Long and medium-haired cats require a great deal of grooming to help prevent mats and tangles. Whether you want to save on groomers' fees, remove mats that don't respond to mat breakers, or shave your cat at home before a procedure at the vet's office, make sure you learn to shave your cat properly to avoid harming him.
The only thing that you really need to shave a cat is a good pair of clippers. However, depending on the temperament of your cat and how amenable he is to being shaved, you may find a few other things helpful as well.
- Full body jobs such as a lion cut: Number 10 clippers
- Mats: Number 40 clippers
- Towel for easy clean up if you don't have a floor that can be easily swept
- Gloves can help keep your hands from getting scratched, although they are optional
How to Shave a Cat
Keep in mind that every cat is different, and some will resist shaving more than others. Use these tips and procedures to make sure your cat gets a safe and comfortable shave.
1. Trim Her Nails First
Many cats will try to defend themselves when being shaved. Play it safe, and clip her claws before you begin the shave.
2. Test the Sound
Test the sound of the clippers near your cat. If your cat becomes very fearful at only the sound, you may want to consider using a harness or restraining device, or asking your vet for a mild sedative before you begin.
3. Hold the Skin Taut
Cats have very flexible, pliable skin that moves easily. This means that it can easily bunch up under the clippers, potentially giving him a pinch or cut. Hold the skin down firmly, pulling it taut as you shave to avoid cuts.
4. Start at the Top
Start at the top of the cat's body, and work your way towards the base of the tail - but don't shave the actual tail.
5. Hold Your Cat
Hold your cat gently, but firmly and work your way around his body, always starting towards the back of the neck and working your way towards the tail.
Tips for a Better Shave
Try these tips and tricks for a better experience for you and your cat.
Move Matted Fur Around
Hold matted fur by its end, and gently move it from side to side as you shave around and under it. Depending on how close the mat is to the skin, you may be able to reach it better from one angle, or from multiple angles. Keep moving it gently and cutting it slowly until it comes free. If possible, have a helper pull the skin around it flat to avoid it coming up into the mat and getting cut.
Avoid the Tail Whenever Possible
The hair on your cat's tail takes a long time to grow back. Unless it is very matted or needs to be shaved for a procedure, consider leaving the hair long to avoid having to shave it. If you do need to shave it, try to restrain it as little as possible; cats can become very agitated if they are unable to move their tails.
Check the Temperature
If you are giving your cat a full-body shave, feel the head of the clippers frequently to make sure it doesn't get too hot. Hot clippers could burn your cat if they come in contact with his skin.
Take Frequent Breaks
The key to a successful shave is not to hurry. The calmer and more unhurried your actions, the calmer you cat will be, too. Work slowly to avoid cutting the skin, and take breaks if you feel your cat is becoming too agitated to continue. It may take several shaves before you cat realizes this procedure will not harm her and she allows herself to relax while you work. Try to keep from frightening her more than necessary to build this trust in the long term.
Ask for Assistance
While there may be times when you feel it would be better to shave your cat at home, there may also be times you need to seek professional help. Stop and ask for assistance from a vet or groomer if:
- Your cat's fur is heavily matted, and the mats extend to the skin
- The skin beneath a mat is bloody or appears infected
- Your cat is extremely agitated and unable to be calmed or restrained enough to safely clip him
Groom Your Cat with Care
Regular and frequent grooming may help prevent mats and the need to shave your cat. Practice proper grooming at all times to help avoid this unpleasant procedure. If shaving does become necessary, work with care to avoid frightening your cat, and you can both be more comfortable with her fur.