DIFFERENT STROKES; TRIED & TESTED

Which grooming products will make cats purr or dogs roll over and beg for more? Our panel and their pets put 10 to the test
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The Independent Culture
WHEN it comes to grooming, dogs and cats are spoilt for choice. There are brushes for long hair, short hair, coarse hair and fine hair, some suitable for large pets and some for small. There are bristle brushes, steel-pin brushes, rubber-studded grooming gloves, massagers and electric gadgets for smoothing out tangles and removing loose dirt and fur.

We asked a panel of pet owners to try out a selection of products which, for the most part, can be used on a wide variety of breeds. We asked them to watch their pets closely to see how much they appeared to be enjoying the experience. Animal experts insist grooming has more than just an aesthetic purpose. It also keeps cats and dogs healthy and promotes bonding between pet and owner.

THE PANEL

Claire Barnes, dog groomer at Battersea Dogs' Home, who tried products on a variety of dogs; Wendy Berliner, owner of an Irish red setter, Tom; Margaret Davey, owner of two Yorkshire terriers, silky-haired Solo, and wiry-haired Scott; Ryan Lowe, owner of a Persian cat, Bella; Emma Bagnall, owner of two fluffy, short-haired cats, George and Audrey; and Max Walker, owner of Madison and Biscayne, cats of no particuar breed.

THE TEST

The panel gave the grooming tools marks for how easy they were to use, how effective they were, how much the cat or dog liked them, value for money, and how useful they were.

**PET GROOMING GLOVE

pounds 7.95, suitable for cats and dogs

A latex glove with a knobbled surface, which you use to groom your pet as you stroke it. The panel didn't rate it much, though Claire Barnes thought it gave a very good massage for short-haired breeds. "The dog loved every minute of it," she said, "but it's not very effective unless the dog has a lot of loose hair. Perhaps it would be better if used regularly." Wendy Berliner commented: "Very easy to use, but didn't get the surplus hair off at all. Good for a final shine after using some of the more robust tools." Cat owners were not keen on this product. "Doubles as a goalkeeping glove," said Max Walker, "but apart from that - no thanks."

**ZOOM GROOM

pounds 4.50, versions for cats and dogs

This brightly coloured device, like a scrubbing brush with rubber bristles, is billed as the ultimate massage and grooming experience. It was enjoyed by cats and dogs alike, but didn't score as highly for effectiveness as other products. Dog owners pointed out that it would be useful in the bath as it can get wet and soapy without any damage. The panel thought it would suit short-haired pets best. Ryan Lowe's Persian cat, Bella, refused to have anything to do with the Zoom Groom, but Max Walker reported that "The cats are now hopelessly addicted to it."

*GROOMAIR ELECTRIC BRUSH

pounds 39.99, for dogs

This French invention brushes, airs and ventilates the animal's coat. It looks like a hair-dryer, but it not only blows out air it sucks up dust, undercoat and loose hairs like a Hoover. Some dogs found it alarming at first, and Wendy Berliner couldn't get her sensitive red setter to co-operate at all. "He'd sniff it when it was silent," she said, "but shot away when I switched it on." Claire Barnes described the device as "an absolutely amazing piece of equipment. The dog lay on the floor with her legs in the air and enjoyed every minute. It took all the dead hair out, and was very comfortable to use." Margaret Daley was positive, too, but commented that, "For everyday use, it's too much bother to set up."

***MIKKI BRUSH

`Bonzo' (dogs) pounds 3.66, `Moggy' (cats) pounds 3.26

These two brushes are in the shape of, respectively, a dog and cat with a jolly face and paws painted on the back. Both were fairly popular. Margaret Davey said: "Very good if the dog's hair is already in good condition. Useful for finishing off grooming, after untangling with the Mikki Slicker first - the dogs didn't like it if it caught in the tangles." Claire Barnes agreed that it was best used on a coat already free of knots. The bristles were too widely spaced for Wendy Berliner's Tom, as was the cat's version for Ryan Lowe's Bella. Emma Bagnall reported that "both George and Audrey loved this one, and it seemed to collect a reasonable amount of hair".

*****MIKKI ROTAHEAD SLICKER

pounds 7.88, for dogs and cats (but cat owners gave it only two stars)

This was the dog owners' favourite product, earning high ratings all round. It's a brush with a rotating head which allows it to be used either at right angles to, or in line with the handle. The aim is to make grooming easier in awkward places. Wendy Berliner said: "This was handy, making it easier to groom in different directions without physical contortions. Good for flushing out loose hair and putting a shine on Tom's coat." Claire Barnes and Margaret Davey both thought it would particularly suit finer, softer hair. Cat owners were less enthusiastic.

***OSTER GROOMING SET

pounds 36.20, for dogs

This electric clipper, which comes with comb attachments and scissors, is a substitute for taking your dog to a grooming parlour. It can only be used for dogs that need clipping, such as poodles. Only Claire Barnes had a suitable dog, and she praised it highly (though the dog wasn't over- enthusiastic). "The clippers are very good," she said, "especially when you are using the attachments. They did the job very well. A good starter kit, and easy to keep clean."

****LAWRENCE SHEDDER

pounds 8.99, for dogs

This is a loop of metal with a slightly serrated edge, which is passed over the coat to pluck out loose, dead or semi-dead hair. It is intended for dogs that moult. Wendy Berliner commented: "This looks alarming, rather like a multi-purpose kitchen knife which has been bent back on itself, with the free end tucked into the handle. It got an awful lot of hair out. Tom gave it a look of silent puzzlement, followed by a small growl, before his tail started wagging and he decided it was a toy after all." Claire Barnes commented: "Very useful for taking out loose hair, and taking excess water off the coats of dogs such as labradors. Comfortable to use and easy to clean. The dogs liked it as much as I did." But it was not suitable for Margaret Daley's Yorkies.

***LAWRENCE SLICKER BRUSH

pounds 2.85-pounds 5.49, depending on size, for cats and dogs

This is the classic brush that grooms by gentle stroking, made by a company that has diversified from making industrial wool carding machinery. It comes either with firm pins (for coarse, long hair) or soft ones (for shorter, finer hair). The panel thought it was not quite as effective as the Mikki Rotahead, but they liked it. Margaret Davey said: "Very good for my Yorkshire terriers. The dogs liked them and they were good for getting tangles out of long, fine hair, and easy to clean." Wendy Berliner found the brushes excellent. Claire Barnes said she had used better.

***LAWRENCE HOUND GLOVE

pounds 12.99, for dogs

One side has wire bristles, the other is made of horsehair for polishing the coat. Dogs and owners both liked it. "Easy to wear and use because of its flexibility," said Wendy Berliner, though she thought it rather expensive. Claire Barnes commented: "I used this on large short-haired breeds. They thoroughly enjoyed it, and I found it very effective, bringing the coat up beautifully. A very useful item." Tricky to clean, however, and it might be a bit big for small dogs.

**HINDES WET & DRY COMB

pounds 3, for cats and dogs

A comb which, as its name implies, can be used on both wet and dry coats. Claire Barnes normally makes sure dogs are knot-free before she wets them, but she thought it "quite handy to comb dry dogs, comfortable to use and very easy to clean". Cat owners tried out a finer version. Emma Bagnall commented: "This didn't seem to groom as thoroughly as a brush - perhaps it's more effective on longer fur. Audrey, who has a fluffier coat than George, seemed to enjoy it more." Ryan Lowe found it very useful for his Persian cat: "The rubber pad makes it easier to clean, and it pulls out some extra loose hair which a normal comb would not."

STOCKISTS

Pet Grooming Glove: by mail order from Oceans West International Marketing (0148 9574444); Zoom Groom and GroomAir: from Com-pany of Animals (01932- 566696); Mikki groomers from: Mikki Pet Products (01582 493568); Lawrence products: available from most pet shops; Oster Grooming Set: from Family Pet Products (01827-59212); Hindes Wet & Dry Comb: from The

House of Hindes (0121 326 7667).

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