Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Now With 33% Less Cat!

Upon arriving home from Casper to find the entire house blanketed in a uniformly thin mat of coarse, pale underfur, I decided it was time to begin the process of shedding out my long-haired cats, who will henceforth (in this post, at least) be referred to as Thing One and Thing Two to pacify someone who strongly objects to their real names, which are admittedly very uncreative and pretty much not names at all. (If I've learned anything in this life, it's that naming a cat makes very little sense.)

They shed on their own, of course, but sometimes it behooves a cat "owner"- if she values her sanity and her wardrobe- to accelerate the process just a bit.

Over the years- eight, to be exact- I've purchased a multitude of tools and newfangled appliances in a quest to find the one magical thing that efficiently and painlessly drags the undercoat forth to be gathered into a bag and whisked away before it settles all over the house. I've tried a rubbery sponge- which feels a bit like erasing the cat, and can be very satisfying, but doesn't remove hair too well- and a mitt with rows of rubber nibs that catch the underfur up in a mat but doesn't easily get to those hard-to-reach places without a lot of protest from modest and indignant Thing One.

I've used a flat mitt with a coarse fabric that actually works really well on upholstery and clothing, not so much on the cats. I've used brushes with wire and brushes with bristles, specialty combs and picks with varying densities of teeth, and- as seen on TV!- the ShedEnder, which seems fairly effective but not altogether humane since the blade buried in the comb occasionally clogs and tugs, and when tender-skinned Thing Two strongly objects to something, there's not much you can do to convince him otherwise.

Throughout this trial and error, I always go back to the only thing that really works, despite the fact that it looks like something imported from the Tower of London. It's a shedding blade, inexpensive and compact, a thin circle of steel with crimped teeth on one side and a strap-like leather handle. The teeth aren't sharp, and as you stroke they effectively wrest the underfur from beneath the glossy topcoat in billowing static puffs that can be easily gathered with the free hand.

Luckily, both cats enjoy being groomed- as long as they're separated. Thing One begins a strong vocal protest almost immediately (although she continues to purr, so it's not very convincing), which for some reason brings Thing Two scampering to pounce on her and bite her head. This draws genuine wails of fury and generally causes an uproar, so I usually lock myself in my shoebox-sized bathroom with Thing One where it's just a matter of sitting on the closed lid of the toilet, swiping at her while she pretends to be coy, ducking away and then bobbing back into the strike zone. The long fur on the backs of her legs makes it look like she's wearing little fluffy white pantaloons, and these pants happen to be one of the places she sheds the worst. Coincidentally, it's also the one place she strongly objects to being fondled, so I have to slide my hand under her gut and pin her to my shins to work on those. Thing Two occasionally bites whatever tool is grooming him and always wants to gnaw on the compacted hairball I collect in my fist, but otherwise he's a very obliging fellow, even rolling over to have the woolly curls on his paunch mowed.

Tonight they both look considerably sleeker, and there's enough shed fur in the trash to build a whole new mid-sized cat. If I start early enough and keep on it and shed them every other day for a couple of weeks in the spring, I can usually prevent actual hacked-up hairballs like the giant orange one that met me on the foot of the bed when I got home Friday night. A few hours with the shedding blade and regular doses of petroleum jelly pretty much constitute Indoor Long-Haired Cat Maintenance 101.

Next year I'm going to shave them.


Blogger mister anchovy said...

they won't be amused at being shaved... we have 6 of the little monsters here at anchovy headquarters, so as you can imagine, we're swimming in cat hair right now....I use a rubber brush that seems to pull a lot of hair out + is popular with those of the cats who will tolerate the indignity of being groomed.

April 6, 2007 at 10:54 AM  

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