Cat Sanctuary

Sanctuary Salon

Cats are often characterized as being very clean – constantly attending to their own grooming, and occasionally sharing grooming with others. That being so, you’d think there wouldn’t be much for humans to do, to maintain that cleanliness. Let me tell you, it ain’t necessarily so!

Persimmon is a big girl – with or without floof! (KN)

To start with, probably a third of the Sanctuary cats are long-haired. And as cat-owners will know, long-haired cats frequently need help with grooming. Those gorgeous floofy coats may look good, but run a hand over them, and you will find lumps and bumps of matted fur. Even the best-natured cats dislike having mats combed out, and when the cat in question is a feral who fears human attention, being brushed is not an option.  SweetPea (now adopted) loved petting, but her sister Curious still dislikes human contact, and when she got matted, a shave was the only possibility.

Curious still doesn’t like humans (BC)

Mats may be caused by a number of factors. The shed undercoat may become caught in the top coat. Dirt or natural oils may cause the hairs to mat. Urine or feces may create back-leg lumps. And all these factors may affect short-haired as well as long-haired ones.  Most dogs may be taken to a groomer, where they will stand while expert hands remove excess hair. This is not an option with the majority of cats, who take a dim view of being made to do anything!  So, what to do with all our matted moggies?

Jobie HATES being groomed and gets a lion cut each summer (MW)

As much as possible, prevention is a factor; most of the staff and the Kitty Comforters keep a comb or a deshedding tool tucked in a pocket, and grooming is one of the things that the KCs will offer to comfort a cat. But when there’s matting to deal with, it’s not comforting!  Scissors are not recommended; sometimes the matting goes right to the skin, and there is the risk of cutting the cat, and not just the fur. Occasionally the top part of a mat can be cut off and then the rest of it can be broken down – but that takes time and patience and a cooperative cat.

Higgins is a stray tomcat who came to us with a number of injuries that needed shaving for treatment (BC)

Perhaps Lindor’s a little embarrassed – but he’s much cooler! (BC)

Occasionally a cat with mats is also scheduled for a dental procedure, or something that requires full sedation, and then the hospital staff can do an expert shave-job, producing a classic lion-cut.  But it’s not good practice when not essential, and the majority of the matted cats wait for a day when a couple of the Sanctuary med-staff can work together, and the cats in question are given an oral sedative that calms them somewhat without putting them out. Under these circumstances, the cut may not be totally elegant or complete – but at least the mats are out, and the cat is cool and comfortable.

Some of the trims are partial – most commonly the “sanitary” trims that leave the back legs free of  fur. This is especially necessary for some of the chonky cats who can’t always reach back there to clean.

Benny got a sanitary cut – no more dirty bloomers! (SL)

Other trims are minimal – Alfred is a short-haired boy, but had a couple of nasty mats on his rump just where he couldn’t reach them. For a while he was walking around with a bald patch, but the fur is growing in again.

There are a few cats that resist any attempt to make them feel comfortable. Feral Smithy has matted fur that becomes dreadlocks on a regular basis. He has been shaved before and was acutely embarrassed; mostly we leave him to cope unless we feel he’s suffering, and we’ll occasionally find what we call “Smithy’s beardy bits” in the back courtyard – as long as they’re not too tight to the skin, they will often work their way loose.

Now that summer weather has hit us, the staff are keeping a keen eye open for the ferals who are carrying extra fur weight around. The Cranbrook College cats are now on the radar, but they are still not comfortable around humans, and the experience of being captured, dosed and shaved is not a pleasant one for them. Still, it’s better than carrying around lumps of fur that pull on their skin.

Smithy is not cooperative about grooming – or anything else (KN)

When you find something like this lying around, you know Smithy’s shed a beardy bit! (BC)

The haircuts also have the added advantage of helping us identify previously identical-appearing cats. The Kamloops cats usually wander around together like a shoal of tubby goldfish – it’s really interesting to notice that some of them, like Kumquat, are really slim under all the fur that is now gone.

Work with brushes and combs and deshedders will continue – but the shavers will continue to make summer life more bearable for the floofier cats.

With a coat like this, Foster really needed a shave! (KN)

And she got it! (KN)

Kumquat is feeling much less lumpy (KN)

An evening’s cat-fluff! (KN)

Blog by Brigid Coult
Featured image: “Lindor’s shave-down helps him sleep cooler” by Karen Nicholson
Photos by Brigid Coult, Stacey Lambert, Karen Nicholson, Michele Wright