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.
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:
- 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.
- Dampening the hands before petting a cat may work.
- 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….
- 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. Update: March 2015 – dryer sheets are dangerous to cats so please don’t use them in any way even on your hands. Small amounts of the chemicals in them can harm a cat. Personally, I’d avoid them altogether.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- One Yahoo Answers questioner seeking help.
- Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook page 120