Grooming tips for a Best-in-Show coat, from a seasoned cat show champ
New Brunswick’s Kim Langille shares her secrets to keeping cats show-circuit ready
The old "cats can give themselves a bath" theory doesn't quite cut it when it comes to being best in show. Canada's cat show circuit is full of some of the fanciest felines around, and to keep those coats looking extra fluffy, there's a lot of regimented behind-the-scenes primping that goes into keeping them that way. The new CBC documentary, Catwalk: Tales From The Cat Show Circuit (which premieres on April 1) delves into the competitive pursuit for #1 Best Cat, and all the hairballs that fly along the way. New Brunswick's Kim Langille believes "every cat with a known family tree should have the chance to become a champion." She's embraced that motto to go on to win (along with her award-winning kitties of course) a ton of top awards across the country. And since this whole show biz boils down to a beauty pageant, having the fluffiest feline around is key. Bobby, one of the stars of Catwalk and Kim's champion Turkish Angora, is certainly one of the cutest cats we've ever seen. So we turned to this bonafide Cat Lady to get the scoop on how she keeps Bobby's coat looking its best and to get her insider tips on keeping our cuddly companions groomed to purrfection.
Did you take professional grooming lessons to learn how to achieve those champion coats?
I took tips from many of my show friends, as well as Bobby's breeder, on what products to use, what order to use them in and then tweaked it once I saw the results and realized "oh, we need something for this" or "that conditioner is too heavy."
Bobby is probably used to it by now, but how can we get our cats to stick around while we're brushing them, even if they're not into being pampered?
Bobby only allows himself to be combed at a show or in the hotel before the show! If I try to give him a really good grooming at home he takes off, just like your cat!
To achieve that Best-in-Show coat, how often should cats be brushed?
Once a week is good to keep knots out of fur. Every cat is different – long haired cats generally need more grooming than short haired cats – and the type of brush can make a difference as well.
What are your pro tips for maintaining the fluffiest fur possible?
Bathing to remove the dirt and grease and a conditioner that doesn't weigh down the fur but still keeps the static electricity down.
How do you protect Bobby's coat from those dreaded mats?
Turkish Angoras don't mat! They are single-coated and the fur is silky and rarely has issues that double and triple coated cats get. I think Bobby has had 2 mats in his life – both in the super sweaty sticky days of summer, so I think humidity plays a big factor for him.
Tell us your tools of the trade! What are your (and Bobby's) faves?
Chubbs Bars – it's a cake of soap that was specifically made for bathing cats! I use Sugar Scrub to remove the grease and Mighty White to make him shiny and white... Soap for Cats from 3Q Cosmetics (he's actually the spokescat for this!) helps keep the static down and also softens his coarser fur and Chris Christensen Ice on Ice, a spray conditioner that keeps their coats soft and flowy and also static free.
Perhaps the most dreaded cat grooming task, what are your tips for clipping a cat's nails without causing them too much stress?
Bobby does NOT like having his nails clipped. I've found that if he's just relaxing on a cat tree or couch and I walk up with the clippers and start taking them down one by one it's less of a chore than when I hunt him down, hold him and try to clip. Calmness works!
Bobby doesn't mind taking a bath, but most cats are terrified of water. What are your tips for actually giving a cat a bath without it running away and hating you forever?
Let them play in the water. A faucet that is turned on just a tiny bit is a great toy. And once they're not afraid that the water will hurt them, good luck trying to keep them out of the bathtub!
We saw the hairball incident in Catwalk (spoiler alert! Bobby coughed up a hairball in front of the judges) and we know this is super common for long-haired breeds. What advice do you have for keeping these at bay?
Bobby had a bath the night before that "incident" and it's quite common for a hairball after the bath. I allow them to dry themselves and that involves a lot of licking and ingesting of fur apparently. Most of the time he deals with it well – I guess he just didn't want to eat that much fur and let it all come back for a second round. My Abyssinians do get a lot of furballs – so I give them a spoonful of coconut oil or a hairball paste you can buy at most pet stores that helps the fur keep on going out the other end instead of coming out the mouth.
Can you share your cat-travel tips?
Bobby was used to travel when I met him. Actually, I'm very lucky that my cats are happy to be in a carrier, sleep for 12 hours, get a bowl of food half way through, and then run around a hotel room like lunatics. Like bathing and clipping nails, doing it more often makes it "normal" and something they can deal with. If you take a 10-year-old cat to the vet once a year and nowhere else, they're going to associate the car with having a thermometer put somewhere uncomfortable. So variety, frequency and the ability to have a good time after it's over works for me.
What are your last-minute grooming secrets for show day?
Check the butt, check the ears, check the eyes (yes, cats get "sleep" in their eyes too). A good combing all over, including the "armpits." And a big hug and kiss so they know I still love them.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit is co-directed by Michael McNamara and Aaron Hancox. It will have its world broadcast premiere on CBC Docs POV on Sunday, April 1, 2018 at 9:00 pm (9:30 NT). It opens theatrically March 23 (and plays through March 29) at Toronto's Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema and in Waterloo at the Princess Cinema on March 30 (through April 1). The documentary will also be available to watch online at cbc.ca/CBCDocsPOV.