Part of the beauty of our Silver and Golden Persian cats is a full, sparkling coat.
All the expert grooming in the world won't put a cat in a final unless it is properly conditioned from the inside out. This doesn't begin just a few weeks before a show. Proper care and feeding - good nutrition - is where good grooming begins... though they won't put a floor-length coat on a cat unless it's "in the genes".
Now that we have fed and bred coat potential into our cats, coat care becomes very significant.
The most important things to remember about keeping a silver or golden Persian in show condition is to bathe often and rinse well! Keep that in mind and everything else becomes easy.
Most people find that a comb is the most important tool, but not just one comb.
A full-size (7 1/2") comb, Greyhound or good copy, with both fine and coarse teeth. The teeth are spaced seven-to-the-inch on the coarse end and ten-to-the-inch on the fine end. It's important that the teeth of the comb not be so sharp that they hurt the skin when grooming yet still be long enough (1 1/8" - 1 1/4") to go all the way through a heavy coat to the skin.
A 4" face comb is useful for grooming shorter leg and face hair. It's a good idea for breeders to keep a supply of combs on hand for the new pet owner.
Don't "over-groom" - once you've combed through and have no tangles - stop combing! Further combing simply removes hair. Frequently, just "finger-combing" will be enough to check the coat for tangles.
The Grooming Routine For The Kitten
Cats are not born with a love or fear of grooming. If you start combing your young kittens at a very early age - before they really need grooming - and make it part of your early handling of babies, most will not object to grooming later on. Their early grooming experiences will determine their attitude towards the grooming routine. From an early age, they learn to enjoy, tolerate... or hate future grooming.
Combing and bathing aren't fearful procedures for kittens that are handled frequently from an early age. If you have a cat that is already a problem and really resents combing, do just a little combing at each session. A little treat of something like Nutrical after each grooming session often turns a "hater" into a "tolerater".
The Kitten Bath
Regular combing is important but so is regular and proper bathing. More hair is shed from a "tacky" coat than from a clean one and a coat that isn't clean tangles more; you pull out too much when combing.
Many people believe that frequent bathing helps a coat to grow; I've never been convinced that that is the case but it surely does keep the coat from dropping.
Most kittens have to be bathed at a very early age. This may not be an "all-over" bath - we've all found it necessary to give "butt-baths"! It's nothing to stick a little one under the faucet to wash and rinse a bottom.
The Show Bath
Show bathing an older kitten or cat is more involved. For me, maintenance bathing is basically like show bathing - once the coat is clean it's the drying that takes more time for a show.
Over the years I've washed cats in different situations but the one I find most convenient is a double sink that is not too shallow with drain boards on each side.
Assemble all of your supplies at your working area. This should include:
at least two large, thick towels for each cat
a washcloth (those sold for infants)
a 16 oz. plastic cup
either a natural bristle brush or a wire "wig brush" (without knobs on wires)
a hair drier
a drying cage
There are an endless variety of shampoos available in today's marketplace.
The type you use will depend on your particular cat's coat. Experiment with different shampoos to see which works best for your cat - but don't try something new the day before the show!
The shampoo products I use include:
baby shampoo for the face that won't sting the eyes
Goop (a semi-solid mechanics hand cleaner)
a "plain" shampoo
a "blue" shampoo
a texturizing shampoo
You may also want to use a conditioner. Depending upon where you live and the season of the year, you may/may not need one.
I dilute all of the shampoos as well as the conditioner with water before using them.
The Bath - Step One: Degreasing
Before bathing, comb the cat thoroughly and clip nails.
Next, put about 3"-4" of water in the sink and add a little shampoo or detergent. It's much easier to saturate the coat with water that has had detergent added. If you have a second sink, fill it for use in rinsing.
Stand the cat on the drain board and work some Goop into the areas behind the ears, the bib, the tail and any area that seems extra soiled or oily. (Some coats need "Gooping" all over.) Allow a few minutes for the Goop to work.
See the PandEcats.com article, Goop Soup for more details.
Place the cat in the tub and use the cup to pour the slightly soapy water over the cat - from the neck back - until the cat is thoroughly saturated, work in, then rinse.
Apply the first shampoo, which may be diluted Dawn, Lemon Joy, etc., from the neck back and squeeze into the coat; do not rub or work in vigorously or you will have a badly matted coat. To apply shampoo on the underside, hold the front legs in one hand to stand cat in upright position or apply to underside by pouring shampoo in your hand to work in underneath. Pay particular attention to the "Gooped" areas.
Don't forget the legs and the feet. Check the tail as it is apt to develop a condition often referred to as "stud tail". This is also a good time to check the anal glands under the tail to see if they are impacted. To learn how to express the anal glands see the PandEcats.com article titled, Anal Sacs or consult your veterinarian.
Rinse the cat thoroughly by pouring water over it from the second tub, using the spray attachment on the sink or immersing in the second tub. Whatever system you use for rinsing, rinse well after each lathering.
The Bath - Step Two
The next shampoo I use is Wonderfluff, F1R2 or Ivory shampoo. It is important to try different shampoos because not all coats respond the same to each shampoo. Some coats are oilier, some drier.
The Bath - Step Three
Rinse well again and then apply a shampoo with a special coat whitener, such as a "blue" shampoo.
At some point before your final shampoo, wash the face and ears.
Put some baby shampoo on a wet washcloth and clean carefully around the eyes with special attention to the thin-hair areas over the eyes and in front of the ears. Wipe the insides of the ears with the washcloth.
This is the time when I use safety razor to shave the edge of the nose leather if hair grows down over the margin. Use a side-to-side motion with a razor that is not brand new.
A detailed description of how to shave the nose leather is available in the PandEcats.com article, Shaving Your Cat's Nose.
The Texturizing Shampoo
If it is just general grooming and maintenance, I don't shampoo again but if it is a "show groom", I lather one last time - this one a texturizing shampoo. The rinsing now is especially important and the rule is rinse - rinse - rinse - then rinse some more! If you are working with a coat that is dry you will probably want to use a rinse or conditioner but the rule is the same for rinsing after applying a conditioner - more is better.
I find that in our extremely cold, dry winter weather a conditioner is a necessity. (Sometimes I even have to mist a very heavy coat lightly with water in order to comb it because of static electricity.)
The Blow Dry
Squeeze as much water from the coat as possible by hand and wrap the cat in a big towel. They are glad to be held and cuddled at this point. It should go without saying that the entire procedure should be done as quickly as possible but in a calm and confident manner, talking quietly to the "victim" while working. Discard the damp towel and wrap in another, giving the feet and tail an extra squeeze.
You're now ready to use a hair drier. There are many systems for drying a show Persian - from the hand-held, dry'm-on-your-lap system - to elaborate cage or stand dryers.
I use a commercial drier that stands on the counter. It's quieter than most hand-held dryers. With a wet cat that is just towel dried, use the pin brush enough to straighten and loosen the hair so it isn't clumping and a coarse comb on the face and head to do the same.
To begin drying, I like to use a well-ventilated, open carrier or small cage with a freestanding drier pointed into it. Never walk away and leave a cat in a carrier with the drier turned on and don't use the highest setting. After about five minutes in the cage drier for a heavy-coated cat, work with your hand-held or counter top drier and brush the coat forward while blow-drying.
How much hand drying I do and what I do next depends upon whether this is a show-groom or regular maintenance. If you are preparing for a show you are going to do most of your drying by hand, rather than in a cage. Also, if the cat is being prepared for a show, you can use some "mousse" in the coat at this time. It gives body to the coat and becomes "reactivated" at the show when you spray on a bit of texturizer during your grooming.
A wet coat is more pliable than a dry one and less likely to break. Using a coarse comb (widely spaced teeth) or a pin brush, loosen the coat and direct the drier to blow the hair "against the grain" - toward the head from the rear. Blow from all angles at the top, sides and under parts of the cat.
From time to time, put the cat back in the drying cage, with the heat turned very low - a rest for both of you! If this isn't a show groom, I don't do quite as much hand drying; the cat spends more drying time in what we jokingly call the "kitty microwave". It is a commercial box-type drier that does not get very warm so is quite safe, and blows from all angles. It is great for drying the underside of a cat.
If it is a show groom, one must do a great deal more hand drying and combing. The box drier is a definite (expensive) luxury but very useful if you want to wash a number of cats in the least amount of time. Under normal circumstances I keep my cats in full coat so it is the drying that is so time-consuming.
Thorough drying to the skin - all over - is most important or you will find you have a "curly-coated" cat later on.
While the coat is still damp, trim the tips of the ears with fine scissors. Round-tipped baby scissors are quite safe.
When the face hair is quite dry, look at the eyelashes to see if they are so long they either hide part of the eye or disguise the round shape. If they do, you may want to trim them a bit. Usually trimming from the outer corner to the center of the eye, on the upper lid, is quite enough.
Once the cat is completely dry and has had a rest, you may want to do a bit of trimming on the face to enhance the overall appearance. Many silvers have extra tufts of hair on the top head; it almost looks as though they have four ears! This can obscure a lovely, broad top head. Use your thinning shears to trim those tufts to the same height as the rest of the top head and at the same time, trim away any scraggly hair to give a smoother appearance. It's an optical illusion, but you've given your cat a broader top head.
Plucking & Sculpting
Another grooming tip is a way to show the perfect roundness of your cat's head. Many silvers have "Fu Manchu" whiskers. Pet people love them but they do give an angular look to a face.
Taking a few hairs at a time, pluck the long "fuzzies" until you have achieved a nice, round line that truly follows the outline of your feline's face. Some people use the quicker method of trimming with the thinning shears but that can give a very artificial and choppy look.
Practice on a cat you are not showing.
There are some cats whose eyes tear a great deal. It is important to find out why the eyes tear when daily cleaning does not seem to keep them free of stains. With the help of your veterinarian you may solve the problem.
One suggestion for getting rid of the stains is to mix boric acid powder and corn starch together; moisten the stained area with Eye Brite or Diamond Eye and carefully pack the stained area with the dry mixture. For bad stains, make a paste of the above and apply.
Additional details are available in the PandEcats articles, Bleaching Stains: Removing Stains by Using a Pasteand "Packing" Around Your Cat's Eye to Prevent Eye Stains.
Tails can be very uneven and scraggly and give the appearance of being too long if they have a few inches of hair beyond the end of the tailbone. They can be evened out by "sand-papering". Fan the tail hair out on a flat surface, (a board, and not your counter-top) and using coarse sandpaper, gradually remove the excess hair by rubbing away from the tail. Cutting with scissors gives a very unnatural look.
For more details, read the PandEcats article, Grooming Your Persian's Tail
All show grooming is done to bring out the natural beauty of the cat. Judges are seldom deceived by artfully covered faults since they can feel what is under the hair. But when they take that last, fateful "walk" in front of the cages before making a final decision, a beautifully presented cat has an edge over one that looks as though it is "Styled by Cuisinart"!
Photo Credit: Chanan