Feline Skin Issues? Take a Bubble Bath!

Kitty's Korner

By Deborah Hansen

When a matted, greasy, dandruff–filled cat comes in for grooming, often times we are so focused on solving the coat issues we forget about the skin. Matting and pelting are only symptoms of a bigger problem.

The most common skin problems groomers see in felines that lead to matting issues are stud tail and dirty skin. The solution is as simple as a bubble bath! 

Not a literal bubble bath, soaking in a tub with a glass of your favorite beverage, but a cat bath. Stud tail and dirty skin are very easy problems to control when cats are on a four– to six–week bathing schedule. 

Stud tail develops when the sebum that the supracaudal gland secretes becomes thick. Normally the supracaudal gland, which is located at the base of the tail, secretes an oily substance that is intended to keep the coat shiny. When this oil becomes thick, it clogs the skin pores and hair follicles. Sebaceous cysts then develop. These cysts are basically blackheads on the tail of the feline. Symptoms usually appear as a greasy and matted coat, bald patches at the base of the tail and/or a waxy substance that covers the skin and coat. 

Typically stud tail begins at the base of the tail. If the cat is not professionally groomed, the affected area will spread up the back and down the tail. Stud tail in cats appears in altered and unaltered males and females. Simply put, any cat can get stud tail and many do.

A few things can be done to keep stud tail under control. The most important step is a water bath with a high–quality degreasing product. Often times, I will apply the degreasing product in the bath, on a damp coat, and spend ten minutes massaging it into the skin over the affected area. Then I follow up with two full shampooing cycles. Depending on the severity of the case, these cats will need a water bath every four to six weeks to keep the over production of the thick sebum under control. 

Another thing that can help with excess oil production is adding an absorbing powder, like corn starch, to the affected area. I usually take a pinch and work it down to the skin with my fingers. It works great on light–colored cats. It also works for owners who want to spread out bathing appointments. Best results are obtained when the powder is applied every few days. 

While shaving may seem like the best option for stud tail, it will only get rid of the matting. The skin will remain discolored with a waxy feeling that can only be improved with regular bathing. 

Another issue we often falsely assume is a skin issue is a cat that is dirty. Dirty cats feel very greasy. Unlike in stud tail, a greasy coat from dirty skin is more uniform in the way the grease travels across the cat’s body. They also exhibit what appears to be dandruff. On dirty cats, the white flakes you observe are the dead skin cells that have naturally sloughed off and are being trapped by dead coat, then glued into place by the skin’s naturally occurring oils and saliva. Dirty cats also tend to have an abundance of dead coat and grease. Pelting will occur if professional grooming is not sought. 

The only solution for a cat with dirty skin presenting with what appears to be dandruff, grease and dead coat, is a water bath with a high–quality degreasing product. If there is matting, a lion cut is usually the best course of action before the bath. When a cat has dead skin stuck in the coat, multiple shampooings will be needed. The great news is that when these cats get on a four– to six–week bath schedule, usually everything will resolve. The white flakes, dead coat (shedding) and greasy feeling will no longer be observable. The owners will be happy because the kitty does not smell and less hair is being left around the home. 

Just a bubble bath every four to six weeks will solve these issues and so much more. It sounds so simple, yet when we tell a client our plan to solve their problem, we are often met with resistance. Let us examine why cat owners are so resistant to committing to something that may improve the overall functioning and cleanliness of their home. 

For some owners, the physical act of getting the cat to the grooming appointment can be very stressful and overwhelming. While locating the cat can be a challenge, the owner then has to get the cat into the car, then drive the cat to you while listening to all of the cat’s protesting which adds extra stress on the owner’s day. The owner may even have wounds from that morning’s events. 

When you mention you want to see the cat, not only again but in four weeks, it may seem like an overwhelming feat for the owner. This is the perfect time to talk to the owner about crate usage, and tips to train their cat to see the crate as a safe and relaxing place. 

The remainder of the owners either do not believe a bathing schedule will work, or think the expense will not outweigh the benefits. This is a great place to tell them about any programs you have in place to reward regular grooming clients. 

Getting those cats in the bath will resolve the most common skin issues you see in your grooming business. When you use high–quality degreasing products in the bath, you will watch the skin issues dissolve away. Regular maintenance grooming will keep the skin’s naturally occurring oils under control, which will not only make the skin and coat feel better, but will also help the cat smell fresh while preventing matting and shedding between grooming appointments. Suds up those kitties and watch the problems go down the drain! ✂️