Sometimes my cat Mickey can be really shocking — and I mean that literally. One minute, I'll be working on my computer, minding my own business, and the next minute he will sneak into the room, rub against my leg and give us both a nice big zap.
Most people know that shock is caused by static electricity. For you science nerds, that means there's an imbalance of charges between the two items coming into contact — in this case, my leg and Mickey's fur. Static electricity happens when the air is cold and the humidity is low. More often than not, those surprise zaps occur in the winter months, but they can strike any time if the conditions are right.
If you have a pet that likes to give you a shock, here are some strategies that my vet shared to keep those shocking encounters to a minimum:
Humidify. Indoor heat and air conditioning can be very drying. Put some moisture back into your air with a humidifier, suggests veterinarian and columnist Dr. Michael W. Fox. Humidifiers are inexpensive and sold at most big box stores. Added bonus: Extra moisture is good for your skin, hair and overall health, too.
Give your pet the spa treatment. Give your dog or cat a bath with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. (Look for products containing oatmeal, aloe vera or other nourishing ingredients.) Linda Strydio, a professional groomer in New Jersey, suggests using a spray-on conditioner, especially right before you groom your pet.
Choose brushes and combs carefully. Skip the plastic, suggests Ontario veterinarian Dr. Gary Arzem. Plastic will conduct electricity better, meaning more static and shocks, says Arzem. Instead, choose metal. Some people also choose ionic pet brushes to groom pets and combat static.
Spray. If you're looking for a short-term solution, try lightly spraying your hands or your pet's fur with a misting spray before you pet him, but be warned: Many pets don't take too kindly to being sprayed with water, so they might just want to get away from you after the spritz.
Trade synthetics for natural fabrics. If your pet sleeps on a blanket or wears a sweater, look for products made from natural fibers like cotton or wool as these are less likely to create static than those made with synthetic fibers.
Don't do this. One trick for reducing the static in your pet's fur that we've seen bouncing around the Internet is actually a big no-no. Don't rub your pet's coat with a dryer sheet or spray your pet with fabric softener. These products contain chemicals that can be harmful to your pet if ingested — and that's likely to happen when they self-groom.