A beauty bath
Should you wish to give your Maine Coon a bath, how should you begin?
We provide some tips developed over years of showing our cats, who must be sparkling clean for the judges. While the process may sound easy, these techniques are the result of much experimentation. Don't be afraid to experiment yourself. These are only tips, not hard and fast rules. Do what works best for you. For example, I like to clip my Coon's claws after the bath, but it can certainly be done the day before. I find my Coon very compliant when it is dripping wet, sitting in my lap, wrapped up all snuggly in a nice warm bath towel. So that makes my job of nail trimming easier.
The day before
Sometime during the day before the bath, give your Coon a light combing, following the same advice as discussed for routine grooming.
Why do we recommend combing on the day before? We don't want the cat to associate combing with getting bathed.
The last thing you want to do is to hold a wet cat that is wriggling to get free as you walk through the house to locate that shampoo you know is around somewhere. (Trust me, I know). So please gather your grooming supplies and a nice warm soft absorbant bath towel or two (if you are lucky enough to own a big, gorgeous, male Maine Coon) fresh out of the clothes dryer. In addition to towels, your essential supplies will include nail clippers, ear cleaner, shampoo and conditioner.
Trimming your Coon's claws
Why do we recommend nail trimming before the bath? The most challenging part of a bath can be keeping the cat in the sink, and by clipping the nails before subjecting the cat to water, you minimize the chance that you will get scratched during the bath.
Keeping the cat in the sink
I learned this very important bathing tip from a show judge who was describing the challenges of cat bathing as she was judging a big male Maine Coon. Don't over-control the cat. Don't forcefully hold the cat down. The stronger you force the cat to stay, the harder it will try to fight to get away from you (a result of natural survival instincts). I gently place the palm of one hand on the cat's neck, just below the head, and use that hand to steer the cat back into the sink when it attempts to get out of the sink (which it will try to do). The key word is gently. I do not squeeze my fingers into the neck.
Please talk calmly to your cat during the entire bath. Never shout "no" at the cat or handle the cat roughly. Again, if you make the process unpleasant, don't expect your Coon's cooperation during the next bath.
If your cat does manage to jump out of the sink, the worst thing that happens is that you get a little soap and water on your countertops or floor. Speak in a calming voice to your cat as you pick it back up and continue with the bath. Anticipate the first time you try a bath that you will get wet, and dress accordingly.
If your cat appears greasy in some areas, a degreaser should be applied to those areas. The directions listed on many of these products will recommend that they be applied before the cat is wet. Generally, these products work best when massaged deeply into the fur and allowed to remain on the cat for several minutes, so please read the directions on your product thoroughly. While the degreaser is doing its job, I take this opportunity to apply ear cleaner, if necessary, and very gently remove any wax from the outside of the ear canal. As with humans, you do not want to use Q-tips inside the ear canal and damage the ear.
Pet Goop, a product we use, is specially formulated for use by pet groomers. If you perform this degreasing step, rinse the degreaser out of your cat's fur before proceeding.
This part of the grooming process is as individual as the groomers whose advice you seek. I put two inches of warm water in the bottom of the sink and use a small hand towel to get the cat thoroughly wet. Avoiding the face and ears, I start at the back of the head, behind the ears and make my way down the cat's shoulders and back. I also make sure I get the chest, belly, and back of the legs thoroughly wet before applying grooming products.
Below, I prefer House of An-Ju shampoos, which are specially formulated for different color coats. I purchase my shampoo directly from Jerob, the manufacturer. I have contacted them by phone when I have had questions about their products and found them to be very helpful. I do not like to use dish detergent, as I do not want to dry out the fur and remove all its sheen.
Here's my process. First, I apply the House of An-Ju conditioner (diluted as per directions on the bottle), rinse that off, apply the appropriate shampoo, and rinse that off. Do not rub vigorously with your fingertips, but instead, massage the cat gently with the sides of your fingers. I use the same small towel that I used to get the cat wet to gently wash the cat's face, applying water only, no shampoo. I carefully avoid getting water inside the ears and eyes and am very gentle around the corners of the eyes (particularly the delicate tear ducts).
I use no special rinsing technique (other than using plenty of water) since I have installed a water softener, but it is very important to remove all soap from the cat. If you do not have soft water, you may want to try using a pre-mixed solution of two tablespoons of white vinegar for every four cups of (warm) water for final rinsing.
While my Coon is wrapped in a warm absorbant bath towel, I take one limb out at a time and clip the nails. A second towel may be needed for a big male Coon.
There are many techniques used by different groomers for drying the cat, but for me, it is not worth using a blow dryer if the cat is terrified by the sound. Most of my Coons tolerate my quiet blow dryer, but unless you are preparing for a show, I recommend you put your damp cat in an uncarpeted room, let the fur mostly dry, then gently comb the almost-dry fur. Avoid being overly-agressive with combing while the fur is wet, as that can damage the hair.
That's my process. It takes me about 45 minutes to do a thorough job in preparation for presentation to the judges. Happy grooming!