring out of vents. Dry skin and dry nose. Perfect time for major allergy flare-ups.

Grooming decreases shed fur, cleans off dandruff, and washes away dander (temporarily).  If I had cat allergies, I’d be on meds and would have my cat groomed at least every 3 months.  If you can’t schedule a cat grooming, try wiping your cat with fragrance-free cat wipes. Do that once a day.


Winter Coats and Cats

Cats whose coat thickens up in the winter are at maximum puffiness now.  I like a puffy cat as much as the next person.  The problem is that under the cute puffiness, problems can lurk. Mats form under floofiness. As fur starts to shed more during the approach to Spring (March 20th), fur can mat into hard lumps.

Beware the floof!:)

Grooming experience, education and training:

  1. graduated grooming school
  2. house call veterinary nurse administering medications and fluids
  3. managed busy animal shelter
  4. emergency animal rescue in Chapel Hill, NC
  5. internship with “big cats” at The Bronx Zoo
  6. kennel worker
  7. post-baccalaureate biology honors program at CUNY
  8. hundreds of hours of volunteer service at animal shelters, and more. . .