Updated: Sep 22, 2021
Grooming your pet can be either a good experience or a nightmare for both you and your pet. Especially if your pet happens to be a highly sensitive, fussy, and aggressive, personality type. This information may be of use to dog owners as well but since I am a cat owner, this will be my focus.
It may be an event you would rather avoid but even so, it needs to be done. Proper grooming your pet is important for many reasons:
Building a bond of trust between you and your pet
Less pet hair on the furniture
Cuts down on the amount of hair your pet ingests in their own grooming
Inspection of your pet for pests (ticks, sores from injury and/or skin conditions, fleas etc.)
Increases their socialization
Eating won't be as painful and they may be less fussy
Saves your bum from sitting on a nasty burr when you least expect it
"Where the hell have you been Nature Boy? You look like the Forrest King"
I have a long hair tuxedo farm cat named Buster (because he will bust you). He is an older, very large, independent, fussy, suspicious, anti-social character type whom I love with all my heart and soul. He has spent the majority of his long life outdoors and now is keen to enjoy both an indoor/outdoor lifestyle. If he wasn't keen on grooming himself so much, I would probably give him a bath. Cats do enjoy it if its done right. Buster keeps himself very, very clean though, so it isn't necessary (yet). Understanding your pet's personality will go a long way towards helping you build a bond of trust.
Buster has always been very conscientious about his appearance and has never needed any more than a brushing now and then. However, upon my arrival back to the farm full time I quickly observed he had been acquiring some deep seated burrs in his fur. Most of the burrs he removed himself but being a very large cat, there were some he couldn't reach. They were really in there deep and being an older cat he just felt overwhelmed probably. He still groomed as often as he ever did. Grooming helps keep cats cool when they are hot, so the fact he was grooming himself regularly was a very good sign. He still wanted to look good and wasn't lazy about it. I imagine the burrs was a big part of the reason he didn't like to be picked up or petted because they hurt him. He also seemed fussy about his food. Probably because getting burrs out with your mouth leaves sores and the food, being salty is an uncomfortable experience.
Gotta start somewhere
Buster has a coat of fur made for the winter months, it is very thick and has three layers. He even has extra tuffs of fur on his paws that help keep his feet warm in the winter months. Cats have whiskers on their face but one thing you might not know about cats is that they have whiskers all over their body. Whiskers are sensory receptors and they are embedded deep under the top coat. This is one reason your cat is very sensitive to touch, either in a good way or an aggressive way. It is also why you need to be very careful in how you groom your cat. Not being careful could mean your experience is more like this.
Sending Buster to a stranger for a professional grooming experience was completely off the table given his anxiety and disdain for strangers and people in general. Minimizing his stress level was the key to success. It was up to me then and I'm kind of a nerd, so I did lots of research before I began. We handle minor livestock and pet medical procedures here on the farm. My aunt worked for a vet years ago and is very knowledgeable about most things related to animal care. I also asked a cousin who is a vet for tips and advice and I read many articles about grooming ahead of time to prepare. My goal was to make this as comfortable as possible for me and Buster while trying to ease his anxiety as best I could. He likes to be brushed, this was encouraging. I found a couple of products that aided in the process that I'll share. Again, I receive no money for saying so. I am just sharing information. I'm no expert but if Buster can be groomed by a human at all, this gives me a certain level of confidence in sharing what I know will be effective.
Here are some things you'll need: ***DON'T USE SCISSORS*** Not unless absolutely necessary. If you have to, be VERY VERY CAREFUL.
A double grooming pet brush with bristles on one end and prongs on the other side.
A steel, fine-toothed comb (plastic combs won't cut it, they will break). They are durable and are also great for removing fleas and flea eggs.
A professional grooming tool. Not expensive at all and worth it. It has wide teeth for the top coat and finer teeth for the under coat.
Set your cat on your lap in a way that he is comfortable and you can keep him as calm and as relaxed as possible. The most important thing is to be as gentle as you possibly can. Try not to pull, start at the top and work your way down. Buster had clumps of burrs. Working with the ones I could, I gently separated them from his fur with my fingers. It helps if you hold the base of your pet's hair with your fingers while you work the burrs loose with your other hand. That keeps it from pulling too much. The smaller, little black, flat stickies and little round stickies, come out very easily with the comb. The deep embedded ones, I use a combination of separating them with my fingers and loosening them with the grooming tool. Alternating between the large and small side of the tool using short strokes. I also show him a burr when I removed it so he can see what I am doing and that I am trying to help. It may seem weird, but he seems to understand and will sit patiently for me (mostly).
You may not be able to get them all at once but that's ok, you are building trust and that takes time and a whole lot of patience. Take breaks when he needs to relax and pet him little. After removing a difficult burr, massage his skin to soothe him, give him a few pets before starting again. When grooming Buster for the first time, I was only able to get a couple removed before he became fussy and wanted down. Don't force him, when he is done, let him be done. I made a habit of working with him in the evenings, sitting him on my lap or next to me. I pet him for a while and when he was comfortable, worked a little on grooming. Sometimes I managed to remove a few while he was distracted with eating but mostly I reserved grooming for our evening allotted lap time in order to be consistent. Slowly you will build that trust and each event will become longer, don't worry or be discouraged. It took a few weeks for me to get Buster looking prime again.
He's so vain
These days, he enjoys being picked up and petted. Not by anyone mind you, he's still VERY anti-social, but I'm his friend and he loves head scratches, belly rubs and will purr contentedly. I can tell he is no longer in pain and he really loves showing off his good looks more than ever. To be as old as he is, he is still very much vain about his appearance. He even welcomes grooming with the brush. Still not a fan of the grooming tool so I only use it when necessary. However, he does love the brush and he doesn't mind the comb at all. I almost think he collects burrs on purpose. He prances in like "looky what I got for you". I don't know how he can go outside for less than 30 minutes and come back in looking like an I don't know what, but he is a master at it. He seems to know I am trying to help him and if a cat can look appreciative, he does. He eats better too (as long as it is a brand and flavor he likes), not having to remove burrs with his mouth anymore. He certainly seems grateful.
I hope these tips will help you in keeping your pet looking great and help you build a better bond with more understanding. Thanks for reading and have a blessed day.