There is a lot of confusion around the topic of shedding and de-shed services. Understanding why cats shed and how we as groomers can help cat owners control shedding will aid you in better servicing your feline clients. When we are able to explain shedding to clients and offer them a variety of options, it develops trust and respect within the groomer-client relationship.
Why Cats Shed
First, there is a misunderstanding about why cats shed. There are several reason, but the shedding that owners mostly notice (and the reason behind the infamous “lion-cut season”) is triggered by the number of hours of sunlight. People tend to blame the heat for shedding because the warmer temperatures are usually tied to the increase of sunlight hours. And since humans are more negatively affected by heat than sunlight, they make the correlation with the heat instead of the number of sunlight hours.
My business will observe a spring and fall shedding season right when we start thinking it is “always light” or “always dark” outside. When this observation is noted, we detect our trash filling up with more dead coat from our regular clients. Four weeks later is when we start getting complaints of shedding, and six to eight weeks later is when the pelt removals start coming in.
Another reason cats shed is stress. Have you ever finished a groom, showed the cat to the owner and a few hours later gotten a complaint that the cat is shedding everywhere? That is a stress response. It can be triggered by how the owner caught the cat to get it to you, the car ride, the actual grooming process, the trip home or what happens immediately after the cat arrives home.
Felines can also shed due to non-grooming-related stressors. When a family has a significant schedule change, house guests, goes out of town, gets a new family member or pet, or there are other interruptions to the feline’s daily routine, shedding can be triggered.
Shedding is a natural biological process. Sometimes we forget that cats are mammals and that each hair follicle on a mammal goes through a natural growth, resting and shedding stage. (Some consider a fourth transitional stage when referring to hair growth.) The basics of hair growth will require maintenance to keep the coat that is dropped during the shedding stage from accumulating in a way that annoys the family or is dangerous to the feline. Due to the cyclical nature of the growth cycle, there will never be a one-step solution to solve shedding.
While medical issues can also cause shedding, it is more common that the increase or decrease of the number of hours of sunlight or stressors in the home environment is the root of the shedding that the family is observing. Families should be encouraged to discuss shedding concerns with their veterinarian.
Why Shedding Needs Addressed
Most families prefer to live with a cat that has their shedding under control. People do not appreciate cat fur on their clothes, furniture or floor. And while shedding is an annoyance for humans, it can cause medical emergencies for the cat.
When a cat removes dead coat by licking their body, the coat is digested. Digested coat has three options: First it can be regurgitated as a “hairball;” second, the ingested coat is passed through the digestive system and will be noticeable in the fecal matter; and the last outcome is for the coat to cause an internal blockage. And this can result in a medical emergency. If cats with full blockages due to ingesting coat do not have surgery, they will die. While the family cannot see the blockage forming, this problem can be expensive and deadly.
Also keep in mind that if any of the dead coat is trapped in the living coat, or if all of the dead coat from one shedding episode is not removed, issues like matting and pelting tend to begin. This is the point where professional help will be needed.
The Groomer’s Role
As groomers, we have several ways to help these families. While nothing will stop the natural process of dropping dead coat, there are options to control shedding.
The first option is obviously a lion cut. Lion cuts are great for families that want to wait over 10 weeks between professional grooming appointments. A four-to-six week lion cut schedule seems to give peace of mind to the families that have had multiple blockages surgically removed. When performing a lion cut to prevent shedding, make sure the family understands that even a cat with a lion cut will shed due to the natural growth cycle of the hair follicle.
A regularly scheduled, full-coat groom will also manage the amount of dead coat found around the home and that is being ingested by the cat. Depending on the genetics of the cat, this could be as often as every two weeks to as long as every ten weeks. Breeds and mixes with short, dense, fine coats, like some short-hair exotics, might only be able to go two weeks between grooms for optimal shed control. Other short-hair breeds or mixes with less dense and courser coats might be able to make it ten weeks before shedding becomes a problem.
Sometimes there can be confusion on what is meant by a “full-coat groom.” I am referring to a comb-out followed by a water bath with two complete shampooings, then the use of a force dryer until the coat is completely dry, concluding with a full comb-out. This is the minimum that is needed to control shedding.
In my business, de-shed services are on top of the full-coat groom. My de-shed add-on is a suction de-shed service. I like to show my clients the value by taking a picture of their cat and the pile of coat I comb out on one side and the pile of coat I vacuum off on the other. This promotes the de-shed add-on and encourages clients to request the service at every appointment.
The topic of shedding can be very confusing for everyone. Once you understand the basics, you can be better prepared to educate your clients and help them make the best choice for their family and the cat they love. ✂️