Grooming your cat may be one of the most challenging of operations. Many grooming shops won't even work on cats because it takes time, skill, patience, and know-how to do the job right, and cats rarely cooperate. Here are some thoughts from our staff (who have groomed a LOT of cats and have the scars to prove it).
Shorthaired cats are fairly easy to manage. They just need a thorough brushing with a tight slicker brush such as the Warner Original Slicker or love glove to pull loose hair from the coat.
Longhaired cats, on the other hand, can be very complicated. Most longhaired breeds have considerable, dense "undercoat" next to the skin. It is this undercoating that grows in seasonally to keep them warm in winter and then sheds to let them stay cool in summer. During the shedding process, it can become matted and tangled in the longer hairs and produce huge and uncomfortable mats.
Why are some longhaired cats more prone to mats? It has to do with the quality of the hair: Some hair is silky and will not hold tangles. Some hair is cottony and is extremely difficult to keep tangle-free. (silver or chinchilla Persians come to mind most frequently in the latter category)
Longhaired cats should be brushed routinely. First use the Universal Slicker Brush followed by the Warner Slicker Brush followed by the Greyhound Comb.
Start kittens getting used to lying in your lap and having their tummies rubbed and brushed without squirming and fighting. Routine brushing becomes quite pleasant for your cat if you do it often and don't wait until it hurts.
Cats have very thin and pliable skin. This is important, because too forceful pulling or ripping can actually tear the skin. Additionally, using scissors to cut mats has often led to giant gashes when skin is pulled up into the mat and then mistakenly sliced off with the scissors along with the mat.
Cats use nails and teeth to resist grooming. The claws should be trimmed blunt before starting the procedure. See cat claw clippers. Don't make the mistake of feeling like a front-de-clawed cat is no threat. Many, many de-clawed cats have learned to be quite ferocious biters. Additionally, it is the rear feet that are used to do the most damage. Be calm and be careful.
Cats are hard to restrain. You must adjust your attitude. Remain calm, un-hurried, and non-forceful. The best option is to try to restrain as little as possible. If you can brush or comb while the cat actually walks or crawls away, then re-position and let him walk or crawl away again (over and over). It will give him a sense of control over the situation, and both of you will accomplish your goal.
If it becomes necessary to restrain him (or part of him) while you groom, see the cat sack and cat muzzles.
Don't try to restrict the cat's tail. Cats use their tail to dissipate tension by swishing back and forth. Just try to work around it.
Cats seem to have a remarkable sense about who likes them. It is especially important that you perform these procedures in an unhurried manner, and that you don't get stressed out yourself. Talk in a soft, soothing tone of voice, stopping occasionally to stroke the cat's body.
If your cats are particularly high strung or nervous, there are a couple of all-natural calmatives or tranquillizers that might help. You want him to be just drowsy, not asleep. However, if you are going to use a calmative or tranquillizer, experiment with it BEFORE you groom to be sure what the effect will be. Cats sometimes react just the opposite of the way you would expect. (It might be best for YOU to take the tranquillizer.)
If your cats have only a few mats, you may be able to work them out by using the corner of a slicker brush to work on the mat from the outside into its felted center. If you are successful, it will break apart into a few, looser finger-like pieces. Move the mat(s) away from the skin (working a little at a time) so that it hangs loosely from the ends of the longer hairs. Then a greyhound style comb will gently pull it out to be tossed in the garbage.
However, if the mats are dense and bound very tightly to the skin, it will probably be necessary to "shave" them out using grooming clippers, which can slide gently between the mat and the skin without cutting the skin.
If it becomes necessary to use grooming clippers to shave under the mats you will need a professional set of clippers and a couple of different blades:
The #10 blade that comes with the clippers may be adequate to clip under all but the MOST TIGHTLY ENTWINED mats. Mats of the worst kind take a #40 blade because it is even thinner and is able to get between the hair and skin gently.
(Remember to repeatedly check to be sure your blades are not getting too hot for the cat's comfort. Use Kool Lube to cool and lubricate them.)
If you wish to leave a little more fuzz on some areas where mats are lighter or non-existent, you will want to purchase a #4FC or #7FC blade. However, do NOT use the #4FC or long blades in the groin or armpit areas. Their teeth are too wide and you will risk cutting the skin in those regions where the flap of skin is likely to move up into the blade.
Some cats take a great deal of care. Routine brushing and combing are the only answer unless you don't mind a longhaired cat shaved short two or three times a year. But proper tools and a little patience will make the job that much easier for everyone.