When Colwood resident Sally Staples is earning her scratch, she has to brave the teeth and claws of some very angry clients.
Staples, owner of West Coast Sassy Cats, a feline grooming and bathing service that does house calls, has suffered scratches and punctures and once needed stitches to repair a gash behind her ear. One cat even gave her a superbug infection that needed extra levels of antibiotics.
“Bites are what we most worry about, because cats’ mouths are pretty septic,” said Staples, who earned a master feline groomer credential — the only one Staples knows of in B.C. — at a two-week course in North Carolina at the National Cat Groomers Institute of America. “They have tons of bacteria that’s harmless to the cat, but it’s not really good to have inside us.”
Staples said the bad scratchers and biters are a small minority, usually only about one or two per cent. Most cats, held properly and bathed in comfortably warm water, give little trouble.
The notion of bathing cats is relatively new. In the past, owners simply expected cats to keep themselves clean with their own tongues. But the now-common practice of keeping cats as strictly indoor pets has owners demanding a greater degree of hygiene.
“When you are talking about an animal that shares your bed, you sure as heck don’t want it tracking from the litter box to your pillow,” Staples said.
The modern popularity of long-haired breeds has also seen the birth of animals that simply can’t groom their own coats. Their fur becomes clumped and matted, providing a good home for bacteria and parasites.
“A matted cat is not a happy cat,” she said.
Dr. Malcolm Macartney of McKenzie Veterinary Services on Carey Road said matted coats on long- and medium-haired cats can lead to skin problems. So good grooming and bathing, by a human, are beneficial.
Cats soon get used to the idea of a bath and actually put up less of a fight than dogs, Macartney said.
“Cats are certainly bathable,” he said. “Lots of people bathe their cats, especially show cats — they get bathed all the time.
“It really is just to keep them healthy — there is nothing really weird about it. It’s just not the way we traditionally think about cats.”
Cat owner Ruth Robinson hires Staples to regularly bathe and groom her two long-haired 16-year-old cats, Angel and Jewel.
Robinson said as far as she can tell, neither cat really enjoys it. They go into a kind of “paralysis mode” and get through it. And sometimes she gets the odd pang of guilt when she sees the cats aren’t happy.
“The vet thought it would be a good idea for them to have a bath,” Robinson said. “It wasn’t my idea and it certainly wasn’t the cats’ idea.”
Robinson said she was never raised with the idea of grooming and bathing cats. “I grew up on a farm,” Robinson said. “My parents didn’t even believe in cats in the home. If an animal was useful, it lived in the barn, and if it wasn’t useful, you didn’t own it.”
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