It’s easy to see why many feline fanciers choose long-haired cats (like Persians and Ragamuffins) as companions. They’re gorgeous, for starters, and stroking that luxurious coat is an automatic stress reliever.

But a coat like that doesn’t stay soft, silky and tangle-free on its own. It requires a true commitment to proper grooming. Owners of long-haired cats face a few unique challenges, so to learn more about what you should know before you bring home a Siberian, we turned to Lynn Paolillo, an instructor, certifier and groomer with the National Cat Groomers Institute of America.

Q: How much time should I plan to commit to grooming my long-haired cat? Should I do it daily? Weekly?

A: Grooming needs can vary depending on a cat’s coat type, coat texture, age, lifestyle and overall health. Large or overweight cats may need help cleaning their sanitary area after using the litterbox since they have trouble reaching back there. Brachycephalic cats, like Persians and Himalayans, need regular cleaning of the eye area to prevent tear staining and even infections in the folds of the skin.

However, all long-haired cats will require the owner to help care for his or her coat. Frequency can range from once a month to once every day. The length of each session depends on the cat’s needs. The softer and more cottony the cat’s hair, the more maintenance that is required.

Q: Will I be able to meet all my long-haired cat’s grooming needs at home, or will I need to find a cat-specific groomer?

A: A cat’s grooming needs can be met at home depending on how much time and effort the owner can dedicate to those needs, but it can be very difficult for the average owner to set aside enough time.

Also, many cats are not used to the grooming process and can lash out in fear, leading to bites and scratches to the owner. A trained professional cat groomer will have knowledge and experience handling a cat. Since cats are very different from dogs during the grooming process, it is important for cat owners to thoroughly research an appropriate groomer for their feline.

Q: What should I look for in a groomer?

A: Training, experience and grooming environment should all be taken into consideration when choosing a groomer. Many cats do better in a quiet environment that is not in the same room as barking dogs. Some grooming salons offer cat-only hours or days. Elderly or very nervous cats may do better being groomed in their own environment, such as with a mobile or in-home groomer.

At this time, the grooming profession is unregulated — which means there is no licensing or requirements to be a groomer. So it is important for owners to do their own research when seeking out a groomer’s services. The National Cat Groomers Institute of America came about to offer training and certification to groomers seeking to advance their cat grooming skills. Students have attended NCGIA’s cat grooming school from all over the United States, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong and more! The organization’s members, graduates and trained Certified Feline Master Groomers can be located through the NCGIA’s website.

Q: What are some of the common problems you see related to a long-haired cat’s fur? How do you solve those problems, and how can they be prevented?

A: Common problems for long-haired cats include hairballs, fecal matter stuck to their rear ends and matting. All of these problems can be prevented with regular grooming care either at home or by a professional cat groomer.

Hairballs are caused by the cat consuming its own hair while licking itself. Unfortunately, hairballs can lead to blockages in the digestive tract. These are dangerous and may require surgery to remove them safely. Regular combing and bathing removes dead hair on the cat before it has a chance to ingest it, thus minimizing the risk of hairballs.

After a long-haired cat uses the litterbox, sometimes debris gets stuck in the coat and on the skin. If the area is not cleaned, it can cause skin irritations that make the area red and sore. Solutions include checking the cat after it uses the litterbox, or having a groomer shave a “sanitary trim” on the cat during its groom. The sanitary trim usually refers to the groomer shaving a small patch under the cat’s tail and in between the rear legs to keep the areas clean.

Matting is a major issue in long-haired cats. Some areas on a cat’s body are more prone to tangles. These include the armpits, belly, legs, chest, behind the ears and under the chin, all of which are “high-friction areas,” meaning the long hair gets rubbed together when the cat walks, rolls around on the ground and curls up in a ball. If cats are not groomed regularly, this can lead to tangling, also known as matting.

Matting in cats is caused by dead hair that instead of shedding out gets stuck together. More and more hair gets stuck, which leads to the clumpy mats similar in texture to a Brillo pad. Once hair is matted, it is very painful for the cat since the tangled hair pulls at the skin and can hinder the cat’s movements. At this stage, having a professional cat groomer shave the mats out is the best and least painful option for the cat.

Regular combing (to remove dead hair) and bathing can help prevent matting. Some cats will require combing as often as every day (for example, very soft, cottony Persians), and bathing should be done every four to eight weeks.

Q: Are there any other words of warning or pieces of advice you’d give to someone considering bringing a long-haired cat into the family for the first time?

A: Consider your lifestyle before adding a long-haired cat to the household. Be prepared to either take on their grooming needs yourself or seek out a trained professional cat groomer to do it for you. Even though younger cats may seem like they do not require as much grooming, it is the best time to get them used to the entire grooming process. Frequent and regular grooming sessions not only help prevent the common problems covered above, but they also build trust so the cat is less nervous or stressed out with the process. Many cats even enjoy their session at the spa!