Longhaired pets require extra care

From the Maltese to the Afghan hound, the Persian to the Maine coon, longhaired dogs and cats have a reputation for beauty and style. Their glamorous appearance comes at a price, though: That gorgeous coat can be a beast to care for. If you’ve fallen for a pet with long locks, we’ve gathered some tips to help you keep that coat stunning, healthy and tangle-free.

First, the bad news: There’s no secret shortcut to caring for a long coat. It takes time and devotion. You’re ahead of the game, though, if you groom it on a regular basis. When a longhaired pet’s coat is neglected, the result is painful mats and tangles. Nobody wants that.

Grooming needs depend on the type of coat a dog or cat has, as well as its length. longhaired pets may have a single coat or a double coat (one with a top coat and an under layer). They may have feathering (longer hair on the ears, chest, legs and tail); thick, fine, silky hair; or ruffs, britches or pantaloons. Double-coated pets typically shed more than single-coated pets.

Gather the right equipment. A pin brush moves smoothly through long hair and feathering. A bristle brush removes loose hair and dirt and polishes the coat. A wide-tooth comb removes downy undercoat. The curved wire pins of a slicker brush remove mats, loose hair and any flotsam and jetsam your dog picks up on a walk. Dogs with thick double coats may benefit from a session with an undercoat rake, especially during shedding season. If possible, ask a breeder or a professional groomer about the correct grooming tools and techniques to use.

Keep the face clean. Dogs with beards, mustaches and eyebrows (known as furnishings) lose their distinguished appearance if food is stuck in their fur. Comb out the furnishings after every meal to keep them looking nice.

Other trouble spots include the belly, the area where the legs meet the body (the “underarms”) and the urogenital area. Many pets don’t like having these areas touched (maybe they’re ticklish). If you neglect them, though, these areas are most likely to develop mats and tangles. If you comb them before a problem starts, it will be a lot easier to accustom your pet to the attention.

When his coat is at its full glory, you should expect to groom your longhaired pet at least every other day. For some pets, daily attention is a must. If you have trained your dog or cat to enjoy grooming, the experience should be a bonding time for both of you.

Q: Why is it so unusual for male cats to be calicos?

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A: To get started, let’s define our terms. A tortoiseshell cat has patches of orange or red and patches of black, chocolate or cinnamon. When those patches are combined with a white background, the cat is called a calico, after a type of colorful patterned fabric.

A study done by researchers at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri found that only 1 of every 3,000 calico cats is male. That’s because the gene that determines how the orange color in cats displays is on the X chromosome, one of the two chromosomes that determines gender. Females have two X chromosomes, while males have an X and a Y chromosome.

While any cat, male or female, can be orange, in males the orange almost always occurs in the tabby pattern. Females can be orange tabby, calico or tortoiseshell. In rare instances, though, a male cat turns up with not only his allotted X and Y chromosomes, but also an additional X chromosome. If both of those X chromosomes happen to carry the gene for orange coloration, bingo: You have a calico male.

This genetic anomaly is called Klinefelter syndrome, after the doctor who identified it in the 1940s. In human and feline males, it typically causes sterility, which is one reason you don’t see people getting rich off breeding their rare male calico cats.

Pet Connection is produced by a team of experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton.