Static Electricity In A Cat’s Fur

Static Electricity

Static Electricity. Photo by Sam Bald

When we groom, stroke or pet our cat we can add static electricity to the cat’s coat and to ourselves resulting in a static electricity shock. This is very uncomfortable for the cats and the person. It can be a problem and ways to deal with static electricity on a cat are searched for on the internet.

What is static electricity? A lot of people experience it if they have one of those fleece type garments. If you take it off over your head, you hair stands on end as it becomes charged by static electricity.  Static electricity is the build up of electrical charges on surface of a material or object. It is created when certain materials and/or objects are rubbed together, which causes electrons to be transferred from one surface to the other leaving one surface with an excess of positive charges and the other an excess of negative charges.

It can cause objects to stick together because opposing charges are attracted to each other…..

Static electricity in a cat’s fur is more likely to build up in cold climates. This is because cold air is less humid and water prevents the build up of static electricity. It is the reason why one veterinarian recommends dampening or moistening the brush before grooming a cat².

There are cases of a cat’s coat being so heavily charged with static electricity that the cat’s caretaker cannot stroke her cat because sparks fly and there might be “crackling around the ears!”¹  This will be very uncomfortable for the cat and distressing for the cat’s caretaker because it prevents her stroking her cat. I would suggest too that there is a similar charge on the person.

I am going speculate and suggest that if there is a genuine problem with a high charge of static electricity on a cat’s coat it is likely to be due to very dry air in the home, which in turn is due to cold, dry climatic conditions. I would doubt if many people in the UK have had to deal with this problem, which can be a genuinely distressing for both cat and owner.

How to prevent static build up on a cat?

There are several solutions:

  1. Make the air in the home less dry by using a humidifier. You can buy them anywhere. A person may not want to treat the whole home, preferring to treat the cat only.
  2. Dampening the hands before petting a cat may work.
  3. If the person touches something before stroking her cat it may earth her body and discharge the static on her body which will prevent the static electrical connection when she touches her cat. Both cat and person are charged. In that case a cat owner should ensure that her clothes don’t contain a static electricity charge….
  4. An unusual solution is to place a Bounce dryer sheet on the cat before petting her. Bounce is a brand name for a product you place in a tumble dryer to prevent static build up on clothes. There are other manufacturers. Apparently this discharges the static electricity on the cat’s coat. However, I am not sure about this remedy because there may be chemicals in the sheet which may get on the coat and which in turn may be ingested by the cat when grooming himself. However, perfume and dye free Bounce sheets are available.
  5. A temporary solution to the problem is to wipe your cat with a cat bath wipe before stroking your cat. These are designed to clean a cat’s fur and at the same time helps prevent an allergic reaction to a cat by removing some of the Fel D1 allergen in the coat while also dampening the coat slightly thereby preventing the discharge of static electricity. A Google search for “cat wipes for static” will bring up a list of examples. I’d use these with some caution. Are there chemicals in the wipe?
  6. Another possibility is to wipe the cat’s fur with an unscented baby wipe before stroking. This product is apparently safe for a cat but as always a quick chat with your veterinarian is probably advisable.
  7. One other suggestion is to try and minimise the static charge on the clothes of the cat’s caretaker. Fleece products are more easily charged because of the nature of the synthetic material used.

Refs:

  1. One Yahoo Answers questioner seeking help.
  2. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook page 120

 


Comments

Static Electricity In A Cat’s Fur — 10 Comments

  1. This is a big problem where I live. It is so dry. Discharging the static electricity is usually the quickest solution. Honestly, the cats seem to expect it. I am also careful where (which part of their body) I touch them first. No nose bobbing. I shouldn’t call it bopping. It is actually a gentle touch. It is the only way I get to touch Yellow. Marvin is always full of static electricity when I first see him. Together, we discharge it and commence with the petting. Bigfoot is so delicate these days, I’m very careful. Shadow never seems charged.

    I don’t like or recommend the bounce sheets. I couldn’t bare the smell on the cats, though there are up scented sheets I assume. I wouldn’t recommend it just on principle.

    Using a damp brush is a good suggestion. I’ll try it. Damp hands too. They love to be petted with damp warm hands.

    • Me too Dorothy – especially with Molly who is so fluffy. She leads me into the bathroom and jumps in the empty bath tub for cuddles and its extra bad there I think because of the metal of the tub. It makes us both jump and sometimes she runs off.

      I’ll have to get a humidifier – that’s a nice thing to have anyway – its so cold here in winter that the heating causes it to be so dry.

      Marvin is so charged up because he rolls around on the carpet and couch so much I’ll bet ya :)

      • You are right about Marvin. He is a charged up guy. But a toughie, sort of Macho..no electrical charge is going to make him jump and run.

      • I hate that when you are petting a cat and then there is a static discharge you did not intend on his ear.

        Not much static here yet. It’s still quite damp out, not that cold yet, and we don’t run our heat very much anyway. In the middle of winter the static will get quite bad. I hate shopping at the grocery store in the middle of winter. Everything I touch I get a shock. It just becomes torture. I hate that. Around that same time of year I can hardly pet or hold Monty at all because it’s just zap, zap, zap with the static. Since we don’t use our heat very much it doesn’t get really, really dry that like in our house unless the temperature dips below zero usually.

        When we work fireworks shows we are trained not to slide any boxes of product because of the chance of a static charge building up, discharging and igniting the shells. Remote chance, but you follow the rule. Usually, we do that in the humid summer so it seems like overkill to avoid sliding any box. But for winter shows it’s a huge issue and very dangerous. There is a lot more static. I guess if it snows it’s super dangerous. I have never worked a winter show.

        When I helped my cousin move I got all excited because I could slide boxes. I’m so used to handling heavy boxes of fireworks and having to lift, not slide everything that I was just excited to be able to slide their heavy moving boxes.

        Their dog took their move in stride. It’s like she didn’t really care. I don’t think there are many cats who would be so nonchalant about such upheaval.

    • I had no idea, DW, that you have such a problem with static electricity where you live. We don’t get static here in damp old London. Never had to think about it.

      You obviously cope very well with it. We agree that is all about the climate.

      • Mumbai where i live is humid. India is a sub-continent that has all the World’s climatic regions in a single Country. Kashmir ,North India and Ooty in South India is akin to Europe in climate, especially Kashmir.In Rajasthan and parts of Gujarat it is Desert Climate, hot.As for beaches, Goa and Kerala are famous for beaches.A cats life would differ in different city’s and climatic regions of India.

        • I think animals, like people, get accustomed to the local climate. I couldn’t handle the heat in India, I know that. Monty would have a hard time with it too. I often think he would enjoy a beach, but I have never taken him. He does have a fascination with water.

          I wonder how cats from India would react to snow and even a mildly chilly Wisconsin day like today, which Monty enjoyed very much. People are doing these pet adoptions from entirely different areas of the country now and that has got to be stressful for the cats to suddenly arrive in an entirely different climate. But at least they have a home. My cousin’s dog (mentioned above) moved with her family from the Arizona desert and has adjusted well to the cooler climate. In some ways better than her humans, I think.

  2. I don’t like the idea of using dryer sheets on your cat. I avoid using them because I read that they can cause your clothing to be more flammable. That sounds dangerous. I don’t think I want a flammable cat. Plus the fact that the chemicals in the sheet could be poisonous.

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