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Groomer Beware

Advice from our vet on detangling matted kitty coifs and easing your pets' transition to a new home
Whole Living, March 2011

Q: How can I keep my long-haired cat groomed? She gets cranky when she sees the brush.

A: Grooming is an often neglected but very important part of pet care. First of all, it prevents matted fur, which can painfully irritate the skin underneath. (If you let a mat get too severe, your pet may need to be sedated before it can be removed.) Grooming also cuts down on hairballs, gives you the chance to examine your pet's skin and hair for any signs of disease, and can increase the bond between the two of you -- as long as the pet enjoys the grooming experience.

Ideally, puppies and kittens should be trained to accept having their fur brushed, nails trimmed, and ears and teeth cleaned. I recommend starting them as young as possible and giving lots of head scratches and treats, so they come to accept these procedures as a positive experience. Older cats present more of a challenge. First, I would talk with your veterinarian or groomer to make sure you're using the proper brush or comb. I myself like the Furminator (furminator.com), which was developed by a pet groomer. It's got fine metal teeth that comfortably pick up all the loose undercoat before it can tangle. Second, have your vet or groomer show you the proper technique to make the brushing as pain-free as possible. Brush with the natural nap of the fur, not against it, and if you encounter any big snags, let a professional remove them. Keep the first grooming session to only a few seconds; you can brush longer as your cat gets more comfortable.

You can also try giving your kitty any of the anxiety-reducing supplements I mention below. In a worst-case scenario, take her to the vet or groomer for a little professional pampering. She may not appreciate your concern now, but believe me, she'd prefer a little discomfort to the misery of a matted coat.

Q: I'm moving. How can I help my dog and two cats make the trip smoothly?

As I'm sure you know, moving to a new environment is stressful -- for you and your furry family. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to make the transition as painless as possible.

If the distance to your new home is longer than five to 10 minutes and your pets aren't used to traveling, I suggest taking short trips -- say, around the block -- to acclimate them to traveling in the car.

You might also consider giving your pets an anti-anxiety supplement to mellow them out a bit. There are several I've used successfully in my practice: Bach's Rescue Remedy, a flower essence extract; NutriCalm, an herbal remedy by Rx Vitamins for Pets; or Composure Treats by VetriScience, a supplement of the amino acid Ltheanine in a convenient treat form. Try any of these remedies about 30 minutes before it's time for your trip, following the label dosage.

You might also put a few drops of either lavender or chamomile oil on a cotton ball in your car about half an hour before you take off. Both chamomile and lavender have been proven to help prevent car sickness and calm the travel jitters. Good luck in your new home!