There is nothing more beautiful than a long-haired cat. The long coat, immaculately brushed and silky feels like satin, and the shiny strands sparkle in the sun. Unfortunately, not all cats and cat owners are up to the challenge of maintaining a long-hair coat. There can be a variety of reasons why you should shave your long-haired cat, most notably for health, hygiene and maintenance.
While a well-groomed long-haired cat can be a lovely addition to any feline-friendly household, nothing is worse than a badly matted long-haired cat, with feces stuck in their coat and trapped under layers of matted hair that can’t be undone. Cats with matted coats are uncomfortable, and the hygiene problems associated with the tangles can often lead to severe health problems.
All long-haired cats, regardless of breed, need to be brushed on an almost daily basis in order to maintain their coats. Although cats are often fastidious self-groomers, their efforts alone are not enough to combat the constant barrage of soft, downy hair their coat produces.
Cats shed year-round, and during the main shedding seasons of the spring, the undercoat of the hair will loosen and begin to fall out. Without intervention, this undercoat will become tangled in the outer hair, and a hair nightmare is born. A small tangle will continue to accumulate more loose hair from the coat, and can grow seemingly overnight into a very large problem.
If you can, start when your cat is a kitten getting her used to being groomed. Handle the paws to get her accustomed to being touched and prepared for future nail trims. The best type of grooming tool for longhaired cats is a wide tooth comb. Using the comb, start in the most common places for tangles to start- between the back legs, behind the front legs, and behind the ears. Break apart tangles by hand, then take small sections and comb upward, pulling away the shed hair from the coat.
Many cats learn to enjoy these grooming sessions- but some take time to warm up to the idea. If your cat is hesitant to allow you to comb her out, start with small sessions- several times a day, comb one or two strokes through her hair, getting her used to the idea without a long, drawn-out session. As she learns to tolerate the comb, slowly extend out the grooming sessions until you are able to work through the coat. Done daily, the combing shouldn’t take long, and the benefits to your cats’ health and happiness greatly outweigh the time out from your day.
Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, some cats simply won’t tolerate being groomed or brushed. In these cats, shaving the coat down is the best way to prevent the complications associated with long hair.
While shaving may be a last resort for keeping some cats clean, it shouldn’t be viewed as an awful alternative. In fact, shaving the coat of your long-haired cat might be the best thing you can do to promote quality of life.
Longhaired cats are prone to several health problems related to their hair. Cats love to groom themselves, and the tongue of the cat is a rough surface, covered with papillae that act as a “comb” when they lick their coat. This “comb” in the tongue catches dead hair, and unable to spit it out, cats swallow this hair. The hair is not digestible, and accumulates in the stomach and intestines. This accumulation continues to grow and combine with digestive acids, mucous and undigested pieces of food, eventually causing a blockage. Food and water will begin to have trouble passing through the hair, causing coughing and gagging episodes. In most cases, the retching will produce the hairball and solve the problem temporarily, until the cycle begins again. In severe cases, hairballs can cause obstructions in the stomach and intestinal tract, a life-threatening condition.
While all cats are prone to hairballs, long haired cats are at greater risk, and can develop more serious hairballs over shorter periods of time. While hairballs can be controlled with medication, special food, and attentive grooming, the most effective way to reduce hairballs in long hair cats is by shaving the coat.
In addition to hairballs, matted coats can become a haven for bacteria to grow, leading to skin infections and pyoderma, as well creating an optimal environment for fungal infections such as ringworm to thrive. In addition, fleas, lice and other parasites can take up residence in the matted coat, enjoying the relatively protected area between the hair and the skin.
Left untreated, mats in the coat will continue to progress, and can eventually cause your cat to have difficulty walking, and tangles around the rectum can prevent the cat from urinating and defecating normally.
While shaving a long-haired cat, usually called a “lion cut” can seem extreme, most cat owners find that their cats, after an initial embarrassment period, seem to prefer their newfound short-haired status. Cats in hot climates can be particularly relieved to be cooler in the summer, and older cats with more difficulty grooming themselves can be kept cleaner.
While not difficult to perform, many cats don’t overly appreciate the process of being shaved down at first, and it is best to let your veterinarian or groomer do the shaving, to minimize stress at the experience. In the traditional Lion Cut, every part of the cat except for the head and mane, the front and back feet, and tip of the tail are shaved to a shorter (usually about ½”) length. Shaving instantly removes mats, creates are cleaner and more easily groomed cat, and drastically reduces shedding.
While you may not be able to imagine your beautiful long-haired cat without his luxurious hair, if you find it difficult to keep up with your cats grooming needs, shaving your cat may be the best thing you can do. Your cat will be cleaner, more comfortable and healthier- and you might just find that she looks pretty adorable in her new ‘do, too!