Are Cat Haircuts a Good Idea?
Cat haircuts are a controversial subject for many reasons. Different groomers offer options to cut, trim or even shave your cat into various styles. Some people think this is a fun way to enjoy living with a cat as a pet or can help protect cats against adverse environmental conditions. Others see it as unnecessary and even cruel. If we are considering cutting our cat's hair, it is important to take into account the effect removing their hair will have on both their physical and mental well-being.
At AnimalWised, we ask are cat haircuts a good idea? We look why guardians might cut a cat's hair and whether these are appropriate reasons. We also explain the process of how to cut a cat's hair when it is needed.
Are haircuts bad for cats?
Cats have a very particular relationship to their coats. Maintaining their fur's hygiene is something which occupies much of their time throughout the day. It is not because cats are vain, but because this maintenance provides many benefits to their physical and emotional health.
Haircuts for cats are more commonly seen in longhaired cat breeds. This is often the case in places with warmer climates as many caregivers think that cutting a cat's hair will help them to stay cool. However, this is not completely accurate. A cat's hair does provide insulation when it is cold, but it also helps regulate temperature when it is warm. This is due to the creation of air pockets inside which resist heat absorption.
When we cut a cat's hair, they can lose this ability to thermoregulate. This is especially the case if the hair is shaved down to the skin. Cat haircuts also remove the protection they have from various elements in their environment. By removing the har, they are more susceptible to sun damage, being scratched by branches, having less protection when confronting another animal and more.
Licking their own hair and the hair of others is also an emotional experience. They use self-grooming to calm down when they are stressed, something which can be compulsive if the cat overgrooms. In the majority of cases, it helps the cat to relax and they often do it before a nap. They will also lick each other's coats to strengthen their bond, show affection and help others feel calm. It is the same reason cats lick us.
Despite all of these factors, there are some cases when cutting a cat's hair is a good idea. These should only be when they are more beneficial than detrimental. Some longhaired cats can have problems with ingesting hair when they groom themselves. This can lead to the appearance of trichobezoars (otherwise known as hairballs in cats). These cats may need trimmed to help prevent the formation of gastrointestinal obstruction.
If a cat is suffering from heat stroke in a very hot climate, their natural thermoregulation may not function adequately. In these rare cases, a cat haircut may be a good idea. It may be beneficial to remove some hair to take away some of their insulation. Also, some cats may be prone to tangles and their vision can be obstructed by longhair. In this case, trimming their coat in certain places may be helpful.
Can you shave a cat?
As we can see, there are different ways to cut a cat's hair. In most cases, the benefits described above can be provided by trimming their coat. How much or how little needs to be removed depends on the individual cat and the reason for the grooming.
Generally speaking, we should never shave a cat. Although some hair may be removed in very hot weather, shaving provides greater risk for skin damage and removes natural protection which aids the cat in various ways. Moreover, a cat's coat was not designed to be shaved. When they dense undercoat grows back, it can do so unevenly and promote issues such as ingrown hairs.
A veterinarian is the only one who should shave a cat. They will do so for various medical reasons. For example, if the cat has a severe fungal infection or parasitical infestation, shaving the hair might be necessary to remove pathogens. They will also shave parts of their coat when performing invasive surgeries such as spaying female cats.
Some guardians like to shave their cats into cuts which trend on social media. These include lion cuts and dinosaur cuts. Although they can often look humorous, they are not advised for cats because their require shaving significant portions of their coat. The act of grooming itself can be very stressful for many cats, but having such an unnatural look can also cause problems for the cat.
If we think our cat needs a haircut, we should speak to our veterinarian. Generally speaking, it is best to leave the cat with their natural coat. We will need to help maintain their coat with regular brushing and the occasional bath if their hygiene is poor. However, if a cat does need a hair cut, the majority of cases will only require a trim and shaving to the skin should be avoided.
How long does it take for a cat's hair to grow back?
When considering cat haircuts, it is normal for us to wonder whether their hair will grow back again. Fortunately, in most cases, this will be the case. How long it takes for cat hair to grow back is variable as it depends on several factors.
While there are cats whose hair grows surprisingly fast, others can take longer. This time will also depend on their original hair length. Shorthaired cats will take less time to reach their original length than longhaired cats. Diet can also influence their rate of hair growth, as can the cat's general state of health. A cat which has an immune system compromised by disease or by lack of nutrition will not grow their hair back as fast.
As stated above, shaving a cat can cause a cat's hair to grow improperly. You may notice your cat's hair is a different color and texture when it grows back, but it should eventually be restored to how it was before. Some unfortunate cats may have more permanent changes to their coat, although it is not true that it will come back thicker the more you cut it.
Generally speaking it should take between 1-2 months for a cat's coat to grow back. This can be longer or shorter, depending on the aforementioned factors. Learn about this process in more detail with our article on why my cat's hair isn't growing back.
When can a cat get a haircut?
Cats can have their hair cut when they are capable of thermoregulation. This generally occurs from the first 3 or 4 weeks of life. If they are a cat which requires regular haircuts, we will need to ensure we minimize any possible trauma they may experience during grooming.
Since cats are sensitive animals, they can find being groomed to be an unpleasant experience. They can find getting a haircut to be confusing as it does not represent a natural occurrence. The tools used to groom the cat and even the foreignness of the grooming space can all lead the cat to become disturbed. How much disturbance is caused will depend on the individual cat.
Shaving a cat can be particularly stressful. Not only is there a disconcerting noise from the clippers, but the sensation against their skin can be very discomfiting. To avoid stress when grooming a cat, you will need to reassure them. Help them to become used to the equipment before you go the groomer, use positive reinforcement to encourage them and do not force them.
In some cases, goring to the groomers will be too much for them. It might be possible for a groomer to come to the home and cut the cat's hair, if necessary.
Learn more with our article on reasons why your cat is stressed.
How to cut a cat's hair
If you have spoken to a trusted veterinarian and decided that your cat needs a haircut, there are three main options from which you can choose. They are the following:
Cat haircuts at home
If you choose to cut your cat's hair at home, you should know that you need a large space. You will also need to dedicate enough time to carry it out properly. You will need to start by bathing the cat with appropriate products and coming their coat to remove any dead hair as it dries.
After you have brushed and detangled the cat's hair, you should trim the areas you need with scissors. Shaving a cat with electric hair clippers should not be done at home unless you have experience. There are various areas of the cat's body which are very sensitive and can be seriously damaged if we clip them. These areas include their private parts, their face and their paws. Since a cat can get nervous and will likely resist if you try to clip their hair, you should not do it on your own, if you need to do it at all.
Cat haircuts at the vet
Since you should check with your veterinarian whether to cut a cat's hair, you can take advantage of visit and enquire about getting their hair cut at the clinic. Veterinarians are not groomers and may refuse non-essential haircuts, but they will be able to advise on the best course of action.
If the cat needs a haircut and is unable to be in a groomer without reacting badly, they may need to be sedated. This is something which can be done at the veterinary office. They may need to organize a groomer to come in to perform the necessary cutting, but they may also be able to do it themselves.
Cat haircuts at the groomer
A feline groomer should have the right training and experience to cut a cat's hair. There is a lot of different considerations to make and only someone who knows what they are doing can make them correctly. They should be specialized in every aspect of the grooming process, knowing what tools and products to use, as well as having the right temperament to keep the cat calm.
If your cat needs a haircut, it is best to have it done at the groomer. They will also be able to advise you on what is best for the cat.
Learn more about taking care of your cat's coat with our article on the best tips to brush a cat.
If you want to read similar articles to Are Cat Haircuts a Good Idea?, we recommend you visit our Fur care category.