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  The Winter Problem
- Static Electricity and How to Rein It In

We've all experienced it at one point or another : You reach down to pet your cat and suddenly a jolt hits your hand and the fur seems to have a life of its' own - standing straight out in places and lying flat in others.

Or... 2 hours after giving your cat a through bath and dring it carefully the coat is splitting and lying in "chunks" along the cats' body, giving the impression that it hasn't had a bath for weeks. Not only that, but every little piece of dust you have in your home seems to gravitate towards the coat. Aargh!!



Part 1 - WHAT'S HAPPENING?

The reason for this affliction is simple - the individual hairs of the coat rub against eachother constantly, building up a "charge" of static electricity, and the dryer the cat the stronger the charge. Maybe you'll remember how back in the old days before electricity was "tamed", rubbing a catskin was used to build up a charge for experiements. Maybe you even did this yourself as a child for a prank :-).

The coat of a cat is more prone to build up a static charge when certain conditions are met. More specifically, when the surroung air is very dry and sucks moisture out of the coat or the coat is very dry for some other reason. Typically this can occur when :

  1. ... its cold outside (below freezing).
  2. ... you use central heating
  3. ... you walk in socks on carpets, building electricity yourself
  4. ... the CAT walks on certain types of wall to wall carpeting
  5. ... you're in large halls with airconditioning

... and several other situations, but these are the most common.



Part 2 - WHAT CAN BE DONE?

The most efficient remedy would be to remove whatever is making the cat dry in the first place, but this is normally not a feasible option. Taking the central heating away in the dead of winter is likely to cause more serious problems for both you and your cats than a dry coat.

As we have already establishied that much (though not all - we'll get to that later) static is caused by a very dry coat, it follows that the first step in fighting it is to make the coat... well, NOT dry :)



Anti-static Sprays:

There's a multitude of commercial anti-static sprays available from your local pet store or any of the mail order or internet stores. These are handy for short term use or when the cat is exposed to an electricity enhancing enviroment for a limited time, such as in the show hall, but nowhere near enough for a cat with a bad case of static at home.

Also, several of these products will leave a thin coating on the fur (silicone) which gives it a nice sheen but is not particullairily healthy.

Verdict : Not recommended for long term use but excellent for special situations.



"Normal" Conditioners:

A better way of loosing those unwanted sparks is to be generous when conditioning the cat after the bath. As the conditioners replenish fats to the skin and fur to some degree it has a positive, if rather short-lived effect. If you allow the conditioner to sit in the fur for 10 minutes or more you will get a better effect then a shorter soak will allow.

Downsides with this method is that the effect is not very long-lasting (a few days at most) and that the coat may look a bit fatty if you are not VERY careful while rinsing.

Verdict : Better than the sprays and a decent method if you're in a hurry.



Put the cat in oil:

No, it's not as bad as it sounds. To "put cat in oil" is a term for a treatment with concentrated cream conditioner (CCC) which spans several days, sometimes up to a week.

Commonly used by dog owners of the smaller and silky-haired breeds (shi-tsu, lhasa-apsu, american cocker spaniel etc) This is quickly catching on in the cat fancy as well, and with good cause. Putting your cat in OIL is THE way for silky soft coat and, more intresting for this article. static free!

Verdict : The very best method, though a bit time-consuming. Instructions here.



Part 3 - HOW TOs

Anti-static Sprays:
This one, along with option 2, are really easy. The only thing to remember when using a spray in a cats' coat is to never spray directly on the coat as this will concentrate the spray to one point and often makes the coat shabby-looking and heavy.

Instead, take a good quality natural hair brush, such as the Mason Pearson pocket-size, and spray on the bristles of the brush. Then carefully brush the spray inte the coat.
NOTE : The coat must be absolutely dry when you do this, else using a bristle-brush will damage the hairs.

"Normal" Conditioners:
Use the conditioner during a bath the same way you would on your own hair, carefully rub it into the coat and leave on for 2 - 3 minutes. It is much more important to get the tips of the coat saturated with conditioner than it is to reach all the way in.

The the one thing to remember is to use a mild shampoo once AFTER the conditioner. Failing to do so makes it more likely that you've left some remains of the conditioner in the coat, leaving it slightly fatty-looking and heavy.

Put the cat in oil:
Now we come to a slightly tricker one. Oiling your cat doesn't really take that long, but for best effect the cream should stay in the fur for several days during which time you have to watch the cats carefully so that the coat doesn't knot up

There are two ways of getting the cream into the coat - dipping and spraying. Personally I am partial to the second method as I feel you get the best covering of every hair that way.

I have created a special step-by-step page on oiling your cat, you can find it here.



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