by Barbara George, Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
Although some cats may tolerate being dried with a hairdryer, many don’t like this process at all. Show cats need to be clean for judging, others need help after getting into sticky situations or for medical reasons.
There are a number of aspects to consider. The most obvious of these is noise; this can even be an issue when you are drying your hair and not the cat.
The noise is frighteningly loud for the sensitive ears of a cat; even the quiet pet-friendly models have some level of noise. Apart from the actual noise of the dryer, the sound drowns out all other sounds in the near environment. This can make any movement in the area seem threatening, as there was no sound to introduce the movement. Cats that are generally wary feel more threatened because they cannot hear the normal sounds that make the feel safe.
Airflow disturbs the cat’s fur, much like the wind. Cats need their fur to be lying still and orderly for protection and warmth. While being dried, their fur is ruffled and fluffed up as we are trying to get the undercoat dry.
The temperature of the air can be a concern too. With the fur away from the delicate skin, the warm air is felt directly by the skin, which is unnatural and quite possibly too hot and uncomfortable.
How the cat feels in the environment is a factor. At home, the cat knows the home, where he can go to be safe and how to get there. He also knows how best to manipulate the situation to his advantage! At a grooming parlour or outside environment, he is in unfamiliar territory and behaves accordingly, often seeming to accept the behaviour when he is really just keeping quiet and out of trouble.
Cats generally resist when forced to do what we want them to do, and the same applies to being dried. We want them to sit still, co-operate and be dried according to our plan. This alone can cause a poor reaction from the cat.
Our attitude and approach play a role in all behaviour. If we feel anxious, or anticipate issues while using the hairdryer, the cat will pick up on that and behave accordingly. It’s difficult to be relaxed and positive in a challenging situation; making a change to process and environment for the benefit of the cat may help to reduce the fear factor associated with this noisy hot air procedure.
While an alternative option is not always possible, cats can be towel-dried and confined in a warm environment to groom themselves dry.
To contact Barbara, please email email@example.com