By Lynn Paolillo
When it comes to grooming cats, they don’t get a lot of options. Usually they are left completely natural with just a bath and blow dry, or they are shaved short into a Lion Cut. However, there is an additional option that leaves cats with a bit of fluff instead of being taken down to the skin.
Meet the Comb Cut! This teddy bear style trim is popular with clients looking for that “short but not shaved” look. It is also a great option for elderly cats or cats with thin, wrinkly skin that may be at higher risk during shaving.
Comb attachment trims can be done in several different lengths as long as the hair is clean and free of any tangles. My favorites are the #0 (yellow or 5/8”), #1 (orange or ½”) and #2 (dark blue or ⅜”). Many groomers lament that Comb Cuts can look choppy or uneven, but here are some tips to get a beautiful, fluffy finish every time.
Fig. 1) Every cat groom should start with trimming all of the cat’s nails. Sharp cat claws can do a lot of damage if the cat swats or scratches. Use a small nail trimmer to clip either at the top of the “hook” of the nail or just in front of the pink quick inside the nail.
Fig. 2) The key to a soft, fluffy finish is a really clean coat. Get the coat completely saturated with water before applying your shampoo.
Fig. 3) A great degreasing cat shampoo makes all the difference for a Comb Cut. You’ll want to scrub deep into the coat to remove excess oils from the skin, especially the crooks of the legs, paws and above the tail.
Remember, not all grooming products are safe or appropriate for cats. Products with additional fragrances, conditioners and many sprays should be avoided because cats frequently lick themselves. You don’t want a cat to lick and ingest a product that is left behind in the coat.
Fig. 4) Rinse thoroughly after two rounds of shampoo during the bath. If the coat isn’t squeaky clean all the way down to the skin, it will show later when doing the haircut. If the coat looks choppy or has a lot of separation, then it needs a deeper clean during the bath.
Fig. 5) After the bath, wrap the cat snug in a large, thick towel. Gently squeeze as much water out of the coat as you can without irritating the cat. If the cat has a very dense coat, then unwrap the first towel and re-wrap the cat into another dry towel.
Fig. 6) While the cat is wrapped in the towel, use cotton balls and cat safe ear wash to gently wipe the ears clean.
Fig. 7) Start drying at the cat’s back end by slowly unwrapping the towel. Work your way up the cat’s body, using a high velocity dryer on a low to medium setting. Go slowly to introduce the sound of the dryer to keep the cat calm.
Fig. 8) Dry the coat thoroughly, especially the legs, paws, belly and chest. The coat should feel slightly warm or room temperature to the touch. If it feels cool, then it is still damp and needs more drying time.
Fig. 9) Once the coat is dry, use a #10 blade to do any sanitary or belly shaving. Rolling the cat on their side is a good way to get access to these areas.
Fig. 10) Comb out the cat’s coat to remove any tangles or excess dead hair. Go in the direction of the hair growth with a fine comb over the body, sides, chest, belly, mane and tail.
Fig 11) Encourage the cat to stand by holding underneath the cat’s belly. While the legs are straightened out, comb down the legs, especially the rear haunches for excess hair or clumps.
Fig. 12) Use a smaller face and feet comb to get any small tufts of hair in the cat’s paws, legs and around the head.
Many slicker brushes have sharp ends that can scrape and damage a cat’s delicate skin. High quality metal combs penetrate deeply into the coat to remove dead hair, knots and tangles, without irritating the skin.
Fig. 13) Once the coat is completely combed out, use a #30 blade with a comb attachment and vacuum system for the body trim. This demonstration on Pandi the Persian is using a #1 (orange or ½”) comb attachment for a short and fluffy length. Start at the base of the tail and go in reverse of the coat growth. Make sure the skin is taut so the clipper doesn’t catch any wrinkles.
Fig. 14) Hold the cat in a standing position to trim the belly area, while avoiding the cat’s tuck up for each rear leg.
Fig. 15) Place your hand under the cat’s belly and in front of their rear leg joint to encourage the legs to straighten. Starting just above the hock bone, use the comb attachment to trim up the cat’s leg on all sides. Repeat with the front leg and shoulder, staying above the elbow. Cats have sensory whiskers on the inside of their front legs, so trimming this hair should be avoided.
This style shows a moderate mane and a full tail. Alternatives can include leaving a pom-pom on the end of the tail or taking the mane either longer or shorter. If going shorter, make sure to avoid clipping close to the cat’s ears or face whiskers. A final comb out over the body, legs, chest, mane and tail complete the trim.
Fig. 16) Persians, Himalayans and Exotic Shorthairs also get a small amount of trimming done on their face, called the Face Trim. This helps to open their expression, highlighting their full eyes and overall round appearance. Using a small pair of curved face scissors, trim the hair short directly above the eyes, then gradually longer towards the top of the head creating a smooth, domed forehead. Also trim the hair growing from the very tip of each ear, holding the ear leather between your fingers to protect from cutting the skin.
Make sure to avoid trimming any whiskers above the eye and from the cheek areas. Additional hair can be plucked with your fingers from the cheeks and base of the ear (near the middle of the head) to remove anything sticking out from the round look. Do not use scissors around the cheeks, chin or head outline. The finished Face Trim should be neat and round, while still looking natural.