Zelda Love Bailey, But HATES Being Brushed

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Hi, I’m Dr. Karyn! Read my introduction to learn more about me and meet my five hilarious cats: Clutch, Cyril, Alex, Zelda, and Zazzles.

By now, you might be familiar with “da boyz” in my home, Clutch, Cyril, and Alex, but we haven’t seen a lot of my female felines, Zazzles and Zelda. They are definitely more shy than the lads, sometimes proving to be downright elusive, particularly if there is a brush or nail clippers within ten miles. Being a shorthaired cat, Zazzles rarely needs anything more than a vigorous stroking to help keep her coat looking healthy, but Zelda has luscious long fur that she enjoys leaving in clumps around the house. Not only is this a nightmare to keep on top of cleaning-wise, it leads to many a hairball being unceremoniously ejected on the carpet, bed, computer keyboard…you name it! Even worse, one of my “always up to something” chihuahuas has developed something of an appetite for Zelda’s hairy offerings, meaning that I now have twice-vomited hairballs to contend with!

Now the only way to get rid of cat hair altogether, apart from taking in one of those naked breeds, is to get rid of the cat – which is obviously NOT an option! But regular grooming can help limit the amount of hair being left all over your clothes and furniture, as well as reduce the formation of hairballs. But what do you do if your cat HATES grooming?

Zelda the black cat in her Zelda sized bed
Zelda in her Zelda-sized bed

The Trouble With Zelda

Zelda is one of those cats that has a very limited window of tolerance when it comes to contact and affection; happy for a pat or a smooch, but it’s always very much on her terms.  My husband and I can usually manage to clip her claws with little or no bloodshed, but for some reason, she seems to think that brushing will cause her grievous bodily harm.

I have, on occasion, used chemical restraint in order to give her a full body brush and trim, but I would like to be able to groom her without the aid of sedation.

At this point, you’re probably wondering who Bailey is, and where she fits into my grooming predicament.

Zelda and Bailey hanging out together
Zelda and Bailey hanging out together

What’s a Dog Got To Do With Grooming a Cat?

Bailey is our 10-year-old Labrador, on whom Zelda has quite the crush. Sadly, hers is an unrequited love. Our raven-haired beauty regularly embarrasses herself with her wanton displays of affection, showering the nonplussed Bailey with head bumps and body rubs, even curling up against her when she falls asleep, but the yellow lab remains indifferent to her shameless advances. But that doesn’t stop me from using the situation to my advantage.

In an attempt to minimize stress and maximize my chances of success, I have gathered some of Zelda’s favorite things – catnip, treats, and Bailey.

Interesting Factoid: Only around 60% of cats react to catnip, a statistic that is reflected in my own home. Zelda, Cyril and Alex are all obsessed with it, whilst Clutch and Zazzles treat it with the same level of indifference that Bailey shows to Zelda.

Having created a calming environment, the trick is to groom sneakily, but not scarily. This is decidedly difficult when you’re dealing with the world’s most suspicious cat. The other ace up my sleeve is my new brush. For many years, I have used a FURminator style grooming tool because, well, they work. But Zelda knows exactly what it looks like, and I think that the harder comb surface could be part of why she hates it so much. So I am enlisting the help of the Hepper Deshedding Cat Brush, which is much lighter, a different shape, and, as a bonus, way cheaper than my previous brush! The bristles feel strong but soft, and the angle of the bristles should help gather up all the dead hair.

Keeping It Short and Sweet

One of the most important aspects of dealing with a nervous cat and their least favorite activity, is knowing when to call it quits. Sure, I could hold her down and get more brushing done, but that’s only going to traumatize her, and make the next attempt that much more difficult. Fortunately, she didn’t seem to mind the feel of the new brush, and I’m pretty chuffed with it too!

Because I’m trying to recalibrate the way Zelda feels about grooming, I need to accept that success may be weeks, even months down the road, and if the first session is just me, Zelda, and Bailey calmly sharing space with a brush, then that’s our starting point. And every time we finish on a positive note, we get one step closer to a longer session. Who knows, maybe she’ll start to enjoy grooming “Clutch style”…but probably not!

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