The Oriental Shorthair: Grooming For Show
by DEBORAH BORNER, PrairiePaws Orientals
Updated August 2015

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There are probably as many grooming rituals as there are Oriental breeders. I've found that most OSH breeders are very willing to exchange tips and share techniques of grooming with each other.

If a new breeder is lucky enough to have a mentor, it is most likely that they learn to groom the way their mentor does. Those without a mentor learn by watching and talking to the other breeders.

When I first started showing my Orientals, I did a lot of grooming. I bathed and shaved ears, trimmed and powdered. Over time, I found that I didn't need to do quite as much and still have my cats be beautifully presented.

I would like to share with you my general routine and tips . . .

Grooming

 

You don't need a great number of grooming aids, depending on the color and coat of your Oriental. Some possible choices might include:

  • Small Blunt-nosed Scissors
  • Stripping Comb
  • Chamois (for buffing the coat)
  • Baby Powder
  • Colored Chalk
  • Vaseline
  • Bay Rum
  • Witch Hazel
  • Moisturizing spray such as Sea Plasma

Bathing

The judge wants a cat to be clean... or at least to appear clean :-).

I used to bath my cats quite often. Naturally they were not happy with the whole soap and water concept. In fact, the process usually took up the whole evening, and trashed the bathroom and exhausted me.

Then there was the blow drying! I could never quite get my cats to accept sitting still on my lap so I could dry them with a noisy, hot blow dryer. And afterwards, the cat always looked fluffy instead of slick when I used the blow dryer.

A Persian breeder told me that they start bathing kittens at a very early age on a frequent and regular basis. My Orientals are too smart to fall for that.

Since those "early days", I have since decided that Orientals are such fastidious cats that unless they fall into a waste basket of spaghetti sauce (as one of my cats did) that they don't need to be bathed too often.

An exception to the above statement would be any cat with white in the coat. White feet show dirt and some white cats develop a yellow cast to portions of their coat... so these colored cats need frequent bathing to remain pristine. Tip for bathing a white cat: Add a dab of bluing to the rinse water, but be careful, too much will draw comments!

If you get caught in a grooming pinch away from a sink,
a dry shampoo works well for an emergency "fix-up".

Happy Coat

If you do bath your Oriental for the show, there is an "unwritten rule" about never bathing Orientals less than 3 days before a show. This gives their coat enough time to settle back into place. A freshly washed coat can appear too "happy" - fluffy almost. This is not the preferred look for a breed who wants to appear as long and elegant as possible.

If your cat's coat is stubbornly refusing to lay down, try a spritz of witch hazel. That's a tip I learned from an old Abyssinian breeder.

Ears Looking At You, Kid

A well groomed Oriental has clean ears.

This includes the removal of any long hairs that typically grow in the inner edge of the ears.

My mentor was an expert at grooming Oriental's ears.

I was lousy at it.

Steady hands and good eyesight are needed—and I lack both :-).

Nicks and gouges are very hard to cover up and no one who sees the cat close up is fooled.

I soon threw away my razor and opted for a pair of ear trimming scissors.

It was easier for me to hold the cat steady while I trimmed and it did reduce chance of nicking the ear.

There was an added bonus to scissoring instead of shaving of the ears . . .

While still a bit unhappy with the grooming of the ears, my cats could tolerate a little pull on the ear much better than the wet shaving cream and the feel of the razor moving along the skin.


Note the hair on the inside edges of the ears!


With the hair removed,
the ears appear larger and more elegant!
The model is CH Sujonz Blue Moon.

The Stripping Comb

Another good tool for grooming Orientals is a stripping comb. A word or two of warning about this item—when used properly it takes out the dead hair of the undercoat. This will make the cat look sleek and shiny.

Used improperly, the stripping coat will actually create holes (thin spots) in a cat's coat. The cats that benefits most from the use of this comb are the whites. Whites tend to have a heavier coat than the other colors.

It is not recommended that you strip the coat of a pointed and white Oriental. The difference in the color of the points and the body of a pointed cat is due to differences in the body temperature. Using a stripping comb will lessen those differences and darken the body of the cat. Hand stripping works best with these cats.

Dazzling Whites

Another white coat grooming technique includes the use of baby powder to blend in those "off colored" places as the feet, the top of the tail on male cats especially, and the bridge of the nose. You can find other powder colors, too.

Shine On

While you want a white Oriental to be as white as possible, you want an ebony Oriental to be as shiny as possible. Try adding just a dab of Vaseline to the forehead of an ebony to bring out the shine. Bay rum will also produce a shiny ebony and has the added bonus of having a wonderful smell.

Conclusion

The perfect cat needs no grooming, but those cats are few and far between. At the minimum, ears, eyes and coat should be clean and nails trimmed. The rest is window dressing. And sometimes it those little details that judges decide make one cat better than the competition.

About The Author

Debbie Borner bred Oriental Shorthairs for 3 decades under the PrairiePaws cattery name.

She successfully worked with the cinnamon color and was responsible for the introduction of the bicolor Oriental Shorthair to CFA.

Her motto: "Too many colors, not enough time!"

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