Feline Friendly Grooming
While cats are indeed known for their tidy ways, it is sometimes necessary for pet owners to lend their felines a little assist in the grooming area.
Cats and dogs are as different as night and day—from the ways in which they interact with humans and one another, right down to many of their most basic needs. However, one enduring perception among pet owners regarding the dissimilarities between cats and dogs may actually be more of a disservice than a reality to pets and their owners alike.
The notion that cats clean themselves is a long-held, well-ingrained belief, and admittedly, it is grounded in fact to some degree. Cats do indeed self-groom—it is one of their main daily activities, as they can lend hours to the simple task of tirelessly licking themselves clean.
But there is clean, and then there is clean.
While cats may be perfectly content to freshen up by using only some spit and the raking effect of their course tongues, pet parents may want to take grooming a step or two further. Despite popular notions to the contrary, bathing can be a benefit for many cats, as can the occasional coat brushing and claw trimming. And even for those felines that do not require a fur-drenching bath, there are grooming products available to help reduce shedding, cut down on saliva build-up on cats’ fur and make for more pleasant-smelling coats. However, many cat owners first need to be disabused of the belief that felines do not require a little bit of assistance in the grooming area from time to time.
Owners of long-haired cats, if for no other reason than to minimize the coating of fur these luxuriously coiffured animals can leave everywhere in their wake, tend to be sensitized to the importance of cat grooming. On the other hand, people all too often allow their short-haired felines to fend for themselves when it comes to hygiene.
Diane Thomas, marketing manager for Coastal Pet Products, says that it is a common misconception that short-haired cats do not need tending to. “They might not need to be groomed as frequently, but it’s still necessary,” she says.
There are several advantages to be reaped from grooming a pet cat—at least, those felines that tolerate it well. For example, in instances when a cat has gotten too dirty or smelly for it to simply self-groom itself clean, a bath may be necessary. Meanwhile, brushing helps remove dirt, prevents matting and spreads natural oils through the coat to keep it healthy. Grooming also gives pet owners the opportunity to inspect their feline’s skin and coat for indications of infections, irritations or other health issues.
Of course, for pet owners, cat grooming can be equally as important for maintaining a tidy and low-allergen home. Reducing some of the tell-tale signs of cat ownership in the home—cat hair on furniture, draperies and clothing, for example—is a major driver of sales in this category. “Many people assume that cats clean themselves but consistent cleaning will help them feel cleaner and more conditioned, and the removal of fur in the bathing process will help keep their home cleaner as well,” says Crystalyn Guzman, CEO of Aroma Paws.
She also notes that pet parents need to be aware that some cats are more capable of self-grooming than others. “Unfortunately, older and overweight cats aren’t always able to clean themselves completely, which can result in an accumulation of dirt, dander and fur,” Guzman adds.
Pet Head CEO Andrea Garcia recommends that kitten owners incorporate grooming practices into their cats’ lives as early as possible in order to acclimate them to the process and establish healthful habits. “Cats do a good job at cleaning themselves but specific cat breeds and hair length require a bath at least every few months,” she says. “[Pet parents should] start bathing cats at an early age to get them familiar with the bath process.”
Fortunately, a growing number of pet parents seem open to home grooming their felines, as they increasingly recognize the benefits. “There is definitely a growing popularity for keeping cats clean, conditioned and tangle free,” Guzman says.
She adds that pet owners who are experienced with dogs as well as cats often more readily embrace the idea that bathing and grooming can be mutually advantageous. “Households with both cats and dogs see the many skin and coat benefits for consistent grooming of their pups and want to offer the same care to their cats,” Guzman says.
The market is responding to this growing awareness of the upsides of cat grooming with a wealth of products designed to pamper and freshen up. From between-bath sprays and wipes to feline-friendly shampoos to clippers, cat grooming products are finally finding their way on to pet specialty stores shelves. Among the most important tools for retailers to stock for their feline-owning shoppers are nail clippers and trimmers. Thomas points out that as fewer cat owners are opting to de-claw their cats, there is particularly a greater demand for products that safely and effectively trim or clip claws. “Owners are looking for easy-to-use, quality tools that won’t hurt their pets,” she says, adding that Coastal’s Safari Nail Trimmer is the company’s No. 1 selling tool in the cat category.
Yet, while claw clippers and trimmers may be key, retailers should curate as well-rounded an assortment of cat grooming products as possible in order to address these pets’ wide-ranging skin and coat needs. This growing customer base is seeking out various products that will not only help them keep their cats clean and fresh, but will also afford them some bonding time with their pets, according to Thomas.
“In addition to the basic combs and brushes, safety nail trimmers that are specially sized for cats and massage brushes are musts,” Thomas says. “Massage brushes distribute natural oils for a healthy coat, remove loose hair, aid in shampooing and make the grooming experience an enjoyable one that helps strengthen the human-animal bond.”
It is this bond, of course, that also leads manufacturers and retailers alike to conclude that the cat grooming product category is poised for growth and innovation. Says Garcia, “As long as cat owners continue to pamper and treat their cats as part of the family, I don’t see this industry slowing down anytime soon.”