It’s officially winter.
Now that the windows are closed and the indoor heating is on, we have a lot of static charge building up in our homes. This affects not only us but our pets.
Static is caused when two different objects with opposing (positive and a negative) ion charge are rubbed together. The electrons from one object is then transferred to the other causing them to take on the same charge. Just like magnets, when you have two objects with the same charge, they will repel one another, making the hair stand on end.
The minute the temperature dips and the air dries up, electrons, which are negatively-charged, fly off hair, leaving the strands with positive charges that resist one another. Thus cats with thin, limp, fine and otherwise vulnerable hair are hit hard with static.
Here are some steps to avoid a static kitty.
1. Get kid of your plastic combs or brushes. Plastic is such an excellent conductor of electricity, that in high school experiments to show how to create static and sparks, they use cat hair (no kidding) and a plastic rod rubbed together (that's also why the rub a ballon on your hair and stick it to the wall trick works so well). Do not torture your cat by duplicating a high school experiment for your grooming routine.
2. Do wash your cat, (as there is nothing more unsightly than a greasy but staticy cat), in a effective, cleansing cat appropriate shampoo (like Chubbs Bars) but add a very l-i-g-h-t mist of Argan oil while still damp before you blow dry. You cannot add any Argan oil unless your cat is squeaky clean (literally) during the final rinse. You don’t want to increase grease to your cat by adding conditioner or oil to still greasy hair. Too little argan oil is much better than too much.
3. Before brushing, lightly mist with water, preferably distilled water. It will neutralize ions and reduce hair breakage. This pre-step should be done year-round as part of your grooming routine.
4. Blow dry with a ion reducing blowdryer. It does make a difference.
5. Use metal combs or grooming tools. They will absorb much of the static charge build-up. In fact you can gently rub your cat with a metal clothes hanger it will calm the hair during a major static attack. Introduce it carefully, as you don’t want to spook your cat.
6. If you have a major static attack happening, I would do the following: mist lightly with water, use a metal comb that I have pre-stroked with a dryer sheet. Do NOT rub the dryer sheet on your cat. Remember they lick themselves and will ingest chemicals otherwise.
7. Reduce static in your home by increasing the humidity in the air. This can be done by using a humidifier, or running a steamy shower. If you have an ongoing static problem, you need to add moisture to the air. It will make the home environment more comfortable for your cat and you.
8. Have your cat professionally groomed to remove impurities that attract dirt and restore a healthy balance of ions in the skin and hair.
Take a good look at your cat. Does it have large flakes down the back? Does it feel a bit greasy, and does the hair separate? The good news is, your cat is not suffering from dry skin or hair. If it has dry skin, the flakes would be very tiny and there would be evidence of dryness on other parts of the body. If you check its belly, you'll see the dry skin clearly. It is actually rare to see dry skin on a cat, because they are naturally oily.
But if you have large white/yellow flakes down the back, you have either seborrheic dermatitis, or cat that is so dirty that the oil, skin cells, and dried saliva has built up to the point of flakey kitty pastry, and a potent allergen concoction. That's right, it is depositing its skin, grease, and salvia all over your clothes, furniture, bed, and home. Yummy.
Typical story: We have a new client who has a short haired cat that was always full of dandruff and getting mats down its back. Previous "professional" help had consisted of combing out the mats on an ever increasing cycle. The problem was happening more frequently and worse each time. She was frustrated and grossed out. Visiting our salon, we inquired as to the last time the cat had had a bath. The shocked owner replied that the cat had never been bathed in its entire 8 year life....to be continued.
The chances of having dandruff increases with age and being male (just like humans, there are more oil producing glands due to hormones, making men more prone to dandruff), although females can still have dandruff too. Other important factors is a diet that is lacking in fats, vitamin B, and zinc. So you may need to re-evaluate the quality of your cat's food. What goes in, reflects on the exterior and you will need at least 6 weeks to see a difference. Dandruff can also be due to stress or an undiagnoised illness. If your cat is on a good quality diet, gets a thumbs up from the vet on its health, then you have a dirty cat. Plain and simple.
Many people unknowingly believe the dandruff and often accompanying static is caused by dry skin. Not so. Probably the worst thing you can do is put oily conditioner on top of an already greasy cat. Static problems have more to do with an exchange of positive electrons than dryness, but that is a subject for another blog.
So if you want to effectively resolve dandruff here are some typical band-aid solutions that WILL NOT WORK:
1. Brushing and combing - a good daily practice to remove loose hair and exfoliate the skin, but will not remove existing dandruff in the hair or on the skin. It just helps spread it around more.
2. Wipes or drybath sprays - it might wipe the surface, but doesn't get to the root cause. Not an effective useful long-term solution.
3. Conditioning sprays - please no. This will make your cat greaser and still not solve your problem. Yuck.
Think logically here, and put all those myths you've heard about cats to one side for a moment.The only way to effectively resolve dandruff is to remove the oil and dander by proper cleansing the hair and skin by bathing with a cat appropriate shampoo and thorough rinsing to flush away all the residue. One without conditioner. You must then establish a regular washing schedule.
Getting back to our dandruffy cat story:
After some convincing the owner, desperate for a solution, relented and allowed us to bathe and properly groom her cat, start to finish. After 4 wash/rinse cycles to remove 8 years of typical cat owning ignorance (not her fault), the dandruff and mats were gone. The hair was smooth and shiny, and you could clearly see the tabby stripping that had been obscured since adolesence. The cat was grateful, purring, and happy. The owner was astonished at the difference and rebooked for another wash in six weeks.
I know you are surprised that the cat was getting another bath in "only" six weeks. Sure enough, when the owner arrived, you could see just the beginning of new dandruff, he was starting to get greasy again, and the owner was happy to report that there had not been any shedding hair or dandruff up until just a few days before and that brushing in the meantime had been unnecessary. It was the perfect time to have another bath and blow dry to prevent any problems and keep him clean. The owner immediately rebooked her cat for another appointment in six weeks. She had the seen the light, and it was a clean and happy cat. Simply washing it on a regular schedule had made a big difference in their quality of life together and had eliminated the dandruff.
I spent the last two weekends speaking at local pet events about the feline care and trying to bring them into 21st century standards of hygiene. The audience was overwhelmingly positive (hooray!) and recognized that their cats where pretty dirty, however frozen with fear at the notion of undertaking a cat bath themselves.
Well, you don't have to. That's why I'm here. To help you and your feline maintain a peaceful and healthy relationship. BUT, if you are determined to take the plunge, let me help with some advice and suggestions. Preparation and planning are the keys.
Desensitizing may be necessary for some, especially those with a previous bad experience. Usually those with absolutely no experience do fine, as long as you go slowly. Desensitizing means running water and/or blowdrying in the background paired with positive things, like treats, toys, playtime. We are trying to reduce a cat's natural tendency to bolt when they are unsure of a situation. This may take a day or two, or weeks, depending on your cat's individual tolerance and social skills. If these sounds can be happening in the same room without a disappearance act, you are ready.
Things to think about ahead of time:
B. Have your cat thoroughly combed out, not brushed. If your cat is matted, stop now. You definitely need professional help. Bathing a matted cat at home will only result in larger and tighter mats. Call a professional to help get your cat back on track, and then you may be able to consider continuing the maintenance at home.
C. Bath location. It must be up high to make the cat feel secure, and not so deep that it becomes an echo chamber. This means the bathtub is ruled out for the majority of cats. Kitchen sinks work well, especially if they have a flexible hose.
D. Shampoo. If you are going to undertake bathing a cat, you want good results with minimal fuss. Human and pet shampoos are not designed for a cat's naturally greasy hair. They are designed for dogs. Cat specific shampoos are so benign that they don't work at all. You need to find a safe shampoo that can cut the grease easily, but no ingredients that are toxic when ingested. This means no d'limonene, essential oils, solvents, dish detergent, or aloe (a common ingredient in cat shampoos thats on the ASPCA Pet Poison list. I use mostly organic, vegan Chubbs Bars because it is cat safe and does a fabulous job in purifying dirty skin and hair.
E.Attitude. You must remain calm and in control at all times. Patience and understanding is a requirement for this to be a good experience.
1. I recommend wearing long sleeves. Assemble your bath kit and have everything in arm's length: Minimum 2 towels, cup for rinsing if no hose available, shampoo, witch hazel for ear cleaning, cotton balls, baby washcloth for face washing, nail trimmers, blow dryer, fine-toothed steel comb. Lay the towels open ready to receive a wet cat.
2. Start running the warm water in the sink from the hose. If you have no hose, fill the basin with warm water. Keep the sound of water running in the background while you move onto the next step.
3. Bring your cat within 10 feet of the sink. With treats or toys available, trim your cats nails FIRST. They have 18+ claws and are not hesitant in using you as a scratching post. Be sensible and disarm them. If your cat is a wiggler, escape artist, or potentially aggressive, wrap them in a towel and extract one paw at a time to do the job. Timid cats often feel more secure if their heads are under the towel.
4. This is the critical and sensitive step. Bring your cat slowly over to the sink. Be prepared for the flight reaction. You know it's coming. You may need to scruff your cat for these few critical moments until the cat is over the flight reaction. Often keeping them wrapped in a towel helps while you are starting to run the warm water over them and you can remove the towel slowly before starting to shampoo. If it is a basin you are using, slowly back them into the water, hind legs first. When cats feel the warmth of the water they usually relax. Go slowly, Keep a firm grip until you feel them relax. Talk soothingly to them. Once the water is flowing over them and they are relaxed, you can usually stop scruffing and place your three middle fingers on top of the head and thumb and pinky below each ear to keep contact with your cat in a relaxed but alert manner. If your cat decides to make another break for it, your hand is there and ready to scruff temporarily until the flight reaction has passed again. By the second shampoo cycle, most cats are just sitting there enjoying the rubbing and warm water. Yes, you must shampoo and rinse twice (at least).
5. Because of the nature of the greasy hair, it is hard for the water to penetrate down to the roots. Run your hand back and forth on the cat's body to flatten the hair and remove air pockets. Begin shampooing. Yes, you can wash the forehead and chin, just be mindful of shampoo or water getting in the ears or eyes. The shampoo and water should feel smooth against the cat's body. If you are feeling textured or high spots, you need to add more shampoo or water. The cat should feel smooth to ensure you are getting down to the skin. Shampoo twice, thrice for very dirty cats.
6. Once you finish rinsing your cat, rinse one more time, and double check there are no suds left on the under or back side of the cat. Your cat's hair should squeak on the back and chest. If it doesn't squeak, it's not clean, and you need to shampoo again. For basin washers, drain the water and refill to rinse. You may need to do this several times. Be mindful of the sucking noise some drains can make. It may startle your cat, so be prepared for it.
7. Place your cat in the middle of the open towel, perpendicular to the length. Fold the towel edge over the front paws, and then wrap one side around the cat, tucking the end underneath the body. Do the same for the other side. You now have a kitty burrito. Pat him gently while he's lounging. This is the best time to clean the ears with witch hazel, and wipe out any crusty eye goop.
8. Make another kitty burrito with a new dry towel, wrapping securely at the front, but leaving a small gap at the back end. Prepare for another flight reaction moment. With your forearm resting along your cats back, and your hand resting on its head in preparation to scruff if necessary, turn on the blow dryer away from the cat. The blow dryer should never be on a hot setting. Once the cat has gotten over being startled, start blow drying at the rear, moving your dryer constantly in circles. Slowly uncover more of the cat as sections become dry. Like the bath, most cats relax and enjoy the warmth once they are over the initial flight reaction. Be sure to keep the dry away from the ears and face. Some cats prefer you keep a towel over their head.
9. Once the cat is 90% dry, you can begin combing with your steel comb, Easing out loose hair and small tangles. Gently roll your cat on it's side and do the belly and underarms. It is important NOT to let your cat air dry, as it does increase mats and their severity. It is also important not to start combing until the cat is 90% dry in order to prevent hair breakage and damage.
10. Treats, toys, and loving but firm attitude during each step helps the entire process go much smoother.
In closing: You will find your cat soft, silky, very affectionate and personable in the next few days. Cats love to feel and look good, so it is important to praise them. Keep up your combing between baths, and love your cat.
I had a great time at the cat show this weekend. It is the first time I have gone to a trade show/event and actually represented myself. I felt the most comfortable and happy that I have ever been at an event. It's not that I've ever misrepresented myself, or been less than genuine at previous trade shows or events for other companies I worked with, it's a matter of passion, belief in what you do, and knowing no one can muck up or side-rail your efforts or convictions to provide services and information to your clients. You are your own business, and I believe strongly in sharing, informing, and coaching. If you need extra help, I'm here, just call or email.
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