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Why Cats Need to be Groomed
By Sam Kohl
Contrary to popular belief, the self-grooming done by cats does not eliminate the need for professional grooming.
The cat’s natural habit of licking has a seriously harmful effect. Cats have tiny barbs on their tongues that pull out lots of hair as they groom themselves. The large accumulation of hair that is swallowed as a result of this licking causes those dreaded hairball formations. They may develop throat and intestinal problems even if they’re given hairball remedies.
Professional grooming of the cat is therefore not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity. Grooming reduces the amount of loose hair that can be swallowed. In addition, brushing and bathing effectively reduces the dander on the cat’s skin which causes human allergies. Hairless cats, often considered safe for allergic humans to have, still are not completely non-allergenic. Dander and other allergens cling to their coats, too. Bathing them reduces allergic reactions.
Sam Kohl, the President of the New York School of Dog Grooming, has been active in all phases of the pet industry since 1947. He now represents the Grooming industry on the New York City Board of Education Animal Advisory Commission.
Understanding Hot Spots
If the underlying cause is tangled or matted hair or trapped dead hair, put the dog on a regular grooming schedule either at home or at a grooming salon. Collies, Old English Sheepdogs, Shih-Tzus, and other breeds with long hair that tangles easily should be groomed at least twice a week so that snarls and mats do not form. Never bathe a dog with matted or tangled hair — comb the snarls out first. Clip mats if you cannot easily comb them out, and make an appointment for professional grooming every four-to-six weeks if you cannot keep the dog mat-free on your own.
If the underlying cause is allergies,—begin an aggressive campaign to rid your home and yard of fleas and work with your veterinarian on a plan to reduce allergy triggers for your pet. Household dust, plant pollen, lawn chemicals, and diet can all cause allergies or can build to a crescendo of allergies if the dog’s sensitivities cross a thresh-hold. Frequent vacuuming, supplements to keep the skin and coat healthy, air purifiers, and baths in skin-soothing herbal or medicated shampoos with aloe, oatmeal, jojoba, or eucalyptus can help. Next step is over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl or Atarax — with a veterinarian’s approval. If these don’t work, then steroids to reduce the inflammation and the immune system reaction to the allergen and perhaps antibiotics to cure the infected hot spot are the next course of treatment.
If the underlying cause seems to be behavioral — if your pet doesn’t have allergies or fleas or a more serious skin condition, but is so bored, stressed, or lonely that he maims himself with constant licking or scratching, he may need more exercise, playtime, and attention. This can be the easiest or the hardest treatment to implement because there’s no pill or ointment for long-term success; the requirements are time, consistency, and perhaps an investment in training books, an obedience school, a dog sitter, or an animal behaviorist.
A HEALTHY CAT CHECKLIST
- Fur: Should be fluffy, shiny and free of mats or bare spots.
- Eyes: Should be alert, look straight ahead and be clear and bright, with no discharge. Tip: You can check a cat's eyesight by shining a flashlight into its eyes to see if it blinks.
- Ears: Should be clean and sweet smelling. Tip: You can check a cat's hearing by ringing a bell to see if it reacts.
- Legs: Should be straight, with arched toes and cupped feet.
- Nose: Should be cool, damp and free of discharge.
- Weight: Should not look overweight. A two-month-old kitten weighs about two pounds; an adult cat eight to 15 pounds.
- Stomach: Should not bulge. A bulging navel could indicate a hernia; a swollen stomach a poor diet or worms.
- Playfulness: Should be playful and pounce and jump with ease. Tip: Clap your hands or stomp your feet. The cat or kitten should startle, but only for a moment. It should recover quickly.
- Socialization: Should be well socialized as indicated by an eagerness for attention and purring when petted.
- Skin: Should be clean and healthy looking, with no redness or scabs.
- "Under the tail." The anus should be free of any redness or swelling.
- Temperature: Kitten: 96 to 100 degrees F. Adult Cat: 100 to 103 degrees F rectally.
- Heart Rate: 140 to 240 beats per minute.
WHY DO CATS NEED ROUTINE?Cat experts agree that routine forms the basis of your cat's sense of security and comfort. Because cats are territorial, their routines will develop around your household and schedule. From observing your pet every day, you'll have noticed that your cat has a pattern that it follows quite religiously. For example, your adult indoor cat might spend the mornings lying in a pool of sunshine in the corner of the dining room. Later, he watches you as you go about your household chores, and then his rigorous day winds down with a patient vigil by the kitchen door waiting for his children - otherwise known as your children - to come home. Your feline has developed these routines to protect his territory and frequently your pet's definition of "territory" includes his human family members. As your cat grows older, he becomes less capable of adapting to changes in his environment. Your pet gets particular about even the smallest detail of his surroundings and will notice changes in food (brand or type), the consistency of his litter and even in your schedule or in the schedules of other family members. Abrupt or drastic changes in your cat's routine and environment can produce a great deal of stress, which can result in a variety of stress-induced behaviors - including litter box problems, aggression, self-mutilation or general despondency. The best possible way to keep your cat stress free is to try to maintain your daily routine and to keep changes to a minimum. When changes are necessary, try introducing them to your cat gradually while leaving every other aspect of the routine in place. Limit exposure to new people and new foods, etc., on the first day and increase the exposure to newness over a seven-day period. If you have houseguests or other situations where the household is materially changed, remember to give your cat as much extra attention as you can.