Feline Fur Care: Tips for Grooming Long-Haired Cats
Most cats will spend a lot of their day grooming. Their bodies are incredibly supple and can bend and flex to enable them to reach all parts with ease. Monitoring your cat for the formation of mats can be a good indicator of a lack of flexibility and other medical conditions. Older cats, arthritic cats, and overweight cats may not have the flexibility to properly groom themselves to prevent matting. Additionally, since the primary grooming tool is their mouth, any cats with oral injury or disease may resist grooming themselves.
The cat’s tongue is covered with backwards-pointing spines, perfectly designed to groom coats. effectively, removing loose hair and dirt.
Domestic cat fur is generally made up of three types of hair: down, awn and guard. However, some pedigrees have their coats made up of a different proportion of these three types of hair giving them their distinct coat types. Moulting will occur, to some extent, all year round and grooming helps to remove the loose hair, much of which is swallowed. Such hair becomes impacted and either passes through the cat’s digestive system or is vomited up as a hairball.
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Grooming performs several important functions for your cat:
Removes loose hair and smooths the coat to help insulate the body more efficiently
Regulates temperature in hot weather by spreading saliva across the coat that subsequently evaporates, cooling the cat down
Keeps the coat waterproof by stimulating glands at the base of the hairs
Removes parasites. A cat may swallow a flea while self-grooming and once the flea is digested by the cat, the larval tapeworm is able to develop into an adult tapeworm. Routine parasite control is very important.
Maintains strong social bonds when cats groom each other.
Grooming your cat, irrespective of its coat type has a number of benefits:
Stimulates the skin to produce oils, giving the coat a healthy shine
Your cat will remove a large amount of hair itself when grooming but if you get involved on a daily basis, particularly when your cat is moulting, you can remove the majority of the hair and prevent the formation of hairballs
Provides the opportunity to give your cat a quick physical check, looking at ears, eyes and mouth and checking for fleas, ticks, ear mites or any lumps or bumps
The whole process can be very therapeutic for both of you and should be a positive way of reinforcing the bond between you
When you first acquire a kitten you should get it accustomed to being groomed from a very early age. Gradually build up the amount of time you spend grooming your kitten until it is quite happy to allow you to brush it.
To begin with, some kittens and adult cats may be much more tolerant to be handled and groomed than others, and it is important that grooming and (most importantly) general handling tolerance is built up gradually, without it being a negative experience for either you or the cat. A cat should never be ‘forcibly’ groomed or stroked without the option to escape if they are finding the experience stressful.
Feliway can help to prevent signs of stress or anxiety in your cat. The spray is also useful for travelling and can be used for vet trips or cattery visits.
It is also very useful in cases of your cat overgrooming. The primary cause of overgrooming in cats is stress. By treating the cause of the stress and adding stress-relieving activities and pheromones to the cat's day, you can help your cat stop overgrooming.
Key behaviours to look out for when grooming or stroking cats
The following are some of the more subtle indications that the cat may be feeling uncomfortable. Interaction should be stopped when any of these signs are visible.
The cat suddenly freezes or becomes tense
Skin rippling or twitching
Cat growls or hisses
Tail swishing, thumping or twitching at the end
The sharp turn of the cat’s head to face your hand or the brush
Cat shakes its head
Cat’s ears flick or rotate backwards
Cat swallows or licks lips
Cat performs a short-lasting but rapid burst of grooming to the body
Grooming long-haired cats
Regular brushing is the keystone of long-haired cat grooming. Daily brushing helps ward off mats and tangles, distributes natural oils, and strips off loose hair. Use a slicker brush or comb with long teeth to gently brush your cat's fur. Start at the top layer and work your way down to the undercoat.
How should long-haired cats be groomed?
Cats with long, silky, or curly coats require daily brushing to keep their hair from becoming tangled or matted, especially around the ears, in the armpits, or along the back of the legs.
How do you take care of a long-haired cat's coat?
Gently brush your cat 1-2 times/week.
Brushing helps remove dirt and dead hairs from your cats and stimulates the skin.
Do long-haired cats have trouble grooming?
With their soft, luscious coats and fluffy tummies, long-haired cats are truly magnificent, but they also require a bit of extra maintenance. All that fabulous fur is often too much for your cat to groom by themselves, so they need a bit of help to keep it in tip-top condition
What happens if you don't brush a long-haired cat?
Because the less frequently you brush the fur of a long-haired cat, the more difficult it is going to be from one time to the next, and so it is also going to take longer. You can even get densely matted fur and tangles lying close to the skin.
You will need:
A wide-toothed comb
A rubber mitten or pad.
Longhaired cats need to be groomed at least once a day but careful attention should be paid to the current tolerance level of the cat and time spent grooming should not exceed this.
Always choose a time when your cat is relaxed and happy to begin grooming. Massage the skin thoroughly before grooming commences by gently rubbing your fingers against the hair growth from tail to head.
Using the wide-toothed comb, groom from head to tail to remove dead hair and take particular care with areas under your cat’s ‘armpits’ and between its hind legs, as the skin is very thin here and extremely sensitive.
If you do come across a knot (known as a matt), tease it apart gently using your fingers. This needs patience as you work slowly from the root towards the end of the hair. Don’t be tempted to use scissors; it is extremely difficult to see where the skin ends and the hair starts when it gets really matted and you will inevitably cut your cat at some point.
Another common area where matts can form is between the toes and pads, so check each time you groom and tease out any accumulated debris gently.
Once this process is completed, use the rubber mitten or pad to remove more dead hair and do a final sweep over the coat with a damp cotton or rubber glove to remove any loose hairs that remain.
Finish off with the comb if your cat is being patient and enjoying the attention.
Always reward relaxed behaviour with praise and food treats throughout the grooming sessions.
There are numerous grooming products on the market, particularly for longhaired cats, for example, rakes, slickers and detangle sprays, many of which claim to make grooming as simple and safe as possible. What works for you and your cat can be a very personal thing so it’s worth investing in a range of equipment until you find the combination that does the job and causes the least amount of stress for all concerned.