Unlike humans, cat hair isn’t always coiffed to look beautiful. In most cases, cats get their hair cut for health reasons. Unfortunately for Ms. Kitty, a haircut doesn’t involve a full day of pampering at her favorite salon, but it can keep her coat healthy and tangle-free.
Just a Trim
Keeping kitty's coat all natural is generally the best option. However, cats may need a haircut if they get a sticker burr or sap caught in their fur or, ahem, some feces stuck in long bottom hair. In these cases, it's best to go for a quick snip of a small area as opposed to shaving an entire section of fur. This is because temperature changes can easily affect shaved kitties. A cat’s coat doesn’t just make her soft and fluffy; it’s nature’s way of regulating her body temperature. Most veterinarians advise against shaving Ms. Kitty. While this isn’t true in all cases, your cat’s fur is her best protection against sunburn and hypothermia; she’d like to keep the majority of it if possible, please.
Untangle Me, Please
Though her coat is needed to help regulate her body temperature, the kitty who just can’t shake uncomfortable mats will need a close haircut to rid her body of these tangled messes. You can try to gently brush out small mats with a slicker brush or comb but any sort of haircutting should be left to your groomer or veterinarian. Cats have very sensitive skin and it only takes one small nick from a pair of scissors to result in stitches. Long-haired, thick-coated cats as well as overweight or older cats who can’t groom themselves properly are prone to matted fur. Regular brushing can help prevent mats but a preventative haircut might be best if you have a cat that balks at the sight of a brush.
Medically Necessary Clips
Certain instances such as severe allergic skin reaction, bacterial infection and acute trauma may result in a haircut for Ms. Kitty. If she has any weeping, open sores or wounds your vet will likely recommend shaving the area to allow for airflow and quicker healing. This is especially true if kitty requires stitches. Though the “medically-necessary” haircut may not be the most fashionable, it can be one of the most important for her health.
A Little Flair
You may have encountered a house cat that looks more like a lion than Garfield. Some owners choose to have their cat’s fur styled in a variety of haircuts. One of the most popular is the lion cut. This haircut usually involves shaving the cat’s body but leaving a scarf, if you will, of fur around her neck and face as well as fluffy fur on her lower legs and tail; afterward she’s fancy and ready for her close-up.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.