Grooming very obese cats has a different set of concerns than grooming healthy-weight or underweight felines. These are the kitties that look like they have a head and feet stuck on a ball.
And they tend to be over 28 pounds on a body that should carry 10 to 12 pounds. Owners of the extremely overweight kitties tend to either be sensitive about their cat’s weight or handle the disproportional size as a joke.
I usually find that these felines are overfed low-quality food. They are more likely to be fed the cat food that was on sale. Inconsistency with the brand and choosing a lower-quality food both lead to stomach issues. It is not uncommon for these cats to have chronic loose stools which contribute to coat problems. Cats on a lower-quality diet also tend to be greasier than cats on a higher-quality diet. Pelting is common for these overweight cats due to the lack of activity and condition of the skin.
When discussing diet and household changes with the owner of an obese cat, it is important you refer these clients to their veterinarian. The last thing we want for these kitties is a sudden and drastic reduction in available food or being over exercised through playtime. If the owners are serious about addressing the weight of their cat, they need a written plan by their veterinarian that assures the cat is getting the calories and nutrients they need to lose weight at a safe rate.
They will also need support. Any cat that has their routine disrupted has the potential for behavioral changes. Changing the type or amount of food a feline is given tends to quickly trigger complaints and stubbornness. While some cats will stand at their food bowl and scream until the owners give in, others will cause destruction. Helping the cat lose weight will not be a quick or easy task. As the cat’s groomer, you can be the owner’s support during the process.
While many owners want their cat groomed before they go to the veterinarian to prevent further embarrassment, it is very important the cat sees the veterinarian before your grooming session. The greater body weight will place more pressure and demand on the heart and lungs, making this type of feline more prone to fatal, undiagnosed health conditions. It is important the cat is healthy enough to survive the grooming process. A great tip is to ask the owner to have the veterinarian check for ingrown nails at this appointment. This can prevent an additional referral for medical care from the groomer.
These very large cats tend to have pelting and fecal matter in their coats. Pelt removals are much easier on these types of cats because their skin is held tight due to their weight. If the cat is aggressive, it is much easier to stay out of the bite zone due to the cat’s limited mobility. The ease of working with this type of cat stops there. Obese cats tend to have limited mobility which makes accessing the area between their legs and body more difficult. These kitties also have had limited physical activity for an extended period making a pelt removal exhausting for the feline. Limited mobility combined with limited physical activity increases the likelihood that a pelt removal with water bath may need to be done in multiple sessions.
Positioning these cats for grooming can be challenging, especially for those groomers who groom in their lap. Many of these cats lie on their side to keep as much additional pressure off their internal organs as possible. Doing as much of the grooming as achievable in the cat’s natural, preferred position on a flat surface is the best strategy. Lying these cats on their back has the potential to be dangerous. The extra weight quickly presses on their lungs causing breathing issues. It is important to watch for panting and irregular breathing with these kitties. Any time the breathing rate cannot be immediately returned to normal, it is time to stop the groom.
My grooming strategy for these kitties is to perform a pelt removal with full water bath. This may take more than one visit. After that, I then schedule an appointment at four weeks. Owners may be a bit surprised at a four-week appointment. To calm the family, I tell the owners I am going to schedule the appointment as a bath, but if kitty does not need a bath, I will do a nail trim and a brush-out for free. Unfortunately, this type of cat always needs a full water bath at four weeks. Most of these felines have chronic diarrhea, and the others have skin issues due to poor nutrition.
At that second appointment, I show the owner why the kitty needs a full bath and nail trim. Then I ask the owner about changes they have observed after their first groom. If the feline was “stinky” at check-in, I suggest we try three weeks for the next bath. Keeping the very obese cats on a three-to-five-week water bath, sani and nail trim schedule seems to work best to keep the fecal matter from building up in the coat.
I have found giving these families a “second Tuesday” or “last Thursday” of the month regular appointment helps them stick to the schedule. And while these cats are bigger and heavier which causes more strain on my body, I do have a special package that gets these families a lower price if they commit to a regular three-to-five-week schedule.
Grooming the very obese kitties can be extremely challenging. Their size not only adds additional stress on the groomer’s body, but also internal pressure on the feline’s lungs and heart. It is important to have a required veterinarian check before grooming this type of cat. And during the groom, always make sure obese cats are comfortable and breathing correctly. Caution needs to be taken when making any suggestions about the feline’s diet or changes in routine. ✂️