Photo by Teri Ann Oursler, DVM
Long-haired Roley Poley sports a lion cut every summer to eliminate matting and decrease dust bunnies.
Cats and dogs. You gotta love ‘em. The downside? The hair! It falls down and swirls around. And around and around and around! Cats and dogs contribute greatly to the overall composition of household dust bunnies, probably far more so than even angora bunnies.
The other morning I looked up just as the sun highlighted my son, who was holding and petting our white cat Rocky. I stood in awe of the amount of hair falling to my floor. Then my jaw hit the floor when my son put him down, shook the hair off his hand and arm onto my floor, and walked away like it was no never mind!
I have lived my entire life (except for part of college) with cats and dogs. I can’t imagine living without them. However, I can easily imagine living without all of the hair; I wonder if a hairless life with clean clothes and floors is as beautiful in reality as it is in my dreams.
Several years ago my husband and I decided that it was time to replace our couch. We have been married for almost 30 years and have purchased just two couches. As my kids were no longer young, my dogs were no longer puppies and all the cats were adults, I envisioned a grown-up couch, a beautiful, stunning couch in burgundy! I brought home several material samples to help us choose. Mind you, my husband doesn't really care what colors most of our house is decorated in, but he could not help pointing out that not only did the black and white cat hair show on the burgundy, so did the brown dog hair. So, being a man and only concerned with being practical in our color choices (rolling my eyes here!), he grabbed a handful of hair off the brown and white dog, rubbed it down the board of material samples and chose the one that showed the dog hair the least. It will come as absolutely no surprise that it was not the burgundy I've always lusted after. I am, apparently, going to go through my entire life without a burgundy couch because I will never be without significant quantities of pet hair dropping like manna from heaven.
Sometimes while living in this hole of hair I actually forget that I'm surrounded by floating hair. I was cleaning out my closet the other day and found some nice black pants. I tried them on and wondered why I had not been wearing them. The next morning, I put on those black pants and then sat down in my recliner. Moments later I looked down at the instant display of white hair that magnetically adheres to anything black and remembered why I don't wear those pants. After washing off a cat's worth of hair, I put those pants in the Goodwill pile that day. There was probably hair in the pile that would simply have to go to Goodwill with the clothing. I like to think of the hair as a charitable donation.
The medical term for hairball - the kind cats tend to toss up and you step on in the middle of the night - is trichobezoar. It's a wonder that I don't have a trichobezoar myself from inhaling all this floating stuff. There are only five pets in a relatively good-sized house and it never seems to be hair free, even immediately after cleaning. I mean, really, where does it all come from?
Living with hair is a fact of life for me, but I do try to keep it under control. I can never decide: do you vacuum first while watching all of the hairballs run from your vacuum up onto the buffet, or do you dust first, swiping the hair down onto the floor to be chased by the vacuum back up onto the buffet? What a conundrum! I always thought I should start with vacuuming the cat himself, but I have only had one cat who would let me do that; it just hasn't caught on with the rest of my cats. I don’t understand why.
I have heard of people trying to corral the hairballs with small robotic vacuums. I have not tried this (yet) but I can see that lots of cats like these vacuums as they appear to be a cat version of a carnival ride.
Photo by Wendy Smith Wilson, DVM
Dust bunnies seem to accumulate every moment of every day.
Hair embeds itself into upholstered furniture and it can be quite the trick to get the hair off the furniture. You need to do it as soon as possible and need to use something designed to remove pet hair, a lint brush, tape, or a moist sponge. Alternatively, you can sit on the furniture in your clean black pants! It also helps to put washable covers on your furniture, although I confess the repair guy said that pet hair was killing my washer, so now I have to get the hair off the cover before I wash it.
Some people try to combat the hair problem by getting “non-shedding” dogs, like poodles. As a kid, we had a dog sold to my mom as non-shedding. Whimper was a lot of things, but he was not "non-shedding." Thankfully my mom didn't pay a lot for him, seeing as how he left long black hair all over.
Another solution employed by many people with long-haired animals is to shave them yearly. I have to admit, I have given my long-haired cat Roley Poley a lion cut every spring in an attempt to keep the amount of hair down. One year it was a tad bit early to do that here in Wyoming and he thought he was going to freeze to death before summer bothered to show up. While shaving reduces the amount of shed hair, it is a bit disconcerting to see a border collie with a lab-like short coat. But cats in lion cuts are pretty cute once you get used to it.
Even heavy shedders - the kind who open a follicle with each breath - will deposit less hair in the house if you just remove the hair directly from the pet with a brush and eliminate using the floor as a middleman. Then you can cheerfully stand over the trash can and clean it out of the brush or comb. This helps you revisit that whole need-to-vacuum-more-than-you-ever-thought-possible scenario. A deshedding tool, which pulls out far more dead hair than a brush, can make a big difference in how often you vacuum or sweep. Of course, these tools tend to be useless when stuffed into a drawer as they must be used to be effective. Ask your vet, groomer, or breeder what grooming tools are best for your pet's coat as deshedding tools can cause skin problems if used improperly.
Even when you regularly brush each and every pet in the house, the laws of physics dictate that some hair is bound to escape your best efforts, and vacuuming or sweeping often makes a big difference (and yields big hair piles). As I look around, it must be time for me to get out the vacuum. Or the broom. Or the dust cloth. Or the dust mop or…
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VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.