Care and Grooming
Grooming is not only combing, but also includes care of the nails, ears, eyes and, of course, bathing. While this is all external care, good grooming actually begins on the inside of the cat with proper nutrition. The effort put into grooming the outside of the cat will mean little unless the diet is adequate and wholesome. All Persian require combing at regular intervals; how often depends upon the coat texture and the season; but making a habit of daily grooming benefits all involved.
There is more to grooming a cat than using a comb. Cat’s nails should be cut regularly to keep them from snagging on furniture, clothing and anything they happen to be walking or climbing on. For some reason, nails on the front feet grow faster than those on the hid feet, so must be cut more often.
Some cats build up more wax in their ears than others. At times, cleaning the front side of the ear flap with a dampened Q-tip may also be necessary. Using a Q-tip in the ear requires great care as a sudden move on the part of the cat may drive the Q-tip deep enough into the ear to do damage. Often various concoctions for use in cat’s ears are recommended in order to prevent problems and to treat ear mites. The best preventative is to keep your cats away from those suspected of having mites! Contact has to be close to pick up mites, and should you do so, the safest treatment is usually one prescribed by your veterinarian.
Some cats have very runny eyes. The cause can be chronic as a result of illness, a congenital defect, or it can be a temporary irritation.
Excepting individual problems, this seems to run in certain lines and so is hereditary. Contrary to popular opinion, runny eyes do not necessarily have to go with a short nose. We see long-nosed cats with running eyes, and cats with almost no nose whose eyes do not run. If the tear duct is blocked, the eyes will run constantly. If it is partially blocked, the running may not be excessive. It is a simple matter for your veterinarian to check the tear duct by putting a special dye in the eyes and to observe if and how long it takes to appear at the nostrils. Frequently blocked tear ducts can be dilated surgically, but some cats have no tear ducts at all or they are so badly crimped that they cannot be unblocked. In order to keep the face of a cat with runny eyes clean and healthy, one must wipe the area as often as needed. In problem cases, it sometimes helps to apply a little vaseline after wiping the area with a dampened cotton ball and drying it so the tears will not irritate the area. It is better to avoid this problem by a carefully chosen breeding program. We must keep in mind that even if we are willing to perform this daily task, most purebred kittens go to pet homes where owners find this problem most unattractive and eye cleaning an unwelcome chore. It may not cause the cat much discomfort if cared for properly and on a regular basis.
Another problem we sometimes see in cats regardless of hair length is “stud tail”. This is not a good description because both males and females, altered and unaltered, can have it. It is more correctly called seborrhea; it can also appear on the chin. It begins with an oiliness at the base of the tail. Untreated, the oiliness becomes excessive and the affected area enlarges, the skin pores clog and black heads result. Hair loss sets in and unless prompt action is taken, the tail will eventually become bare and some of those blackheads may turn into small abcesses. Again, the best treatment is prevention. If you notice any tendency towards oiliness on the tail, sprinkle a little powder on and work it thoroughly through to the roots of the hair when grooming. You can use either baby powder, corn starch, or a grooming powder containing silicones. This will absorb some oil, but should this not be enough you will have to thoroughly and frequently shampoo the tail.
A variety of products have been tried, but shampoo for oily hair and a stiff brush seem to work better than most. How often you have to do this depends upon how bad the situation was initially. It will take some time to loosen and remove all the blackheads if the problem was severe and you cannot risk irritating the area by too intensive scrubbing. Once you get the initial problem cleared up, you will learn by experience how to keep ahead of it. I have used a product called NP27 which is available both as a liquid and powder. It is a mild fungicide and very drying. It is used to treat athletes foot. My veterinarian was surprised when I told him about NP27, but after reading the ingredients he said if it works, use it. I know many breeders who have used it for years, and so we can consider it safe and harmless for cats. Blackheads around the chin and lip area must also be washed and gently scrubbed with a softer brush than used on the tail because it is a very sensitive area. Sometimes this is caused by cats who do not clean their mouth areas carefully after eating; but usually the reason for this excessive oil secretion is hormonal. You have seen (human) teenagers with the same problem.
The silver coat is different in texture and color and is more fragile than that of other longhairs, so the combing and bathing techniques are somewhat different.
The comb is the most important tool in the care of the silver coat. Unfortunately, a good comb is both expensive and hard to find; they are not usually available in pet shops. It is a good idea to keep a supply of combs on hand, so as each pet goes to a new home, not only a supply a familiar food and vitamins go with him, but also the proper comb. An excellent comb is one marked “Greyhound”, “Made in Belgium” and is 7 ½” long with both fine and coarse teeth. (Seven teeth to the inch on the coarse end, ten to the inch on the fine end). It is most important that the teeth of the comb are not sharp enough to hurt a silver’s very sensitive skin, but they must be long enough (at least 1 1/8”) to go through a heavy coat all the way to the skin.
If you begin to groom a kitten before there is much coat to comb, the battle is half-won, or avoided altogether. Combing and bathing are not fearful procedures for kittens handled frequently from an early age. Regular combing has several advantages. First, it keeps the cat attractive and presentable at all times and it eliminates the knotting and matting which are so uncomfortable. If you comb on a daily basis so no knots develop, combing will not be associated with pain. Many breeders keep the cats they are not showing clipped; but this can spell disaster to a shaded silver coat. It will take more than one season to again develop full shading or tipping. Much of the beauty of a Persian is the full coat, so I try to systematically comb everyone in the morning after they have had breakfast and the big plus is that, with the exception of spring shedding, this practically eliminates hair on the furniture and carpeting.
Most cats do not object to combing around the neck and down the back, so this is a good place to begin. Gently comb in the direction which the hair grows and make sure you go all the way down to their skin. With an exceptionally dense coat, you may find it is easier to part the hair and work in sections. Begin by combing the ruff, chest, back and sides using the coarse end of the comb. Now with the fine end, comb the short hair on the head, face and then the legs. Combing the face hair a certain way accentuates type. You can use a small, fine comb, such as a flea comb, to comb the forehead hair down toward the break; comb the hair on the chin up and out and comb the hair on the cheeks forward. This makes your lovely silver look prettier, but will not hide any faults from the judge who will use his hands to feel what is beneath the hair! It is amazing how many people never think about combing the face or legs. If you are persistent and gentle, you can accustom your silver to lying on its back so that the underparts can be thoroughly combed. With some who will not cooperate, you can reach under to comb, lifting one leg at a time or raise the forequarters by holding the front legs in one hand and combing with the other. Then comb down the back legs and do the tail. The hair on the tail is somewhat different from that of the rest of the coat; the undercoat tends to be a bit “wooly” and difficult for the comb to penetrate. Before combing, a crimped wire brush such as one used on poodles is useful. Another way that the tail hair differs is that if there is hair loss from either clipping or stud tail, this hair grows back much more slowly than the body coat.
The finishing touch to your combing is to lift the hair on the ruff, head and chest, forward toward the face. Some coats will stand out like this all over the body and these are the cats judges often say are “beautifully presented”. Other coats, which are different in undercoat and texture, look better simply lying down the way they grow. Usually a shaded silver is better presented this way, regardless of coat type, because it shows the shading to best advantage. This may sound like a time consuming operation, but as you gain more experience and become accustomed to grooming, each cat can be groomed in a very few minutes. In the spring, I have found it helpful to use the crimped wire brush as well as the comb, because it picks up a lot of loose hair that is being shed. It is this dead hair that tangles and causes knots.
Silvers, like all longhairs, do need to be bathed. How often depends on many factors such as the oiliness of the coat, the fastidiousness of the cat, whether or not you are exhibiting your cat and – how neat a house-keeper you are! Cats will get into out-of-the-way, hard-to-clean places and Persians do make wonderful dust mops!
Bathing is simplified if you have a double sink or double laundry tubs. Working alone, I can bathe and towel dry a cat in less than fifteen minutes. The use of the hair drier following the bath is more time consuming but very necessary. Every breeder has a bathing procedure that works best for her. Keep in mind that a silver coat is more fragile than other colors and must be handled carefully. I have found the following method most convenient and satisfactory.
Begin by collecting your equipment, which should include four towels, a washcloth, comb, nail clippers, manicure scissors, brush, a plastic cup, hair drier, a heating pad, a large wire topped carrier or drying cage, and two shampoos. There are literally hundreds of shampoos to choose from, and I use a good “human” shampoo for the first soaping. Your choice of shampoos will depend upon whether the coat is dry, normal or oily. If you are having any trouble with stud tail you will want a shampoo designed for oily hair even if that is the only area on which you use it. I also use a shampoo with bluing such as “Lambert-Kay Snowy Coat”. Place all of your equipment within easy reach of your working area. Put the heating pad in the carrier or cage adjusted to the medium setting and cover it with a folded towel. Plug in the drier near a convenient grooming area. I groom on a Formica counter top in the cattery. Since this surface is slippery, the cat is put on a rubber mat.
Before bathing, comb the cat thoroughly and clip the nails. Fill the tubs and add a little shampoo or dish detergent to the first water; saturating the coat will now be much easier. Put the cat gently but firmly in the water; the amount of restraint you use depends upon the behavior of the cat. I find that I can work much better alone; a second pair of hands just gets in the way. Pour water over the cat with the cup, taking care not to get it in the face or eyes. When the coat is saturated, lift her out on to the drainboard and by working from the neck back, apply shampoo and work up a good later. Do not forget to do the legs and feet and give special attention to the area under the tail. Now is the time to use a brush on the topside of the tail if necessary. Work quickly but calmly; this is a good time tot check the anal glands under the tail to see if they are impacted. Your veterinarian can show you how to express the matter which is apt to collect there. Now put her back into the water and pour water through her coat a number of times. Lift her out onto the drainboard again and use your second shampoo. While you are doing this, drain the first tub, and rinse it for refilling. This time, when you are shampooing, you will apply a little to the washcloth and wash her head, face, and the insides of her ears with the cloth. If you have a spray attachment you can put her in the empty tub and use the spray. The next step is to put her in the second tub and rinse with clear water. While you are doing this, you should be refilling the first tub. The number of rinses you need will depend on the length and thickness of the coat; three or four rinses should be sufficient. To the next to the last rinse water, add some white vinegar. Do not get this on her face or in her eyes. Again, rinse with clear water until the coat is “squeaky clean” and do not forget to do the face. Cats object to having water splashed into the face, so repeated rinsing with the washcloth is more acceptable.
After the last rinse, squeeze the excess water out of the coat and tail, then wrap your cat in a towel. Squeeze and blot all over but do not rub since this will only tangle and damage the delicate coat. As the towel becomes damp, replace it with a dry towel and repeat this process until you can no longer get any moisture out. Put the cat in the carrier or cage long enough to gather up towels and clean up the working area. You will find after about ten minutes even more moisture has been absorbed by the towel in the carrier so take her out and replace that towel with a dry one, and set the heating pad at its lowest temperature and you are almost ready to blow dry the coat.
Using the fine manicure scissors, trim the hair off of the tips of the ears. This is done to remove those wispy hairs that make the ear look pointed. You want to show the nicely rounded ear tip and make the ears look as small as possible. Then look closely to see if hair is growing down over the margin where the nose leather meets the hair. If it does, trim it straight across. Hair growing down over the edge of the nose not only hides the margin, but makes the nose look longer.
You are now ready to use the hair drier; begin at the rear and work forward, blowing from all angles at the top, sides and underparts of the cat. While the coat is still fairly damp, begin combing because this way it is easier to get the comb through the coat with the least amount of damage. Alternate the combing and blow drying or do both at once. From time to time, you may want to return your cat to the warm carrier. Make sure she is thoroughly dry including her feet, legs and underside, or later you may find that you have a curly-coated cat.
Some people like to keep their cats lightly powdered all the time, but a factor to consider is whether it is safe to constantly expose your cat to inhaled powder. Powdering can help clean bottoms that are not soiled enough to require soap and water; powder is also important coping with the stud tail problem. Powdering is an important part of pre-show grooming; it is probably not a hazard if done once a week for the number of shows most breeders attend.
After she is thoroughly dry you can either turn her loose or, if you are going to a show, you may want to powder her. If this cat has an oily coat and you are going to a show on Saturday, you will have bathed her no earlier than Thursday and you will powder her immediately. If her coat is normal you may have bathed her on Wednesday and you can powder her either on Thursday or Friday, but you must have all the powder out before judging. Once I had a very embarrassing experience because I had neglected to remove all the powder from the coat of my entry, and realized this as I was combing her before a class. I went the length of the show hall (fortunately a fairly large one), blowing her vigorously all the way. By the time we got to the ring she was nearly powder free, but I could not see through my glasses! I find that if I powder on Thursday it is gone by Saturday, but if I cannot do it until Friday then I use a vacuum on Saturday morning. One must be careful to use weakened suction to do this or blow the powder out of the coat with the hair blow drier.
There are many powders from which to choose – I have used a lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder in the past seventeen years. It is light and nicely scented and easy to blow out. Some of the unscented powders are difficult to get out of the coat. Powdered chalk or a combination of chalk and powder are used by some, but chalk is very difficult to get out and is very drying to the skin. More recently I have been using a silicone grooming powder; it is not only easy to blow out but seems to make the comb slide through the coat more readily.
One method of powdering is to separate the hair at small intervals all over the body and liberally apply powder. Do one area at a time and comb it through the coat. Do not forget the undersides and hard to get at areas. When you are finished, put a bit of vaseline on the nose to removed the powder and to prevent it from becoming too dry. Use a dampened Q-tip or cotton ball to removed any powder in the ears. Tickles in the ear make a cat scratch, thus digging out the ruff. It also has the disadvantage of mixing with the natural oils in the ears to form an irritating paste. There is another method of powdering with which I have had little experience. Instead of blowing the coat completely dry, powder or “pack” the coat with powder or cornstarch while the coat is still damp. As the coat dries with the help of a drier and comb, the packing material will loosen and fall out and leave the coat with more body than it usually has after a bath. Whichever method you use you are now ready to go to a show or simply sit back and admire your lovely silver!
Author, Janice Reichle, has been breeding Shaded Silver, Chinchilla and the occasional Golden Persian under the Diadem cattery name for more than 35 years.
While many Diadem Silvers have earned the title of Regional Winner, as well as having a National and Breed winner with GC, BW, NW Diadem Dilemma, Janice is most proud of her Distinguished Merit sire GC Diadem Personality Plus, DM, and what he has done for silvers.