Friday, 2 September 2011

Grooming the Norwegian Forest Cat

Norwegian Forest Cats have coats that are specially adapted for the harsh weather conditions of Scandinavia. The coat consists of a glossy waterproof topcoat with long guard hairs over a woolly undercoat that acts a bit like a duvet. There is a lot of oil in the coat, which helps with weatherproofing and also stops knots from forming.

Each spring their undercoat is moulted within just a couple of weeks, so that the guard hairs lie close to the body. At that time of year it is helpful to comb the cat daily to get rid of the excess hair, which comes out in cotton-wool-like lumps, but at other times a comb-through just once a week should keep a good quality coat healthy and well groomed.

Pet owners do not need to spend much time grooming their Norwegian Forest Cat. Apart from the occasional combing, Wegies are prone to stud tail (greasiness half way down the tail) and it’s wise to wash the tail separately using washing up liquid and plenty of warm running water to wash away the suds, but there should be no need to wash the remainder of the coat regularly.

Having said that I always get kittens used to bathing as a “fun” experience for whatever role they are destined. This is because you never know if at some point in the future a bath might be a real lifesaver - for instance if the cat got something poisonous on its coat. At that time you’d be so glad if the cat didn’t panic and struggle but allowed you to get rid of the offending substance! So when the kitten is a few months old, as part of a game play splashing around in a bath with toys and get them used to getting wet and then dried with a towel. Some people use hairdryers to finish off their cats’ fur before a show but I find keeping them in a really warm room, perhaps with a blow heater and a feline friend to help, is most effective and least worrying for them.

Grand Premier Vieuxtemps Maja Gradnos prepared for a cat show
(Photo by Alan Robinson)

Maja a few moments after returning home from the show -
thoughts now turned to hunting rodents rather than trophies!

For show cats it is another matter. Really the show preparation depends on the individual cat and its colour. Wegies come in nearly all colours, and very commonly have white paws at least. In this case they will need to have their paws washed the day before the show. In addition, if they have a greasy coat they should be bathed a few days before the show – it is difficult to generalise as some coats take a few days to settle down. On average you need to bathe a show cat a week before the show and then wash the feet the night before as well as clipping the claws and cleaning the inside of the ears. Pure white cats often have to be bathed just a day or two before the show but their coats settle better if it is done earlier – it’s a compromise between sparkling cleanliness and allowing some oil and gloss to come back into the coat. It is best to use a good quality shampoo made especially for cats, and is very important to thoroughly rinse it all out as anything on a cat’s coat will be swallowed by that cat. Thus I personally do not recommend powdering the coat either, as this too will be swallowed which cannot be good. However at times you can use a little powder behind the ears if the coat doesn’t need washing but this spot is frequently somewhat over-oily. And you can easily buy white chalk or magnesium blocks which can be applied to the area near the back feet on cats with white legs, to get rid of any trace of yellowing that the bath hasn’t managed to cleanse. The powder or chalk should not be applied actually in the show hall – but ideally just before leaving home.

Whatever methods you use, the end result should be a cat that looks sparkling clean yet natural. We do not want our Norwegian Forest Cats to look fluffy like Persians. There should be enough shine left on the coat to suggest the waterproofing that is such an important feature of the breed. And perhaps the single most important thing to help give this healthy gloss is a good balanced diet, with premium dry foods combined with some fresh meat, day old chicks or a little oily fish from time to time.

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