01 Mar

When is Cat Grooming, NOT Cat Grooming?

I admit it. 

I regularly “shop” other pet grooming establishments to see;

  • whether they groom cats at all
  • what do they consider “cat grooming” and what services does it include
  • how much they charge for their “services”

Unfortunately, I am regularly appalled at the general level of service our pet grooming industry provides for cats.

Although cats are the most popular pets in Canada (36% of the pet households vs. 33% dogs) they are still treated as second-class pet citizens and expectations are very, very low when it comes professional cat grooming. What people don’t realize is that professional grooming is a training process that acclimatizes a pet to being handled, cleaned and groomed. 

Dogs need to be moulded into willing groomees, and so do cats. In my experience, dogs and cats are the same in their learning curve to the grooming process. It takes the same amount of time to teach the grooming process with intuitive understanding, patience, and good intentions. They differ only in the nature of how you overcome their potential fears, earn their trust to smoothen out the hurdles  as they may arise, and make the whole process enjoyable or at least tolerable.

So what is “grooming” supposed to be? Dictionary definition defines “grooming” as:

  • to look after the coat of an animal by brushing and cleaning it
  • to make clean and maintain the appearance
  • to make something neat and attractive

Notice the word “clean”. There’s a big discrepancy in what pet groomers think a clean cat is. So let’s define”clean”:

  • free from dirt, or unwanted matter, especially by washing
  • free from dirt, stain, or impurities  

So when a pet groomer shaves off the gnarly spots on a cat and drags a comb over it, would you consider it clean and groomed? If the pet groomer tried bathing and gave up trying to dry the cat to completion and returns it half wet and frazzled, would you consider it “groomed”? If you got your cat back with bald patches or uneven trimming, would you be happy with how cute your pet looks?

 You wouldn’t for a moment as a dog owner. You’d demand a refund or go elsewhere.

If you took your dog to the grooming salon you would expect:

  • a clean, appealing, dog-centric professional environment
  • knowledgeable professionals
  • a complete servicing of your furry friend, including  as many baths as it takes to get them thoroughly clean, a complete blow-dry, combing or currying,  nail trim, ear cleaning, and eye cleaning. 
  • depending on your breed, you may want a hair trim according to your preference or lifestyle needs
  • a variety of service options such as mat removal, speciality shampoos, coat conditioners, teeth brushing, de-shedding treatment, etc.

For most cat owners it seems the best professional service that they can hope for is an incomplete effort with minimal incident. For shame. 

Education is the key.

If your cat smells, has dandruff floating on the surface of the hair, throws up hairballs, has mats or tangles, looks like its been dipped in hair wax or feels greasy, has “stuff” stuck to it, your cat is not clean. Why cat saliva is considered a cleaning agent is beyond sound reasoning. A person or dog wouldn’t be considered clean if it was dipped in its own spit.

It is time for cat owners to unite and demand more for their beloved felines. Better education and quality service to keep their cats truly clean, healthy, and a joy to cuddle and live with.

21 Feb

Air Muzzle(R)- What is it and why are they used?

Picture

As a professional groomer, there are times when, for the sake of humanity and compassion, you have to groom a pet that does not tolerant handling for certain areas or even all aspects of grooming.  Whether it is the natural disposition of the pet, or a fearful reaction, it is our responsibility to treat a pet in our care with sensitivity and empathy in the quickest time possible to prevent undue stress and fear. The introduction of the Air Muzzle(R) has been a wonderful option for grooming unpredictable pets.

The Air Muzzle(R)  is a bit of a  misnomer as is is not actually a muzzle that would fit over the snout of an aggressive or fearful animal. It is more like a Elizabethan collar or pseudo-space helmet . It fits around the neck like a space helmet and it prevents an animal’s teeth from coming into contact with a pet professional. Sometimes we need to  perform tasks that may create an aggressive reaction from the pet, yet is necessary to maintain the health and comfort of the pet. A good example would be nail trimming, a necessity for all indoor pets. No animal likes it, but the degree of tolerance varies a great deal. Avoiding nail clipping can cause painful splayed feet, arthritis, and ripped out, broken and ingrown nails. But this only one common example of when a pet professional may opt to use an Air Muzzle in order to keep the pet comfortable or clean.

The Air Muzzle(R) is designed with a deep trough for the throat to ensure no contact at all on the windpipe, yet it fits around the head and sits high on the neck behind the jaw bone. The animal can see clearly forwards and there is nothing on the muzzle or face whatsoever. This is why I prefer using the Air Muzzle(R) over a regular muzzle for both cats and small dogs if ever necessary. It is allows a pet to breath freely,  no restriction to sight, or anything that could cause annoyance  on their face.  Pets  adapt quickly when they figure out they can still see and breathe freely. They stay calmer and stress less when having to do some offensive grooming tasks. 

Because the Air Muzzle(R) seems to be such a benign and safe tool for pets, I have learned to use it in other useful ways. Some pets, understandably, strongly object to water or blow-dryers anywhere near their faces, so the Air Muzzle is a great tool to prevent this from happening. 

The Air Muzzle(R) is expensive, but an excellent investment ($90 USD or $115 CAD). Professionals will never know how they ever worked without it when comparing it to the other bite restraint options. A cat bite is far more infectious than a dog bite and every pet professional is entitled to work safely using the most humane tools available to prevent injuries. 

You can order your own Air Muzzle(R) here


21 Dec

Thinking of Trying Cat Nail Caps? Read This First!

Picture

When I first started professional cat grooming in earnest, I admit, I was a bit dubious about nail caps. Why? Well, because my experience in putting them on and concern for the cat’s reaction made me cautious. Having put on hundreds of sets, I can now assure you that the resounding reaction of the owners and their cats is very positive. So here are some reasons you may want to consider using nail caps, some reasons you shouldn’t, and worst case, what can go wrong when applying nail caps.

First let me explain what a nail cap is.

 A nail cap is a soft, pliable, silicon cap / hood in the basic shape of the nail that slips over the nail to cover the pointed end. Kind of like a sword within a scabbard. Ideally, the nail must be trimmed first, but not excessively short, in order for the nail cap to adhere to the nail with a pet friendly super glue. Nail caps last on average about 6-8 weeks, but varies by individual lifestyle of the cat.

Reasons to consider using nail caps:

1. Despite a solid available scratching post and numerous attempts at encouraging the use of said post, or trying posts of various materials (cardboard, wood, sisal, carpet, wicker), your cat still insists on using your furniture.
2. Your cat is not an angel and likes to swat two and four-legged family  members with claws extended.
3. The cat lives with an elderly person or young  child who could be easily injured by the cat unintentionally.
4. You have been considering having you cat declawed. Because nail caps do not hurt the nails, nor amputate the first toe digit, it is a humane alternative.
5. They are awesome fashion fabulous! With so many colours available you can have a new theme every second month, like pink and red for Valentines or black and orange for Halloween. 

Reasons NOT to use nail caps:

1. Your cat has an indoor/outdoor lifestyle. For the same reason a declawed cat should be never be allowed outside, a cat with nail caps has far less ability to defend itself from territorial cat fights and predators, or escape up a tree.
2. Your cat is elderly. Most elderly cats really slow down on sheathing their nails and using the scratching post. This means the layers of nail cuticle build up to a wide, thick structure. This needs to be visually checked regularly by the owner to prevent it from growing into the pad. Also, because of this wider structure, nail caps may not fit over the nail.
3. Your cat has an infected nail bed, or some other foot fungus, or injury. Common sense prevails.

What could go wrong with nail caps:

When there is a problem, and the cat seems continually uncomfortable or gnawing at the nail caps, it is inevitably human error with the application. To avoid discomfort, use an experienced Certified Feline Master Groomer to do the nail cap application.

1. Too much glue was used and the overflow has gotten on the hair and pads. If you have ever spilled super glue on your fingers, you know how annoying and uncomfortable that can be.
2. The nail cap was put on too far, or with the nail fully extended, and now the nail cannot properly retract to it’s normal position. You can imagine how uncomfortable that would feel.

I hope that answers most questions pertaining to using nail caps for your cat. As I mentioned I went from dubious to a fan of nail caps, especially when it helps reinforce a positive relationship between the cat and its owner.


14 Nov

Lion Trim Styles and Variations

Picture

In a previous post I talked about the lion trim and the pros and cons of the trim and why people may opt to have their cat trimmed in this fashion. I would like to illustrate  the different styles of lion trims (yes, there are different styles!) that use the contrast of long and closely trimmed areas depending on the condition of the cat and the owner’s individual preferences.

I must stress as a pet professional I DO NOT do lion trims on outdoor cats from October to April in my area. I will also NOT SHAVE SENIOR CATS in a lion trim as their lack of muscle mass and body fat makes the risk incredibly high to cut them, plus they are unable to regulate their body temperatures as well as when they were in their youth. I leave risky trimming decisions  like those to the veterinarian.

The first photo is a classic lion trim with full boots and a full mane. Attractive on most cats (except the pudgiest of cats where nothing is left to hide), it includes shaving the tail with a proportionate tail tuft which varies depending on the length  and texture of the individual’s tail hair. The mane follows the line of the shoulder blade.


Picture

The second photo is a lion trim that has no mane and the trim was taken to just behind the ears. This was out of necessity as there were big mats behind the ears and the bib which left virtually no mane to work with.  Some clients prefer less mane.

This tail is a full tail. The body hair on most cats is not as long as the tail hair. This is a good option for long-coated breeds such as Persians and Maine Coons as the tail is very long and full and takes over a year to grow again compared to the body typically growing out by six months. If you have a gorgeous tail on your cat, I encourage you to keep it!

The Barbary Lion Trim is a lesser known trim but great for cats with sagging bellies. The mane is further back behind the forelimbs but not as far back as the end of the rib cage. This trim definitely looks more authentic with a classic lion tail tuft.

Picture

I’ve included this photo to illustrate what I personally feel is inappropriate trimming. Some clients want me to trim as much hair off their cat as possible,  meaning they ask me to trim their faces, legs and paws.  The answer is a resounding NO!

Aside from looking silly and uneven, these areas are very sensitive with tactile whiskers in the back of the limbs and paws, plus they contain tendons which are easily injured. There is absolutely no professional justification to trim these areas. So as a professional Certified Feline Master Groomer, don’t bother asking if I will even consider it.


21 Jul

Greasy Matted Cat? Check for Stud Tail.

This first photo is of a female cat after a preliminary degreasing bath with some combing to break apart the matted hair on the tail so a closer inspection could take place. Notice the yellowing discolouration, greasy waxy appearance, black flakes, and darkened skin. It will often have a rancid smell. After evaluation, it was determined that the stud tail was extensive and that the tail would need to be shaven (as had the body of the cat already had been done) in order to improve the ability to treat and clean the skin condition.

With the tail shaven, in this second photo of the same female cat, you can clearly see the yellow waxy grease and the blackheads. This residue will rub off wherever  the cat goes, plus it looks and smells bad. So it was back to the tub for a deep cleaning tail exfoliating scrub combined with a degreasing organic cat-safe shampoo. I use Chubbs Bars Sugar Scrub. It works fabulously.

To get stud tail to clear up, an owner has to begin a regular regime of washing the tail twice a day with a degreasing cat shampoo or vet prescribed antiseborrheic shampoo. It is faster and easier if the infected area is kept shaven so the twice daily washing regime can penetrate effectively. Treatment of stud tail is not that different than daily cleansing for human acne, but please don’t use human products. 

Sometimes stud tail can cause secondary skin infections that look raw and oozy. This will require vet prescribed antibiotics to clear up the infection.

After the Chubbs Bar Sugar Scrub, the yellow wax and blackheads were mostly gone with renewed and deep-cleansed soft pink skin beneath. This was only the first step. It will take multiple regular cleansing to clear up the skin and regular bathing to prevent mats in the future.
17 Jun

7 Reasons Your Senior Cat Needs Help Grooming

Picture

It is very common for cat owners to seek professional grooming help for the first time when their cat becomes a senior. “My cat stopped grooming itself.” This may be partially true, but as a cat owner, responsibility for grooming is a shared one. 

Regular home grooming helps an owner monitor the health and condition of their beloved pet and immediately identify changes. It’s heartbreaking that as seniors age, that they are often increasingly neglected and/or rejected because they smell bad, feel gross, or are cranky. These are the pets that actually need grooming more often. Why? Just like humans, our bodies betray us. They may seem less loveable, but they are still deserving of love and care. They  need our help and assistance to stay clean, and feel better. 

Here are some of the changes senior cats go through and why they seem to stop “self-grooming”.

1. Arthritis. If your cat is not moving much, is particularly cranky being touched around its backside, or being picked up, it may be developing arthritis. A cat will curtail its grooming activity because it can’t move the way it used to, and the activity is painful. It is best to have a veterinary do an assessment and make suggestions in relieving your cat’s pain.
2. Weight problems. The days of kitty yoga are over, and half the real estate simply can’t be reached. Often weight problems are tied with arthritis. Being overweight also contributes to a lack of wellness and can lead to depression. 
3. Hidden medical issues. Cats are masters at disguising illness. Cats can go for years with diabetes, kidney or thyroid issues with owners completely unaware. It is particularly important for cats over 10 to see a veterinary annually for a check-up.
4. They sleep more. Healthy cats spend 50% of their awake time “self-grooming”. If your senior spends more and more time sleeping, they amount of time spent on  their hygiene decreases.
5. Their skin and fur changes. The skin becomes thinner and more delicate. Their muscle mass decreases. The fur changes in texture, density, and vitality as the ability to absorb and utilize nutrients and vitamins slows down.
6. Senility. Yes, elderly pets can suffer from dementia. They can forget about where the food bowl is, get lost within their own home, forget using the litter-box, and completely forget about their grooming schedule.
7. Not using the scratching post. This can be a combination of arthritis, overweight, depression or dementia. When a cat stops using it scratching post, take notice. The scratching post is a vital emotional outlet for cats plus it is the sole source of the cats ability to sheath its nails. If no sheathing occurs, the nail-bed continues to build-up until the nails grow around and into the pads. This is very painful and can cause infections. Check your elderly cat’s nails at least monthly.

For all the reasons above, short or long-haired, mats will happen in senior cats. But mats are PREVENTABLE.

Mats are the bane of senior cats and they do not occur overnight. It takes time for the tiny knots to become  an interwoven mushroom. Mats  also will not dissolve or disappear on their own. and your cat will need help removing them. DON’T ever use scissors.

Prevention is the only cure for mats. That means a regular cleansing bath and comb schedule to keep the loose hair and dirt in check. A cat owner is responsible for grooming when the cat begins to slow down its habits and shows signs of a problem. Shaving is a risky final option because of the delicate skin, and the lack of ability of a senior cats to maintain their core body temperature with no hair. Shaving is not a long-term solution for seniors.

Love your cat, and take special care of your seniors.


19 May

Why bathe and blow dry a cat?

When I describe bathe a cat, I mean immerse gently with water, shampoo (with cat appropriate product, like Chubbs Bars) entire body thoroughly and rinse, at least TWICE.

Blow drying is an equally important component of a professional quality groom. If a cat is left to air dry naturally, or passively dry in a crate, any existing mats will shrink only tighter. A professional active drying system will remove loose hair, loosen tight mats, and fluff and straighten the coat creating a superior end result with less work to remove mats. 

Some cats are good at self-maintenance but still benefit from a seasonal bath just from a hygienic roommate point of view. Many cats need regular grooming help for a variety of reasons such as length and type of coat, weight, illness, and age.

Here are some of the reasons to consider bathing and blow-drying a cat:

1. Licking is not the same as washing with soap and water.  If I spent a great deal of time licking myself, would you consider me to be clean?


Cats do not have soap dispensers within their saliva glands, plus they have a lot more hair per square inch. There is lots of bacteria in the saliva.  I would be very offended to live with a roommate who did not bathe regularly. Why do cats get a free pass card, when dogs don’t? Surely spreading spit around (which is very allergenic) does not equate with bathing with soap and water. I wouldn’t use wipes and consider myself clean.


2. You cat smells like a litter box. How clean is your litter box……., really?


Kennel standards require a minimum of twice a day scooping of litter boxes. Less than that and your cat may be inadvertently taking the litter box with him wherever he goes in your home. You know, your bed, your lap, the kitchen counter, and your couch. Cats start to smell like the litter box too, which makes for a very pungent cuddle companion. Especially with dried feces stuck to the bottom, or paws soaked in urine.


3. You are tired of hair on your clothes and hairball vomit on the floor.


Indoor cats shed year round. If you are stepping in hairball vomit, finding drifts of hair on your clothes, bed, and couch, or have been to the vet for hairball problems, your cat needs help in staying ahead in the shedding cycle.


4. You cat has problems with recurring mats that you keep chopping out. It looks like your cat fought, and lost, against a weed wacker. Worse, you leave the mats in that are now turning into mushrooms or balls.


Not all loose hair simply falls out. If the cat is dirty or has longer hair, the loose hair stays trapped in the coat. Add spit, and you’ve got the recipe for mats. Loose hair + dirt/grease + moisture = mats. Mats usually start where the cat is dirtier like the chest or bottom, or where they can’t reach well, or at friction points like armpits. Without immediate attention mats grow and can fuse into one blanket of mats called a pelt. This is painful and unhealthy for the cats, and in severe cases can cause death by causing an cat to become septic. It can hid sores, parasites, and bruising caused by the constant pulling and lack of air circulation.


5 Your cat looks and feels like it’s been dipped in hair pomade.


Cats are naturally greasy. Some, especially males, have overactive oil glands. This is like adding more hair pomade each day and never washing it off. Ewww. While the messy look might be fashionable for humans, we at least, wash it out with soap and water. A clean cat’s hair d-r-a-p-e-s, falls straight, and feels soft. It shouldn’t stand upright, feel chunky, or separate into peaks.


6. Your cat leaves a trail of flaky dandruff?


Large yellowish flakes floating in the hair is dead dirty skin, NOT dry skin. Wipes and dry shampoos don’t work. Brushing or combing seems to make matters worse. There is only one true solution. Please see our blog on dandruff for more details.

05 May

Cat Vaccinations: Why a Responsible Cat Owner Gets It.

Picture

I know that over 60% of cats are acquired free. Their maintenance costs are relatively low compared to dogs. Some never go outside. So why do I require proof of vaccines for every first time visitor to my grooming salon? It is for the protection and long-term health for every client who visits.  Certainly when you travel abroad, you make sure all your vaccines are up-to-date and new potential threats (whether Immondium or Hep C) are taken care of. I want all clients to have peace of mind knowing that an effort has been made to reduce any possible risk of exposing their beloved pet to viruses and diseases during their visit to the groomer.

In Ontario, all cats and dogs are required to be vaccinated for rabies, even if your cat is an indoor cat. It IS the law and mandatory. Should your cat bite a house guest, or groomer, it must be reported to health officials. Without proof of rabies vaccinations, the cat will be placed in quarantine. This is an ugly situation easily avoided.

It may surprise you that cats have more contagious diseases than dogs and that they are easily spread and can be fatal. Cats  are especially good at hiding illness. They are very susceptible to airborne respiratory viruses, diseases that are transmitted by cat bites and scratches, and  other contagious viruses transmitted through body fluids. So unless you own one single cat its entire life, and it never leaves the house, nor do other cats come in, you are putting your cat at serious risk without vaccinations. 

Having said that, I should point out that not every cat needs to be vaccinated for every disease. There are core vaccines, started during kitten-hood, and there are non-core vaccines that are critical in protecting your cat if it has an indoor/outdoor lifestyle.

The core vaccines are against Panleukopenia (feline distemper), Feline Calicivirus, and Feline  Rhinotracheitis (Feline Herpes). In short form, this vaccine is called the FVRCP and it is administered every four weeks ideally starting at 7-9 weeks, then 12 weeks, and finally at 16 weeks along with the rabies vaccine. Each cat needs three rounds of the FVRCP to be fully protected. 

If you have acquired a re-homed adult cat with no vaccination history, I strongly recommend following the same vaccine protocol no matter what its age and get tested for FeLV as well.

Non-core vaccines your cat may need if it has an indoor/outdoor lifestyle are: Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) , Chylamydophile felis, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). These are administered starting at 12 weeks and again at 16 weeks. These diseases are transmitted by bites, body fluids, and are highly contagious. They create chronic immune compromised diseases and infections and it is a terrible, long, drawn out way to suffer. FeLV is the leading cause of illness and death in cats and part of the reason outdoor cats typically have less than half the lifespan of their indoor peers, aside from being killed by cars or poisoning.

Once your cat is fully vaccinated, it is up to you and your vet to determine the lifelong vaccination schedule. Some recommend annually, others do not. My only requirement is that vaccinations have occurred. I do not think any client would be thrilled in knowing there were unvaccinated cats in the same room as their own vaccinated pet, even though surfaces, tools and hands are disinfected between clients.

I believe in maintaining high standards of care for the long-term well-being of every animal and owner who visit my salon. If you object to spending money to protect the health of your cat and others by not vaccinating, than I am not the feline grooming salon for you.