Le coiffeur des chats
August 4, 2011 3:05 PM   Subscribe

My old cat has long thick fur and hates being brushed or fussed at, so now we're well into a hot summer she has mats.

My question is simple: when faced with shaving such a cat do vets put a cat under with real anesthesia, or just make them groggy with some kitty valium?

If it's just tranquilizers I wouldn't be so worried, but I wouldn't risk full anesthesia for a 17-year-old cat over shaving off some mats. (And yes, I could ask my vet but I find them to be a bit shifty when pinned down on issues like this, so I wondered what others had experienced.)
posted by zadcat to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would imagine any vet worth their salt knows how to control a cat without drugs. But I would ask, nay demand, to know their procedure.

My brother shaves his Maine Coon periodically. Now obviously cats have different demeanors (well, different expressions of crazy anyway), but he just grabs it firmly at the scruff and goes to town himself. After a brief period of indignation, his cat bounces around as if the weight of the world (or a pound of hair) had been removed.
posted by elendil71 at 3:20 PM on August 4, 2011

Have you tried just cutting the mats out with scissors? We have done this a few times. It looks ugly but is less traumatic than a trip to the vet. I would say it is time to change vets if you can't trust the one you are seeing to be straight with you about anesthetic for such an old kitty. Is there a cats only vet in your area?

Also once you solve the problem, I got a rubber grooming thing on Amazon called Zoom Groom that my cats I could not brush with a regular brush or comb tolerate.
posted by mermayd at 3:26 PM on August 4, 2011

This is Zad, who has been known to need three people holding her down at the vet's merely to have her claws trimmed, including a vet tech wearing elbow-length leather gauntlets. Shaving her would be a world of hurt if she wasn't a little out of it, I'm afraid.
posted by zadcat at 3:27 PM on August 4, 2011

Ask your vet for ace- works perfectly to mellow cats out. Or talk to your vet and make sure it is alright to use benadryl (may not work for all cats, some go crazy on benadryl).
posted by TheBones at 3:39 PM on August 4, 2011

Have you tried just cutting the mats out with scissors?

No, do not do that please, you will hurt your cat or yourself My wife, who is a vet, has seen way too many cases come in from people doing this and stabbing their cats. It will cost you alot of money to sew this cat up if you stab it.
posted by TheBones at 3:40 PM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Chinese finger puzzles for the claws, a one hand palm hold, or, if your hands are strong and big, a three finger hold on the head (palm behind head, index finger between ears, thumb and second finger along opposite sides of lower jaw), some serious AC powered electric clippers (forget the rechargeable variety entirely, they're not nearly powerful enough to deal with significant hair matting), and 20 minutes of determination on your part will temporarily solve the problem. If you hold the cat's head firmly, but quietly, they'll often relax after a few minutes, without any medication, once they realize they can't scratch, either. They'll be nearly naked and terribly pissed for a week, but they'll be comfortable.
posted by paulsc at 4:41 PM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Try to do it after the cat has had a large and richly satisfying dinner. She might be a little slower to attack if she's full of delicious tuna.
posted by vickyverky at 4:57 PM on August 4, 2011

FWIW, the rare times I've had a cat groomed at either a professional groomers* or a vet, they give the cat a tranquilizer, not a general. If you don't trust the vet, you can always insist upon being in the room while they work on the cat.

*Something I don't think groomers should be messing with, I'd rather limit the tranquilizer-giving to the vet, where they are equipped to deal if something goes wrong.

Chinese finger puzzles for the claws
Seriously, what? Have you actually tried this on a cat? Aside from issues of anatomy (cat elbows don't bend out in that direction), the opening of a chinese finger puzzle wouldn't fit over one of my 6# cat's paws, never mind a cat as large (nor as polydactyl) as the one in the OPs pic.
posted by jamaro at 5:07 PM on August 4, 2011

*Something I don't think groomers should be messing with, I'd rather limit the tranquilizer-giving to the vet, where they are equipped to deal if something goes wrong.

Unless the groomer is a vet, they should NOT be giving any sort of medication. This is not good at all.
posted by TheBones at 5:11 PM on August 4, 2011

"Chinese finger puzzles for the claws ..."
" Seriously, what? Have you actually tried this on a cat? ..."
posted by jamaro at 8:07 PM on August 4

Yep, many times, on a 17 pound long hair mixed breed named Teddy, now long dead, after 16 documented years on the planet, back in the early '80s. Like the old joke about Polish electric utility crews setting new electric line poles, the important idea I didn't mention, is that you don't have to put the finger puzzles all the way up the cat's legs...
posted by paulsc at 5:15 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The stress of being pinned down and hurt (even shaving mats is painful, especially if they've been there a while and the skin is tender) is FAR more dangerous for an old cat than properly managed balanced sedation. If you don't trust your vet's anesthetic protocol, find a new vet, really.
posted by biscotti at 5:36 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

"(even shaving mats is painful, especially if they've been there a while and the skin is tender)"
posted by biscotti at 8:36 PM on August 4

I dunno about that, biscotti. I've cut into fur mats, on both long hair cats and dogs, that have included dead maggot larvae, dried blood, dried ear wax, feces, and even dried pus, and if you keep away from live skin, with a little skill and and perhaps an assistant to push the matting into the clippers (clip on guides for your clippers being pretty useless when you hit heavy matting), the first pass results are pretty positive, all around. And nothing, besides the difficulty of catching and prepping the cat again a week later, prevents a person from making a second pass, with a short guide comb, to get rid of the remnant mats that weren't entirely removed on the first attempt.
posted by paulsc at 5:52 PM on August 4, 2011

Chloe has gone fantasgatamic on us if we try to clip his claws or groom him. He is part coon (and also looked like a little girl as a kitten, hence the name).

Recently, we took him to the groomer with the caveat that we'd pay for sedation, and lo and behold, he let the groomer do the grooming without any drugs. That was including clipping his claws. Now he lets us comb him, as long as he gets his gravy (wet food) on a regular basis. He even consents to climbing in my lap and turning his head up to look at me.

One thing about cats and coons in general, from my experience, is that if their claws are clipped, they act less feral. Chloe has always been this way, but he won't let us clip his claws, unlike Max, certified half coon, who happily lets my husband clip his claws in return for an ear rub.

One thing that helped us with Chloe is a groomer who was also a vet tech, who came to people's houses, and he was fine with her. Often they will react to their owners but be fine with others, or be fine with someone calm coming into the house (as opposed to taking them for a stressful car ride and then trying to groom them). A few minutes of holding them is worth the stress, especially if you go out of the room while it's happening. The other trick is holding them in a towel while someone is clipping the claws or trimming the necessary parts. YMMV with that.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:06 PM on August 4, 2011

There are plenty of nice and easy sedation methods for cats.

If your vet isn't willing to at least give shaving your cat with only mild sedation the old college try, find a new vet. One who's less skittish.

That said- how bad are the mats? Is the problem severe (are the mats pulling at her skin) or are they still further from the skin/in the process of becoming large evil mats? If it's the latter... it would probably be less traumatic to get your cat some catnip and go for it with scissors.

If you're worried about cutting the cat, get bandage scissors. They've got a special guard on the bottom to prevent you from cutting people when you cut off bandages. Medical supply places should carry them. It'll keep you clear of some (obviously not all) scissors-related accidents.
posted by Cracky at 9:32 PM on August 4, 2011

Did you know that cats, like wireless routers, have an admin mode?
posted by Aizkolari at 4:38 AM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

just as a data point, we've had to have our "challenging" cat buzzed twice now b/c of similar grooming issues & he's had full anesthesia both times (though sedation was attempted the first time). i'm not thrilled about it, but he is entirely unmanageable, aggressive, oh, & ace just makes him an angry drunk, which makes him even MORE likely to lash out.

i've been told to never never never try to cut the mats off myself -- maybe for cats who aren't pure evil, it's not as much of an issue, but the vets have told me that cat skin is very thin & that a wound -- even a small wound from a scissors -- could result in scary abcesses, etc.
posted by oh really at 5:13 AM on August 5, 2011

Just a note that blunt tipped pet scissors do exist. People keep talking about stabbing their pets - there is no reason why you need to use sharp tipped scissors to trim a cat or dog.
posted by Jupiter Jones at 8:57 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

We have a cat just like Mr. Zadcat with super long, slightly kinky fur that is prone to matting. (Even with regular brushing which is not usually well tolerated.) We use these ScaredyCat scissors with great success - even if the beast jerks or jumps, she won't get sliced. When she goes into the vet for a seasonal "hygene" clipping (read - no poopy mats) our vet + tech buzz her ridiculously quick and painlessly sans sedation/tranquilizers. The whole thing is over in less than 2 minutes - if there are spot mats it's probably 4 or 5 seconds per mat. The cat spends more time grumpy in the waiting room than she does actually dealing with clippers.
posted by muirne81 at 1:05 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

To answer some questions: I have indeed used scissors from time to time - very carefully - but usually have to wait till the mats have grown away from her skin a little, later in the year. Eventually I do get them all out and she goes through the winter without any, but come summer, they always come back.

I even got a Furminator and was determined to use it this summer, but she doesn't like it, and something about how she grooms herself in summertime actually seems to encourage the mats. Also, she goes out in the back yard, and I think there are small spiky burr things that get into her fur and act as nuclei for the mats.

Anyway, it's interesting to see that people have different experiences re sedation, anesthesia and no-drugs-at-all grooming for their cats. It doesn't really tell me what to do but thanks to everyone who contributed.
posted by zadcat at 7:50 PM on August 5, 2011

My vet told me to use a letter opener like this.

Works. Wonderful.
posted by andreap at 4:06 PM on August 6, 2011

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