09 Mar

When The Cat Bites

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Cat bites are very, very serious. While a dog bite may look messy and sore from bruising, a cat bite is insidious. As many doctors have told me, there is no such thing as a little cat bite, because 80% of cat bites become infected.

As a professional cat groomer, I handle many cats of different temperaments through a regular working day. Part of my job is to control and minimize risks for the visiting felines, coworkers, and myself, while giving some guidance to owners. Cats usually bite as a defensive reaction due to fear. Grooming requires intensive and for some cats, intrusive handling because we have to work in some very personal zones to address grooming problems. Mitigating fears is a large part of what a professional cat groomer does to make the grooming process go quickly and smoothly. No one should ever risk handling a fractious cat beyond their comfort zone, but even still, bites can still happen.

Cats are lightening fast, flexible and dexterous, and sport eighteen weapons of mass destruction (claws), plus fangs. Cats vary hugely in their tolerance for handling, and their trust in humans. Do not be fooled into thinking that gloves or cat muzzles can protect you. Cats can easily bite through both. A cat’s teeth are perfectly designed to puncture, and deposit bacteria, leaving it to brew deep under your skin.

Inside a cat’s mouth there is a lot of different bacteria that is capable of causing tissue infections in bite wounds. One of the most common bacterium is the highly pathogenic, Pasteurella multocida. An infected bite wound will become red, swollen and painful within hours, and the infection can spread through the surrounding tissues. This condition is called cellulitis. It can also spread through the blood to other areas of the body, causing a condition called septicemia, aka blood poisoning. Infected people may suffer from fever and flu-like symptoms, tissue loss, and rarely, can even die without proper medical treatment. The elderly, children, and immune suppressed people are particularly at risk for infections.

More than a couple of my colleagues have received cat bites that have turned into serious infections. What looked like a small puncture on the hand turned into a flaming infection in the blood stream up into the arm. Weeks of I.V. transfusions of antibiotics at the hospital became necessary to stop infection and further tissue damage. Some needed physiotherapy to regain lost hand strength. One required emergency surgery to prevent further tissue damage. An ignored cat bite can put you out of work for weeks or end a grooming career.

So what to do if you are the receiving end of a cat bite?

  1. Rinse, rinse, rinse with flowing water for 5 to 10 minutes and let the blood flow. Dilution prevents pollution and irrigating the bacteria from the bite is your first step. 
  2. Use an antiseptic cleaner like iodine and do not bandage.
  3. Get medical attention IMMEDIATELY. Do not wait and see if an infection starts. Once it starts, it can spread like wildfire, killing tissue and or entering the bloodstream, and you might be sitting in a waiting room for hours before actually getting seen by a physician.

Remember that antiseptics only reduce microorganisms on the surface of the tissue and what are needed are antibiotics to treat infection within the tissues. Hydrogen peroxide is counter productive on punctures and antibiotic ointment doesn’t work sitting on the surface while bacteria breeds and spreads below within your tissue and possibly your bloodstream.

Bottom line: Never treat a cat bite lightly.

Cat scratches are also cause for concern, and that will be discussed in my next blog about cat scratch fever.


13 Feb

7 Ways to Tell A Pro Cat Groomer From An Average Pet Groomer

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You love your cat, and you want the very best for her. You don’t want a trip to the groomer to turn into bad experience, or a bad result. This makes most cat owners understandably hesitant, and sometimes even wait too long before seeking professional help for a grooming problem. Here’s 7 points to either look for, or ask about when you are looking for the right place to have your cat groomed.

1. No dogs. This means the business has made special provisions for your cat to have a quieter, less stressful experience. Whether it’s cat specific grooming days, hours, separate work-space, or a feline exclusive business, this establishment has made an effort to put kitty at ease while it’s visiting.

2. A certified cat groomer will insist on bathing your cat as part of the grooming. Grooming means cleaning, actually washing away impurities that cause the hair to mat, plus other debris like the flaky dried saliva people mistake for dry skin, or smelly bottoms. Bathing benefits the long-term health and hygiene of your cat. Water-less  sprays or wipes just leave more debris in the hair. Would you use the same approach to clean your hair? Groomers who avoid bathing cats are either inexperienced, or misinformed.

3. A certified cat groomer will offer you choices and solutions for your grooming challenges depending on your lifestyle, grooming issues and budget. Yes, I said choices. There are a variety of styles beyond just shaving to resolve issues from mats, hairballs, excessive shedding, dandruff, etc. They will also recommend long-term solutions or schedule to put your kitty issues at ease.

4. A certified cat groomer is knowledgeable about cats. This means they can identify more than just three cat breeds. They can name the viruses your cat is vaccinated for, they can tell you about where breeds originate from, personality traits, colours and coat types, etc. In short, a pro cat groomer knows as much about cats, as a dog groomer should know about dogs.

5. A certified cat groomer is transparent. They will tell exactly what they can or can’t/won’t do. They won’t hem-and-haw. As Yoda so famously said “Do, or do not. There is no try”. They’ll talk you through the entire process; what they do, and why. They’ll let you have a look around their facility and ask questions. They’ll point out the little differences that make their grooming facility cat friendly, for example, the products they use and the grooming tools.  You won’t be able to participate in the actual grooming process (due to insurance policy coverages), but they won’t mind if you want to watch.

6. A certified cat groomer has credentials. Whether it is diplomas of certification on the wall, a portfolio of a body of their own grooming work, or insignias of memberships. They’ll post recent pet industry events they’ve participated in. Don’t rely on just photos on a website. These are easily stolen. Ask for proof their credentials.

7. A certified cat groomer won’t do dog-centric trimming. This means shaving the legs, the face, trimming whiskers, or trimming pads (although triming toe tuffs can be done on request, it is considered a faux pas by cat fanciers). There are sensitive whiskers that run along the back of the forelimbs and interspersed in the toe tuff hair. The legs have very delicate ligaments and tendons prone to nicking. There is no professional justification in shaving any of these areas.


21 Dec

The Dirty Truth About Indoor Cats

Dirty? Yes, contrary to what most people believe about the indoor lifestyle, in my professional cat groomer experience, the indoor cats are dirtier than the indoor/outdoor cats. Before you pou pou my statement in disbelief, read further.

All animals appreciate being clean. It’s vital to their long term health. In a natural environment, on their own time, cats will seek out light rainy days, roll in snow,  sit under downspouts, and are not adverse to the occasional swim. They do this to rinse away impurities and simply because it feels good. So the old myth about cats grooming themselves was largely helped by the fact that they seeked bathing themselves regularly, and didn’t reply just on spit. Unless a indoor/outdoor cat has mishaps with unnatural products, like motor oil, or has extra long hair, they can stay in relatively decent condition during their prime years, needing a bath only occasionally.

An indoor cat does not get the opportunity to rinse away the layers of food, or litterbox debris. In fact the natural oils in the hair plus salvia can just keep building up until dirt and loose hair get stuck together creating mats. The indoor environment also means indoor lighting and thus, shedding year round. Your feline roommate is also slathering themselves daily with saliva which has five known allergens. Would you live with someone who never properly bathed? This is why so many cats are attracted to water dripping from sinks. They want to be clean. The trend to keep cats indoors puts the onus on us to regularly have them properly groomed and bathed so they can be as clean as they naturally like to be.

Keeping cats indoors is a prudent decision because the indoor/outdoor lifestyle is fraught with dangers like feline viruses, vehicles, predators, getting lost, and malicious humans. “Catios” are a great, safe alternative for the cats who love the outdoors. Indoor cats live an average of three times longer. As a responsible pet lover, I wouldn’t let a dog roam free, and neither would I let a cat. My pets are bathed regularly because they share my living space, they stay clean and healthy, and I can enjoy cuddling them anytime!

04 Dec

Company’s Coming! A Hairy Christmas is not A-Mewsing

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During the hustle and bustle of Christmas, we often forget our cats need to receive guests too. We include our dogs in the festivities but not our cats. Why is that? While many cats prefer to hide during holiday home invasions of their territory, their presence is still felt and known by your guests.

With one quarter of your guests allergic to cats it makes sense to wash away the offending dander before they arrive. You want your guests to be comfortable, enjoy their stay, and not be in allergenic misery the whole visit. You just know that when the lights are out, to a-mews itself, your cat will visit the most allergic person while they are sleeping, or curl up in their luggage. Washing also gets rid of any tiny particles of litter box debris they spread anywhere they stroll…like the kitchen counters or tables.

Your guests may not be aware of the favorite cat chair until they are covered with the hair left behind, or your guests may unwittingly collect swirls of cat hair on their telltale dark socks. A hairy Christmas just shouldn’t be on the menu. A cleansing bath, de-shed treatment and professional blow dry can take care of that. You may even consider a hair trim for the holidays.

Holiday wear and decorations with it’s sparkles and textures can be very enchanting for your cat’s curiousity,
but beware the damage that can be wrought with untrimmed nails. A nail trim or nail caps can take of that problem especially in festive holiday colours!

If your cat is a socialite and loves to join the party, a soft, clean and fluffy-fresh cat is a joy to behold
. Your cat will not be well received if it is smelly, greasy, or decorated with  dandruff, or offending mats of hair. A clean cat is also a happier, more social cat.

Use common sense and protect your cat concerning open doors, alluring tinsel, poisonous plants, electrical cords, and decadent food over the holidays. Wishing everyone a safe and festive holiday season!


04 Nov

The Unsavory, Often Forgotten, Topic of Cat Anal Glands

Feline anal glands is a rather gross subject, but it is necessary to beware of the signs of a potential problem before it becomes a trip to the vet.

Anal gland problems are more often associated with dogs, but cats can have problems too. All predators have oil sacs located at 4 and 8 o’clock around the anus. Skunks use them in chemical warfare, while dogs and cats use them to identify one another. Each time a stool passes a small amount of the oil is deposited on the stool leaving an individual signature unique to that animal. This is why cats and dogs will smell each other’s rear ends in greeting.

Sometimes these glands get clogged up creating an impaction. This can happen because a lack sufficient fiber in the diet, dehydration, poor fitness, or genetic predisposition. The symptoms of a problem can be “scooting” which is rubbing the bottom along the ground to try and release the pressure. This is accompanied by a smear with a super smelly deposit on carpeting. Other symptoms include a pungent “fishy” smell, biting or licking at the anus, and frequent trips to the litterbox with no apparent relief.

If bacteria gets into the gland, the area can become swollen, red and sore. Cats will often start avoiding the litterbox because of the association of straining with the pain of the infection. Often cats that are suspected of having a urinary problem because of not using the litterbox, turn out to have an anal gland problem.

If the infection continues undiagnosed it can become a very painful abscess. At this point the gland has swollen to the maximum with pus and has bust through the posterior wall surrounding the anus. You can only imagine how unhappy any creature with an infection or abscess around the anus could be. 

An accredited cat groomer will check the anal glands from the exterior during the bath to ensure everything is functioning as it should. Should there be signs of swelling or the glands do not drain easily, the cat will be referred to a veterinary for an interior expression of the glands. Excessive force by an amateur can damage or increase the potential for infection. Cats that are diagnosed with an infection or abscess will have their glands drained by a veterinary and then given a course of antibiotics. Cats with a chronic problem may have their glands removed through surgery.

Thanks for wadding through a pungent but important topic about your cat’s health, and be thankful I didn’t include pictures. 🙂

08 Oct

6 Steps To Break The Cycle of Matting In Cats

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Some cats seem to get shaven repetitively  without ever having the opportunity to look and feel their finest. Here’s how you can set a new precedent for your cat and improve the quality of life for both of you.

The first thing we have to realize is what exactly causes mats? It’s a simple equation: 

Moisture + Loose hair + Dirt/grease = Mats

Take one of those ingredients out of the equations, and you are unlikely to have mats. 

The other thing you must realize is that mats are very painful. It causes bruising and sores, and every step can become painful. It can turn a sweet cat into a miserable angry creature. Turning a blind eye to mats is willful neglect and completely inhumane.

Moisture is unavoidable with cats, because they lick spit all over themselves for about 40% of their active time. Not only does cat spit have five known allergens, when it dries it leaves flakes floating along the surface of the hair. So what you may have assumed was dry skin, is actually dried salvia. 
Loose hair is particularly a problem for long-haired, overweight, elderly, or depressed/stressed cats. They just can’t effectively address the removal of all the dead hair as it sheds out. Skin sheds too. That’s the larger greeny yellow greasy flakes floating on the surface of the hair.  
Dirt/Grease build-up is a no-brainer. Cats are naturally greasy to be weatherproof. Would you want to live with a room-mate that didn’t shower for months?

1. Become aware of the condition of your cat’s fur. This means regularly caressing and checking for excessive dirt or grease, dandruff, shedding, and the first tell-tale thick areas that are just about to fuse into mats.

2. Take ownership of your own set actions and attitude. Not all cats are great self-groomers. Admit there is a problem and help is needed. Either get out the comb and step up your home grooming regularly, or get professional help to find the right right maintenance schedule to keep your cat in healthy condition.

3. Purposely observe by looking for changes in behaviour and health. How often are they self-grooming? A healthy cat grooms 40% of their wake time. Has the condition of their skin and hair changed due to aging or stress? Can they reach everywhere they need to? Do they have poor quality hair?

4. Evaluate your present routine. Do you feed grocery or premium brands? When is the last time your cat had a check-up? Do you truly know whether your cat is healthy or do you just assume so? Cats are exceptional at hiding illness. Allergies, yeast infections, thyroid, diabetes, obesity, hormones, all can be possible  contributors to a chronic matting problem

5. Seek professional help from a Certified Feline Master Groomer who can help you determine the best cycle of grooming care for your specific cat. Ask questions, and educate yourself on the needs of your cat. It will mean a better quality of life for both of you. With regular professional grooming, felines are happier, healthier, improved quality of life, and look, smell, and feel gorgeous. 

6. Be honest about your ability to take good care of your companion. You choose to include this cat in your life. It is your responsibility and duty to ensure all its needs are properly taken care of and that it should never have to suffer due to your neglect. With all this new-found knowledge, if you are not willing to make a change and break the cycle of oscillating between matted shave-downs, you are committing willful neglect. The right thing to do is find a better home for your cat. 


12 Sep

Purrfect Paws

PictureHalloween Nail Caps!

Contrary to the dog grooming world, trimming the hair on the paws of a cat is a definite no-no. Cat breed standards require toe tuft hair.  So if you are a dog groomer, and have been trimming cat feet, stop it, stop it now!
We cat groomers spend a lot of time fluffing and coaxing the toe tufts to their luscious lengths after a bath. Cats are supposed to be very naturally presented creatures in the show ring.

Trimming the toe hair at a client’s request almost feels criminal. Good reasons to trim the toe hair  is for the ease of a senior cat to move around on slippery surfaces or cleanliness.  Some people believe that trimming the toe hair will prevent tracking cat litter around. My experience has been that if your cat is tracking around litter it means the hair on the toes is so dirty, sweaty, and greasy that it is definitely time for a bath or serious litter box clean.  A clean cat with toe tufts won’t track litter. Clean hair actually repels the litter unless it becomes so saturated with  dirt that it does indeed start to stick. Got litter sticking? It’s time for a bath. Would you want a dirty-footed creature strolling on your kitchen counter, couch, or bed?


PictureOvergrown, unsheathed nails ready to embed themselves into a paw pad or limb. Ouch!

Regular nail trimming is essential to a harmonious co-existence with your cat. It keeps your cat’s feet healthy, and your belongings and physical being intact. A scratching post is a absolute necessity in cat ownership. Hate the look of scratching posts in your decor? Sorry, but to keep your cat happy and reduce stress, the scratching post is THE cat’s natural emotional outlet.  It also helps with the sheathing of the nail layers.

Some cats are more intense scratch-post scratchers than others, just like some dogs are more intense chewers than others. You can’t have a dog and not have chew toys. You can’t have a cat and not supply a scratching post.

The need for cats to express emotions by scratching seems to reduce as the years go by. While regular nail trimming (every 4-6 weeks) is important throughout a cat’s life, it is particularly important as your cat ages. I frequently see senior cats that no longer use their scratching posts and have nails that have grown so long that it is imbedded and infected the paw pads.  And this isn’t uncommon or rare. The worst case I’ve seen was a client who commented that they could hear their cat walk across the floor. The poor senior had nine nails that were so long that they couldn’t be retracted and had imbedded in the pads and become infected.


PictureEye catching, and saves your furniture and clothes.

I admit it, I love nail caps! When applied properly, they are comfortable, reduce scratching damage, and are a super kewl fashion statement. I often do seasonal themes and combine colours just for fun.  A fabulous alternate to de-clawing (which I am personally opposed to) nail caps can save your skin, furniture, and look fabulous!

29 Jun

Humanity Before Vanity

I don’t know where this phrase was coined, so whoever you are, thank you!

I think all new groomers have a rite of passage when it comes to trying to please their clients and de-mat a pet that, in hindsight, should never been put through the ordeal. It’s a steep learning curve. We want to make our clients happy, but we haven’t learned to say NO in a manner that is tactful, educational, and fosters a long-term relationship. When I started out 15 years ago, I spent two days de-matting a very patient and tolerant Briard. Today my limit is 10 minutes.

Professional pet groomers don’t become groomers because they like to torture pets by de-matting. On the other hand, we don’t shave pets because we’re lazy or out of spite. A shave down is not pretty, nor is it good for business (unless it is the client’s preferred choice of hair trim) . No matter how careful you may try to be, with all the tools, products, and professional tricks at hand, de-matting is very uncomfortable and often painful. In my professional opinion, no pet should have to endure more than 10 minutes de-matting, as it only makes visiting the groomer an unpleasant experience. An animal cannot rationalize that it must tolerate de-matting in order to please some level of aesthetics, it only knows that it hurts. The customer and the groomer have to come to a middle ground of understanding by communicating the realities of the individual’s maintenance. Every pet’s needs are different, even within the same breed or litter-mates.

Some pets are just born with knarly, poor quality, greasy hair, or are natural slobs. Many pets just never see a brush or comb at home in between grooms. Other pets give their owners a hard time and the owner just gives up. Whatever the reason, a groomer cannot fairly undo months of indifference or neglect in a couple of hours. An experienced groomer will interview the client and their pet to find out what their grooming expectations are and based on the pet’s health,  hair quality, and lifestyle, will make suitable recommendations.

When a matted pet comes into my salon for the first time it is not uncommon for the owner to request, “Just shave out the mats.” The shaving, rather than ripping it out with a comb, I am in complete agreement with. The leaving a mohawk strip of unmatted but greasy dandruffy hair down the back, I am not in agreement with. Nor a patchwork of  hair vs. shaven spots. It looks ridiculous, like a epic battle with a lawnmover. It is best to shave the body down so the hair can regrow evenly and attractively. A regular bathing and combing scheduled is immediately suggested to avoid the necessity of shaving in the future. 

All pet owners should learn this equation:  loose hair + dirt/grease + moisture = mats.

 Actively questioning the client’s pet grooming expectations or assumptions will often bring to light gaps in Disney ideals vs. maintenance reality. Keeping to a regular schedule keeps every pet loveable (i.e. clean, attractive, reduced shedding, smelling good, and a pleasure to pet) and happy (i.e. feeling good, clean, and free from discomfort) which makes living with pets all the sweeter.

14 Mar

Do You Trust Your Groomer? The Triangle of Trust

What is trust?

For the purpose of of building and maintaining trust in the grooming profession, trust can be defined as choosing to risk making  your pet vulnerable to another person’s actions. You choose your groomer because you believe their actions will support your wishes in the care and welfare of your beloved pet, and at the very least, not harm it in any way. Some owners extend trust easily and only withdraw if there is evidence of betrayal of that trust. Others believe that trust is to be earned by demonstrating trustworthiness and professionalism.

In pet grooming, trust is a more complicated relationship than most services. It’s not just about the mutual relationship between client and service provider. It is a triangle of trust between client, pet, and grooming professional. 

With trust flowing freely in all directions there a feeling of collaboration, care, and receptiveness to new ideas. Without trust there is only fear, anger, resistance, and blame. It is important to be very clear about expectations to foster a trusting relationship

The Pet’s Expectations:

  • I will feel safe
  • I will be given patience 
  • I will be guided through moments of doubt or fear with understanding
  • I will not be left unattended
  • I will be in a clean, parasite-free environment.
  • I will have my grooming needs tended to by a certified professional
  • I will receive the level of regular grooming required for my breed, age, lifestyle to keep me clean, healthy, and loveable
  • I will not be subjected to unnecessary dematting for the sake of vanity

The Client’s Expectations:

  • I can trust my groomer to take very good care of my pet at all times
  • My groomer has my best interest in mind in the care of my pet
  • My groomer will be honest and tell me everything I want to know about my pet’s visit
  • My groomer will fully disclose all costs and plan of action at time of checking in, with no surprises at pick-up.
  • My groomer will help me with a maintenance plan and schedule
  • My groomer will tell me if they notice anything unusual concerning the health of my pet
  • My groomer will provide good value for services 
  • My groomer will be honest in their credentials and experience
  • My groomer will provide a clean, professional environment
  • My groomer will provide grooming advise for at-home maintenance
  • My groomer will be professional and respect the client relationship

The Groomer’s Expectations:

  • My client has fully disclosed all their pet’s medical and behaviour issues 
  • Vaccines are current
  • My client has been clear concerning their needs and request for service
  • If my client is unsatisfied with service, they will let us know immediately so we can correct any issues right away
  • My client will show up for appointments on time or give 24 hours notice to reschedule. 
  • My client will pick their pet up on time
  • My client will maintain a regular grooming schedule and not neglect their pet’s physical and mental health and well-being by waiting until it is in severe condition before receiving grooming attention.

Most of the pet owners reading this probably don’t realize that the exchange between pet and groomer concerning feeling safe and being able to handle whatever comes is a two way street. The groomer has a right to feel safe too and to work well within their own experience and comfort level. It is as important for the groomer to communicate this to the owner as it is for the owner to fully disclose all behavioural quirks that are known. It is lying by omission or just plain negligence to hand over a pet with known aggression problems and hope the animal behaves itself. 

No matter how diligent, accidents do happen. Pets can do unpredictable things, groomers can make mistakes, and clients can lose track of time. Honesty is always the best policy. Once a breach in trust occurs it is very difficult to get it back. A clear acknowledgement  and apology without excuses or justification can make the difference between a broken relationship, and one that gets stronger.

I would love to hear your comments and suggestions for expectations I may have overlooked.

08 Mar

Cat Allergies – What Causes Them, and What You Can Do

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This may come as a shock. As a Certified Feline Master Groomer, the labs in the allergy laboratories in the U.S. will pay me  $140 CAD for each pound of dirty cat hair. Amazing. Why? Because cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies. Cat hair is a reliable source because it is dirty and full of allergens.

An estimated 10 percent of people are allergic to household pets and among children, one in seven are allergic to Tiger, not Rover. Yet cats are the most popular house-pet in Canada.

Popular belief is that it is the fur causing the watery, itchy eyes. 

Wrong. 

Most people are reacting to proteins found on the cat’s skin and fur. The  There are actually five cat allergens described in medical literature, but the primary culprits are Fel d 1, and Fel d 4.  Laboratory gold. Both allergens are produced largely by cat saliva and the sebaceous glands. Fel d 1 is also produced by cat skin itself. So it’s not about the dander the cat sheds, it’s about the size and shape of the protein molecules.

Cat protein molecules are tiny, about one-tenth the size of a dust allergen. From the cat’s hair and skin it enters the air and can stay airborne for hours. It’s sticky too. It readily sticks to human skin and clothes and stays there, making it ever-present in the environment. It’s been found in environments where there are no cats – classrooms, medical offices, even the Arctic. 

All cats produce the proteins. While there are no true hypoallergenic breeds, there are some cats that produce more protein than others, especially unneutered male cats.

Here are some recommended steps offered by the professional allergist community that you can take to reduce cat allergy suffering: removal of soft surfaces in the home (carpet, furniture), frequent washings of bed linens, HEPA filters and washing cats has been proven to reduce the amounts of Fel d 1 present in the home. That’s right, w-a-s-h-i-n-g, with soap. Not combing, not shaving, not wipes, not “waterless” bath sprays.  An actual regular bath.

Allergy shots are another option. Small injections on a weekly basis for six months, followed by three to five years of monthly injections. A less troublesome option may be on the horizon as clinical trials are beginning for a cat allergy vaccine that has shown promise for  suffers.

In the meantime, simply washing the cat regularly will dramatically help reducing the allergens in your home, making it much more comfortable for everyone, with a glorious, fresh, silky soft puss as a plus. Love your cat, and bathe it regularly.


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