Tumbleweeds of cat fur are rolling across the floors in even the best kept homes. It's shedding season, prompted by the lengthening hours of daylight. The soft undercoat that kept cats cozy all winter is falling out. Just petting your cat sends clouds of hair aloft like thistledown.
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Brushing or combing collects the loose hair before it goes flying. Most cats, wary at first, learn to love grooming.
One Juneau man, who ran a trapline in his youth, used to comb his cat into a blissful state while affectionately crooning, "Will you just look at that pelt: No. 1 coat grade."
If your cat isn't used to grooming, start by petting him while wearing a grooming glove. It's just a loose-fitting, cotton glove covered with rubber dots. (Similar gloves are sold for gardening.) The rubber dots collect loose hair.
Another good starter tool is the Zoom Groom, a rubber brush that fits in the palm of your hand. Use a light touch; cats have very sensitive skin. A small, black rubber pocket comb also works well, and like the Zoom Groom, is mostly hidden by your hand. Your hand isn't scary, but a strange object may be.
Once a cat gets used to grooming, you may want to invest in a slicker brush or a professional grooming comb.
A slicker brush (also called a rabbit brush) has wire bristles. It looks a lot like a paddle studded with pins. You don't press down on a brush like that. As its name implies, the slicker is used to smooth the surface. It also is very effective for keeping the soft undercoat free of loose hair and mats. To do that, you pick up a lock of hair and working from the underside, catch a little bit of fur with the bristles and gently comb through it. Then you go back for a little bit more.
You don't have to do the whole cat in one sitting. I once had a 16-pounder with medium-long hair and an undercoat inclined to mat. She liked to sit on my lap when I watched TV. I'd pick up the slicker during commercial breaks.
My favorite, all-purpose comb is metal with each tooth set in a socket that lets it turn freely. When you hit a tangle, the comb doesn't yank the hair, but rolls over it. That lulls even the most comb-shy cat into letting you work on his coat.
One local woman actually vacuums both Hairy and Tonto, her dog and cat. I watched in amazement as she fired up her cannister vacuum, picked up the big, neutered tomcat and stuck each of his legs in turn, then his tail down the nozzle. She finished the rest of his coat with the addition of the upholstery brush. Hairy sat by, smiling, awaiting his turn.
"You have to start getting them used to it when they're little," she emphasized. "At first, I wrapped the vacuum in an old sleeping bag to muffle the sound. You don't want to scare them. Just let them see how it feels. They like it, and after a while, they don't seem to mind the noise.
"And," she added, "vacuuming these two hairballs goes a whole lot faster than vacuuming the whole house."
Readers commented on last month's column on cat entertainment:
Paula Recchia wrote, "Mordecai loves to sit on my lap when I'm on the Internet. ... He hates it when I practice my piccolo and didn't like the saxophone either," wrote.
Nicole Clark wrote, "My Cornish Rex loved the kitty video that was nothing but birds lighting on birdfeeders or windowsills and would run around to the back of the TV to see where they went. He also was visibly disturbed by rock music but loved the ballads of Harry Connick, the Bee Gees, and really any of the classic crooners."
Linda Daniel has spent her life in the company of cats, most of whom simply showed up at her door. She's a believer in spaying and neutering to reduce the number of homeless cats. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.