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Cat Care and All That Fur

Cat Care and All That Fur

People might be surprised at just how much fur one cat can actually shed. Long-haired breeds produce a lot of fur, but even short-haired cats can shed astonishing volumes of the stuff. You can often spot cat-owners when they pull a lint-roller matter-of-factly out of their backpack to run up and down their clothes, or perhaps when they arrive at work in a dark suit and immediately fasten a strip of tape around their hand and start dabbing at bits of fur on their pants. Shedded fur is just a part of life when you live with a cat.

But how does the cat itself feel about all this?

That may be an odd question, but keeping your cat’s coat in good shape can be an important way to make your little companion happy and comfortable. The first key is, of course, good nutrition. You’ll notice, on regular veterinary visits, that the vet can tell a lot about the cat’s health just by seeing how shiny and healthy the coat is. Much of that good health comes from within, from the food consumed.

And a lot of basic grooming is taken care of by the cat itself, as it licks the fur to keep it shiny and clean and lying straight.

But some cats could use help, even with that. If they shed a lot, the constant grooming can result in hairballs as they swallow massive amounts of fur. And sometimes they can’t groom well enough to undo tangles, which lead to uncomfortable mats that just keep growing.

You can do a lot to help. Regular brushing or combing will not only stimulate the cat’s skin, promoting circulation and good fur growth, but it will loosen fur that’s ready to shed. You can gather handfuls that might otherwise go into kitty’s tummy. And while some cats aren’t thrilled about being brushed, others love it so much that they lie down and stretch in ecstasy.

Trying out different kinds of brushes or combs might make a difference, even with cats that are more reluctant to let you work on their fur. Many cat owners swear by a brushing tool called the FURminator, which seems to go deeper and pull out more loose fur than other brushes. But whatever tool your cat tolerates best, every bit of combing and brushing you can manage on a regular basis will be a help.

But even with brushing, sometimes you’ll find that mats will form. These can build up in places where the cat can’t easily groom: the base of the tail, the inside of the hind legs, and so on. Mats can also form in spots where the cat lies down, for example, along their right side if they most often recline on that side.

What should be done about these? They shouldn’t just be left to keep growing. Some mats get so tight that they painfully pull the skin, and sores and even infection can develop under and around them.

Some of them, being made of dead, loose fur, come loose fairly easily if worked at with a brush or even the fingers. (Be careful, though, not to pull at them too hard, in case you really hurt the skin.) But other mats get too large or well anchored to come off without a lot of work. And some simply have to be cut out.

However, if you get too close to the skin with scissors, you could cut the skin itself, and you don’t want to risk that for poor kitty. One surprisingly good tool for dealing with mats is a small, shielded razor-style letter opener. Sometimes these can be slipped right under the mat, and the razor edge inside will slice through the fur. But sometimes, to be safe, it’s best simply to visit the vet, and let him or her do the cutting in a secure way. And once that’s done, you can pay special attention to keeping that area brushed, so the mats don’t form again. Or you can get rid of them sooner, before they get so big.

The main thing is that the cat’s coat is kept in good shape. By brushing and keeping it mat-free, you can help reduce hairballs, stimulate healthy growth, and give your kitty a beautiful coat it can be proud of.

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