Thursday, February 28, 2013

Being Flexible

Recently my Tuesday grooming days have been slow. So when I called bright and early to hear the dreaded "only one cat, it's a new client", I was apprehensive. Now, most of my new clients do come in (on time!) for their first appointments, which fills me with happiness. When I first started at Advanced, that was definitely NOT the case. But still...I didn't really want to drive all the way to Reisterstown for a no show.

By the time I got in, this little cutie had snuck in and was already waiting for me. I was delighted with her. Look at that cute little face! So shy and sweet. The notes said "can shave if necessary", which to me means, "owner really doesn't want the cat shaved, but acknowledges said cat is matted and probably needs to be shaved".

Oh my. That's a mess. And many groomers would choose to shave this cat. Very few would attempt to remove the mats. Fewer would be able to do it without stressing or causing some discomfort. And few would be able to finish with a good looking cat - most likely, Zoey would end up looking like she had a run in with a weed whacker! So yes, clipping her down would be the best choice for many a groomer.

On the other paw, I'm a Certified Feline Master Groomer (among other things) and I have the training, equipment and experience to turn this scary little Ragdoll into a sleek, stylish feline. No pain, no stress, no weed whacking!

Being shy, Zoey brought some friends with her for moral support

Zoey handled her pregrooming exam well. I petted her, ruffled through her coat, trimmed her nails and generally got her used to me touching her and talking to her. When cats are shy or scared, like Zoey, I like to take some extra time to help them get used to me.

I put her in the tub and started getting her nice and lathered up. Brushing dirty hair is a fantastic way to damage the hair and invite further matting. Dirt is abrasive! Damaged hair will snag against other damaged hair (or itself, I imagine) and tangle that much faster. I can hear the screaming now "BUT GETTING MATS WET WILL MAKE THEM WORSE!!!!!" Yes. Yes it can. But with the correct tools and techniques, it doesn't have to. With the right know how, it makes it easier to remove mats.

Do not try this at home!

Incorrect bathing and drying and incorrect product usage will leave you with a huge pelted mess. Definitely one of those things to leave to the experts. I happen to be one of those!

So, back to Zoey. Having done very well with her bath, it was now time to dry her. Here's where my luck ran out. Zoey wanted no part in being dried. The HV dryer scared her. The Catty Shack Vac scared her. Sitting on my lap with my little dryer on the lowest setting scared her. My ability to demat this cat easily and gently hinged on being able to dry her correctly. And that scared the pants off of her! And not the 'curl into a ball and look super sad' scared, but the panicked 'fling myself about until I hurt myself' scared. Cage drying would be unacceptable and take forever. But what could I do? Traditional cat dryer options were too scary for little Zoey.

One of the more important things groomers learn is to be flexible. Flexible with our bodies, flexible with our thinking.

Kevin Beck of The Cat and the Fiddle, our favorite Canadian CFMG
shows the art of body and mind flexibility 
because sometimes you really just need an extra hand, but all you have is a foot

Now, awesome foot techniques weren't going to help me, although I've used my feet to groom a good many times. Zoey was afraid, and holding her down wasn't the answer. Instead, I borrowed the fluff dryer from the dog groomer. It was less powerful than my high velocity dryer, but it wouldn't blow so hard or so concentrated. I wrapped her up in a towel, turned it on and hoped for the best.

You can barely see her! We started by uncovering just a tiny bit of her butt. By gently sliding the towel, I exposed different areas, keeping her well covered until she felt comfortable enough to be completely unwrapped. And yes, by the time she was dry from her midsection back, she felt safe enough to poke her head out and look around! All on her own. So brave!

This picture shows WHY scissors should never be used on cats! No matter how careful, the cat always seems to end up cut. These little marks are caused by the tip of the scissors while cutting out a mat. The uneven choppiness of the hair tell me that some attempts at home were made to cut out those mats. Luckily, these are just little cuts that should heal up with no problem. Cat skin is very, very different from human or dog skin. It often does not bleed at first when cut. I doubt the person doing it even knew.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: No scissors in cat grooming!

Anyway, back to grooming! It took longer than my HV dryer and Catty Shack Vac. It was waaaay messier. I was covered in hair, my room was covered in hair. But my cat was dry! All those mats were removed. And most importantly, Zoey was pretty relaxed. I know it wasn't her favorite thing, but she was able to be dried without freaking her out or stressing her. That's what matters.

Zoey did have some areas where most of the hair was gone, or was very thin. She did have the chopped area behind each elbow, from her home haircut. So if you were to go over her carefully, it would be easy to tell she'd had matting removed. But look at this picture and tell me if you can tell!

How pretty is she now! And yes, every bit as soft as she looks. I left a voicemail with her owner, alerting them to the tiny cuts I found, my decision to leave her in full coat (because the coat could easily be saved) and recommending that she be groomed every 6 weeks to prevent this from happening again. I was sad I wasn't able to meet her people. I would have loved to see their face when I presented their sweet little cat to them. I haven't heard anything, but they did leave me a nice tip, so I'm hoping they're as pleased with her as I am!

Just as nice on the other side!

I'm not a "save the coat at any cost" person. I feel that if the pet is badly matted, they should be shaved. If they're likely to continue to be matted, whether because of poor health, lifestyle or poor owner upkeep, they should be shaved. If the owner is unable or unwilling to bring the pet in on an appropriately regular basis, they should be shaved. I never find it acceptable for a pet to be in discomfort because a person 'likes it fluffy'. I knew I had the skills and ability to safely and easily remove her mats, and I expect that her owners will follow my recommendations to prevent her from becoming matted in the future. Next time I see her, hopefully in just a few weeks, I'll be sure to have that stand dryer ready to go!

can I go home now, please?

Thanks to Kevin Beck for his guest appearance! You can visit the Cat and the Fiddle at:

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