Are lion cuts dangerous for my cat?
April 5, 2016 9:39 AM   Subscribe

My lazy, long haired cat usually needs a grooming in the spring. My new groomer scolded me for getting kitty a lion cut last year, saying that her coat is now "compromised". Is this a legit thing to be concerned about?

For what it's worth, my trusted vet suggested that along with dietary changes and regular FURminator use, a lion cut might be best for kitty's mats, dandruff and poopy butt. The groomer said "we've asked a bunch of vets about lion cuts and they're split on opinion, but we strongly recommend against it". She said it causes the fur to grow back in some spots and not in others, and thumbed along kitty's back to show me where these spots were. I didn't see anything weird, but then again I don't look at or shave cats all day.

I've googled lion cuts many times and the general consensus (including AskMe's) is that it's not inherently cruel or dangerous, just silly looking. Should I be ashamed about the scolding I just got and follow the groomer's advice in the future, or should I chalk it up to a non-veterinary person's opinions about how to own a cat?
posted by theraflu to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
I've done lion and, later, pseudo-lion cuts on cats who wouldn't groom. Never heard of this issue, though I recommend what I call the pseudo-lion cut, where the shorter part is not shaved off but about the length of a short-haired cat (and the WHOLE tail, ruff and legs are untouched except for mats). It seemed to make the cat much happier than the shaving, and the tail looked much less stupid.

I wouldn't be ashamed of whatever cut you gave, but if you trust your groomer I don't see any reason not to follow their advice either.
posted by jeather at 9:49 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

At least where I live, a pet groomer is a totally unlicensed, totally unregulated industry. My cat could advertise herself as a cat groomer. (In fact, she could advertise herself as a cat groomer with fifteen years of experience.) Your vet went to veterinary medical school AFTER obtaining a regular university degree for a total of eight years of education. Listen to your vet on this one.

Also, I wonder: does your groomer, by chance, suggest a more frequent, more expensive form of grooming instead of the lion cut?
posted by kate blank at 10:04 AM on April 5, 2016 [47 favorites]

I've seen this debate about shaving dogs as well, with some people claiming it will cause health problems or ruin the coat.

I spoke to my dog groomer about it, and he discouraged cutting down the coat on my fluffy shepherd mix because the coat is an insulator from the heat, and the dog could then get sunburned easily. He will trim shorter around my dog's butt, though, if I ask, and he does short clippings on some breeds (poodles, lhasa apsos) so I'm not sure where the line is drawn.

Maybe you can compromise with the groomer, but if your vet feels it's fine, it should be fine.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:09 AM on April 5, 2016

"She said it causes the fur to grow back in some spots and not in others, and thumbed along kitty's back to show me where these spots were."

While there may be concerns with the coat's integrity as it grows back in, or with the cat's temperature regulation, the idea that shaving causes "fur to grow back in some spots but not in others" is ridiculous nonsense that makes me concerned she doesn't know how razors work.

(In the alternative, she should make a killing selling these magic razors to humans who can permanently rid themselves of unwanted body hair by shaving it.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:18 AM on April 5, 2016 [23 favorites]

Fur is fur, just like hair is hair. When someone shaves their head, the hair grows back (unless there's an infection in the follicles or some other problem like male pattern baldness setting in). The hair/fur might not feel like it used to - but that's a dietary/general health thing, not a result of having had the hair/fur shaved previously.

I think your groomer is repeating or encouraging a rumor that has no basis in reality. Don't feel ashamed for having gotten a lion cut on your cat - and don't let the not-based-in-science opinion of your groomer dictate whether you get another lion cut on your cat. Kitty is probably okay with having less fur to groom (think of how exhausting that must be to groom every day!).
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 10:20 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Is the the right thread to post the pictures of my cats in lion cut mode?!?

One year I didn't want our house to be filled with cat tumbleweeds, so we booked an appointment with a groomer. The groomer left a lot of fur around the neck and legs, presumably because it's harder to get those areas, and the tail on Cookie (the white one), for aesthetic reasons. Their coats both grew back completely normal, although we thought Laser (the black one) had a slightly enlarged mane that winter.

My understanding is that one should get a professional to do cat grooming because of the risk of cutting the cat, but I had never heard of any issues w/rt their coats. Our vet had no concerns. The cats were annoyed for a few hours, but seemed fine otherwise.
posted by Phredward at 10:29 AM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

This is a rumor that also applies to double-coated dogs, but I can tell you definitively that shaving our ridiculous collie's belly has done her coat no harm and caused no mats or bald spots. Apparently if an animal is badly matted, shaving it may *reveal* problems with the coat (weak or patchy hair, etc) but isn't going to *cause* them. (That said, I agree with jeather that clipping makes more sense than shaving if you can - shaving down to skin can be itchy, especially in high-friction spots.)
posted by restless_nomad at 10:36 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Fur is fur, just like hair is hair.

Your point is somewhat wrong. Hair is not simply hair. Hair on a human head differs by the part of the head. Ask a man who has male pattern baldness about 'hair is hair'. In my own case the hair on the sides of my head above my ears and forward from there is far thinner than the hair on the rest of my head.

Similarly for some dogs there is some hair that will grow to be the outer coat and some that is finer and comprises an undercoat. The outer coat will be somewhat water repellent while the undercoat is not. Not all breeds have this though.

So you can potentially compromise your cat's fur by lion grooming but only because you would be removing a protective outer coat (though cats generally don't have water resistant fur - they are desert animals after all).

The only real issue I can think of is that is possible for a cat to over groom an area that has been trimmed too close. My cat had a problem with over grooming after she was fixed but it went away after her fur grew in.
posted by srboisvert at 10:37 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

My cat who lived to be nearly 20 had 3 modified lion cuts in her life and she suffered no ill effects. I tried not to do it too much, because there's always a risk the cat's delicate skin will get nicked, but it was a hell of a lot better than her being miserable with painful mats of fur. She often seemed to get matted up in the spring, so the weather wasn't freezing cold but wasn't too warm either--I made sure she had lots of warm cozy places to cuddle up after a lion cut. She wasn't an outdoor cat except on rare supervised occasions, but if she had been, I think I would have kept her inside till the fur grew back a bit.

I think your vet is right and your groomer is not.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:02 PM on April 5, 2016

Our Maine coon mix has had a lion cut almost every one of his fourteen years and his coat grows back majestically every time. Neither his groomers nor his vets have ever batted an eyelash at it.
posted by padraigin at 4:58 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

What I've noticed with lion cuts is that it makes the undercoat weird such that the cat looks ratty when the hair grows back. And the cat looks ratty for a loooong time. It takes like 2-3 years for the cat's coat to fully grow back and look luxurious (assuming this is typical for your cat).
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:09 PM on April 5, 2016

Your point is somewhat wrong. Hair is not simply hair. Hair on a human head differs by the part of the head. Ask a man who has male pattern baldness about 'hair is hair'.

Except when humans shed a hair the new hair that replaces it is ever so slightly finer than the one that preceded it because each follicle is hardwired to behave in certain ways. Thinning hair happens as a natural part of aging, not because we had one too many hair cuts in a lifetime. I don't understand the groomers point because the cats hair is being cut not plucked so any differences she's noticing are probably due to how those cats are growing their hair back.
posted by squeak at 5:54 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Considering that our vet does lion cuts on cats as one of the many services the office will do upon request, I would not be concerned about health risks associated with this style of grooming. It does sound to me like the groomer wants to do something else, that would have you back at the groomer more often (or I guess they could sincerely believe this weird idea that is not based in fact). I'd say, lion cut groom your fluffy kitty with confidence.
posted by dryad at 8:05 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

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