Grooming Competitions: Cats Are Different To Dogs

America has just had its Intergroom International Grooming Conference in New Jersey, USA. A Photographer, Paul Nathan, was there photographing the contestants. Professional grooming competitions like this take cat and dog grooming to new heights or lows depending upon your point of view.

Dog groomed to competition standard
Dog groomed to competition standard
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

I can understand competitive dog grooming – just. However, I do not believe that cat grooming for competitions is appropriate, in general. Some cats may enjoy it but I don’t think that grooming a cat in intricate detail, which requires the cat to be extremely still is going to work. I don’t believe it is practical and I wonder how the groomers manage it.

Cat groomed for competition -- lion cut. Looks like a Persian or Exotic SH.
Cat groomed for competition — lion cut. Looks like a Persian or Exotic SH.

The only way that I can see that a groomer can groom a cat to a sufficient standard to be in the competition would be to tranquillize her cat, at least to a certain extent, so that he or she keeps still. Grooming at this level must take hours of work.

In contrast, grooming a dog is different because a dog wants the attention. I’m not saying that grooming a dog to competition levels, with extreme grooming techniques, is acceptable. I’m just saying that it is more acceptable to a dog than to a cat. I suppose that is obvious.

Understandably, creative grooming to competition level of companion animals has been criticized. Competition tends to force competitors to go extremes to make their pets stand out and you will see some very extreme efforts. People do complain about it and, I suspect that I would be one of them. However, there is no doubt that the pet owners love their cats and dogs with deep affection and it would seem that the majority of dogs accept being groomed in minute detail, with intricate styling, because they are receiving lots of human attention. The attention element is certainly a positive and a bonus in what otherwise would have to be called exploitation.

Critics of competition dog and cat grooming would say that the dogs and cats are being used for the entertainment of the owner. The owner is receiving enjoyment from the whole process through their dog or cat. The dog or cat is a vehicle to that enjoyment. The competition element is about people, of course. For the companion animal competition is pointless.

For me, there is another reason why competition grooming of dogs is more acceptable than for cats. I am informed that even the most ostentatious grooming styles can be traced back to functional reasons. A good example is the poodle. Poodles were used as hunting dogs, even though that is hard to believe today. Their fur would have been closely cropped to help them move through water and negotiate dense undergrowth etc.. Their fur was less closely cropped at joints which needed to be kept warm. So the powderpuff bracelets on their fore and hind legs are rooted in a working dog history. In a way, that at least partially justifies grooming dogs to competition level. Although, as I hate hunting so this does nothing for me, personally.

Paul Nathan, the photographer, says that:

“I think in a lot of ways these dogs are compatible to child actors. You can’t just force the dog to do that”.

Well we know that child actors can be exploited in the same way, so I don’t think that is a particularly supportive statement to make. However, Nathan makes an interesting point. He queries the possibility that a cat or dog’s personality may change with the change in appearance. He says:

“… How much of the dog’s character is present once the groomers have done their stuff?”

He says that top groomers understand that their styling should reflect the animal’s character. So the groomers should understand the companion animal’s character before they embark on their grooming creation.

What are my conclusions in respect of dog and cat competitive grooming? Well, being the sort of person who likes naturalness, I don’t like it but I can understand it and I don’t want to be too critical. Therefore, although there is an element of exploitation in the process, I think in respect of dogs it is probably or possibly just about acceptable but with regard to cats I do not think that it can ever be in the best interests of an individual cat’s welfare to put him or her through this experience.

22 thoughts on “Grooming Competitions: Cats Are Different To Dogs”

  1. He wasn’t a “Spynx,” in any way, shape nor form, nor genetically. 😉 Michael is a grey silver-striped tabby with green eyes and the most inquisitive disposition that I have ever encountered. He is the one who carried floppy disks upstairs at Orchard Street and pushed them under my bedroom door when he couldn’t get in because he was too late to bed (being the little knucklehead that he was–he never got tired of us chasing each other around the house on every floor, and he would always, always outlast me).

  2. Michael, from my understanding of the cat grooming left to the vet techs in the U.S., it is usually done under anaesthesia. at their whim. And then, left to the unfore told client to pick up and pay. 😉 I know. My Makita, tortie blue-pt himmie woke up, as did I, to discover such a prank. Must be fun, to be a tech egged on by a trusted vet to perform such a prank…[I am having less and less trust in Dr Rebecca Arnold of All-Feline, after having taking in Shrimp two wks ago, to not even see a veterinarian in her All-Hell-bent-loose practice, but to have a tech [that I asked to show me the most expertise way to administer a liquid suspension of doxycycline down his throat, and she had no objective other than to throw it onto his tongue, only to have him send endless ropes of saliva and antibiotic onto the exam table and onto my legs and top, then telling me that he was just fine. Shrimp then jumped into his carrier which he has never done in his LIFE, Michael, Ruth, Babz, Hartwell. Never. Now how do you explain that, when I have to give him the same f syringe of 1cc, 1ml every twelve hrs.? Let alone, the fact that I have to f TELL my housemate to quit smoking in
    THE HOUSE! hmmm? while he is watching me give shrimpster his asthma med and his pneumonia syringe? Sorry. this IS an issue for me. ongoing for two wks now, and much longer for Shrimp, Luna’s sib.

    • I had my former lady cat professionally groomed once to remove mats in her hair and I will never do it again because I am convinced to this day that they mistreated her. I am not sure how they did it but if she was not anaesthetised then they probably used force which can traumatise a cat.

      Are you saying that your cat has asthma and that your flatmate smokes? Cats, like people, can be forced to passively smoke and it carries health risks as I know you are aware.

      • That was laid out a little too quickly, wasn’t it. [sorry!] Yes, my flatmate smokes strong tobacco in the small house. I smoke too, though not as much. I sit outside, away from Shrimpie. Always have. This has been ongoing for years, and I have reminded him as often as I dare, that my little Shrimp has upper and lower resp problems. And just as my intuition told me, an infection in his lungs AND asthma. Apparently laziness wins out over conviction. He loves cats (or at least, I thought he did) as much as I do. No, I do not truly believe that he does. Otherwise, why would laziness, aka, lack of motivation, take precedence over moral fortitude? We all have known about secondhand smoke for decades now. Caught him smoking in his bedroom, (while cleaning the kitchen, twenty feet away) after promising me five days ago, he would not smoke in the house again for Shrimp’s sake. I’m sorry to make this public, Michael; and yet, I feel that it needs to be so. I feel that there are many caring souls out there who may be ignorant of just how this smoke can affect their pets and other loved ones.

        • That was brave of you to mention what you have mentioned. Perhaps I was a bit too quick but when you mentioned asthma and smoking I felt I had to make a reference to passive smoking just in case you had not heard of it (which was unlikely because you are a well informed cat caretaker).

          It looks as though you take precautions to keep the smoke away from your cat, which is what I would expect of course. I’m not sure how effective the precautions are, however.

          • Michael, you know how much I appreciate your feedback, as well as all feedback on your site. Thanks. 🙂 My frustration with the situation has been mounting tenfold since we took Shrimp to to my vet. From all angles. Especially his. If you really want honesty, which we all do, here it is: Shrimp is attached to my hip, as I am, his. I used to believe in honoring the ancient Egyptian way of having your beloved companion interred with you. Now, I merely hope to stay alive for his sake! lol. 😉

            • Nice comment, Caroline. Your relationship with Shrimp is a bit like mine with Charlie. It is possible to become very close to a cat if you live alone with your cat and interact with him all the time.

          • I do not even rub my cat’s left side on his chin, up to his eye, without washing my hands with a diluted hypoallergenic soap solution 3x. MY nose is so sensitive; I cannot imagine what his must be like. 🙂

            • And I do not use my left hand, my smoking hand, ever. Thirdhand smoke is also pervasive. [I’ll stop commenting, for now.]

            • I am surprised that you wash your hands with their diluted hypoallergenic soap 3 times after you have rubbed the left side of your cat’s chin. Do you really mean that? It’s because you are slightly allergic to him. Is that correct. Sorry if I have forgotten.

  3. Having owned both cats and dogs there is one thing that differentiates the two, cats just hate grooming.Dogs love to be brushed with a soft felt or comb but never a cat. This is the experience i have had with my cats.The “Persian Cat” shown with the “Lion-cut fur style” was definitely done under Anesthesia or some other procedure.At most a cat could be lightly brushed with a comb, nothing more as they get irritated and become aggressive and might scratch or bite.My tom cat “Matata” has some parts of his thick fur matted into fur balls which i just can’t shear off as he turns aggressive.The warm humid climate of Mumbai is not suitable for his fur and he regularly gets “Fur Knots”.

    • I think you’re right that there is a big difference between cats and dogs when it comes to grooming. Charlie, my cat doesn’t mind me combing him with a flea comb all over his body but you can’t do it for that long and you’ve got to be careful how you do it really, otherwise he gets a bit twitchy. The amount of time that it must take to create these sculptures out of cat fur must make it impossible unless the cat is in some way tranquillised. That being the case, it makes it even more unacceptable.

      We agree, that although the extreme grooming on dogs looks ridiculous (to me) at least a dog will probably like the attention.

      One other aspect is the colouring of the fur. I presume they use some sort of vegetable dye or some sort of totally safe colouring but I would like to know what it is. I’d like to know whether it washes out properly and that sort of thing.

    • I knew you would hate it. That was a certainty! 😉 That said, I don’t like it either but I was quite gentle in the article. The dog or cat are really vehicles or a medium through which the owner can gain some satisfaction but what does the dog or cat gain from all of this?

    • You thought you might like it a bit 😉 What shocks me little bit about it is how extreme it all gets with these very intricate designs presumably carved out of the dog’s fur. I have been deliberately gentle in not criticising people in the article, or not that heavily, but when you think about it, it is a bit bizarre and a very self-indulgent pastime. The prizes can apparently can get up to $1500, so there is some money at stake which can only feed bad behaviour 😉 !


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