When we are grooming cats, we need to think of the cat’s well-being and comfort, as well as the anatomy of a cat.
If you ignore anatomy and the normal range of movement of the joints, not only does it cause the cat instant pain and discomfort but can cause long-term pain for conditions such as arthritis.
Personally, when I work with cats, I like to keep them in a natural position for much of the grooming, then roll them over to the groom underneath.
Pulling a joint into an unnatural range of motion can also cause a cat to react aggressively due to fear, pain, and stress.
Please note these are anecdotal observations by a qualified Veterinary physiotherapist.
Figure 1: ‘Scruff’ holds for clipping the underarm.
Here we are demonstrating an over abduction and external rotation of the cat’s shoulder joint.
Placing joints like the shoulder into end range positions (eg. figure 1), can overstretch the joint capsule and surrounding ligaments. This can cause the cat a lot of pain during their groom and be a cause of lameness post groom session.
As cats don’t seem to have as strong musculature as dogs in stabilising shoulders and seem to have more flexibility, you could sprain the ligaments in the shoulder causing instability.
Figure 2: Hip hyperextension for clipping the belly.
In figure 2, the hip is being stretched into the abduction and external rotation. This will cause pain if the cat has underlying arthritis in the hip. The same applies if the hindleg is placed into extension.
(I had explained I see this hold regularly with hind legs being stretched but was not comfortable putting my model into this hold.)
Both these positions are painful if the cat has arthritis.
Here are some alternative holds:
Rolling the cat on its side and keeping the shoulder in a natural position. Using your elbow weight to keep the cat calm. I use my thumb to pull the skin tight instead of extending the cat’s joints.
Keeping the knee in line with the body. The hip must be comfortable in the natural joint position. Knee bent and lightly held at the hock. If this is uncomfortable for the senior cat, sit on a chair with the cat on your lap, or on a yoga mat, or cat bed.
Another way to care for a cat’s comfort, is by adding a thick gym mat under the cat when grooming, or asking the cat to have pain relief before the groom, if arthritis is present.
Please note this is for informational purposes only. There is no wrong way, I just am helping groomers make an informed decision when choosing handling techniques.