With the summer heat also comes a regular phenomenon at the Cat Sanctuary – lots of hair! Volunteers regularly spend extra time with a variety of brushes and combs in hand, grooming blissful and grumpy cats alike. Some of them seem to be able to attend to themselves fairly well (bar the odd hairball); others definitely need human assistance. Our summer students (see future blog) are cleaning all the nooks and crannies where cat-hair accumulates; we could probably compile another dozen cats from the fur that comes off each week. Long-haired, short-haired, they’re all shedding like crazy.
But there are always a few cats for whom grooming is a problem. We have our share of tubby cats who don’t do so well at cleaning themselves because the rear end is so hard to reach – a little shave job around the tail area is usually enough to prevent messy backsides. Often these are short-haired cats who otherwise have no difficulty in grooming. However, there are several long-haired cats whose fine fur always seems to mat, and for whom being combed is a real problem.
The first one this summer to get the traditional lion cut was Bear. Formerly an inhabitant of the Leukemia Room at the back of the Single-Wide, Bear and his buddy Smoochy have become inhabitants of the Val Jones pen (extended now, for Bear, to the Old Aids area). Bear is not always the most approachable cat, and certainly not an easy one to keep groomed; by late spring it was obvious that his mats were giving problems, and he was finally whisked off to the vet for a full lion-cut. It was obviously something of a surprise to everyone to discover that this enormous ball of fluff was actually a scrawny little body underneath. We offered him a sweater, which was not appreciated! When the summer heat finally arrived, Bear must have been one of the few who really approved.
He’s now grown out a couple of months of fuzz and is looking quite good!
One of the back-courtyard regulars, Matt doesn’t appreciate being groomed in the regular way, with the inevitable result that he’s a mess by early summer. Last year he got away with just having the worst clumps taken off; this year our lumpy fuzzball got the full treatment, and is now going by the nickname of De-Matt!
He’s obviously a bit embarrassed about it all; he’s found himself a comfy bed to retreat to, and emerges only when he thinks it’s worth showing his face.
Former Pen 6, now Moore House resident Sophia is a constant grooming problem. She came to us from a closing shelter on the Sunshine Coast, and a volunteer there told us that she was always grumpy for them too – until she got her haircut. Then she would be sweetness and light, soliciting petting and being very affectionate – for about three weeks, before she reverted to her “Don’t touch me!” mode.
Sophia’s just had her summer lion-cut, and as predicted, she can’t get enough attention. The challenge for us will be to keep her enjoying being handled, and to prevent the mats recurring in the first place.
Handsome Dell in pen 3 is another with long fine fur that mats. Two years ago we gave him a lion cut, and then managed to keep him groomed so that it wasn’t necessary last summer. But during the winter months a fallen tree meant limited access to his pen, and his regular grooming partners couldn’t keep him brushed out, so that by the time the summer came, it was obvious that Dell would need attention. Leslie and I managed to get the worst mats off in a cuddle session, but it was not an elegant look! So when Dell had to go in for a dental (five teeth out!) they took the opportunity of having him sedated and gave him the full lion cut. Currently he’s in a cage while his mouth heals, so by the time he returns to his own pen, he should have a little protective fuzz.
There are one or two others with clumps of fur that may need a bit of attention – though we hope not the full works – but for the time being, we’re all busy with combs, furminators, grooming gloves and the like, to keep ahead of the summer mats.