Static electricity in cat’s fur is real, and when we reach out to pet our precious Fluffy, we are greeted with shocks from static electricity. It isn’t pleasant for our felines, nor for us.
As the winter drags on and on, the air gets drier. The drier the air, the more prone we are to static electricity. We can see it, feel it, and hear it.
Our heating systems combined with the cold air fuel the situation, and that’s why it seems like February and March are prime time for the electricity to fly.
We could make this a humorous post, and perhaps at one point Paws will, but for today, let’s take a serious look at how we can make our furry friends just a little more comfortable, and give us humans, a reprieve from those shocks when we reach out to give our cats their daily dose of loving pets.
Static electricity comes from dry air. When your cat rubs against blankets, couches, carpets and other household items, static accumulates on their fur. The most common sign of static electricity is getting an electric shock when touching them. However, their fur can stand up or just not lay down smoothly like it normally should. That’s how Paws’ kitty family looks. Our Siamese brother, Linus, looks like he’s got wet hair, and when we reach out to him, we can just hear the electric charge.
Where does this electric charge come from? At this point, we look to science for answers, because electricity is pretty complicated stuff. On Ask.com, we find this description.’Static electricity is an imbalance of electric charges within or on the surface of a material. The charge remains until it is able to move away by means of an electric current or electrical discharge.’ What that means is when we reach out to pet our cats, the electric charge comes charging towards our hand.
When we think of electricity, we usually think about current electricity, which flows through wires or other conductors and transmits energy for our washers, dryers, and modern conveniences in our homes.
Static electricity in cat’s fur causes shocks
A static electric charge is created whenever two surfaces contact and separate, and at least one of the surfaces has a high resistance to electrical current (and is therefore an electrical insulator). The shock occurs when the charge hits the neutral source.
Where static electricity comes from is a common question we find as we go searching on the Internet. We find an interesting take at Ask a Scientist at Cornell University. Each week they answer questions submitted from people around the world. The column has extended from the Ithaca Journal, now having its own website. Not surprisingly, one of the questions they were asked was about static electricity.
The article points out that everything contains tiny electrically charged particles: negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons. These particles, invisible to the eyes, are usually confined within objects. However, some electrons can move around more easily.
If we remember school science classes, we were taught that negative and positive charges (electrons and protons) are attracted to each other, especially when they’re close together, But negative charges, electrons, standing alone repel each other. So objects normally have the same numbers of electrons and protons, being what’s called electrically neutral or uncharged.
The article states,
‘But some objects are more “greedy” for electrons than other objects.’
We quote Ask A Scientist here because they describe what happens to create static electricity so well. ‘When two different objects touch each other or are rubbed together (like a comb and your hair or a brush and your cat’s hair or different kinds of clothing in a clothes dryer), electrons can be “stolen” by the “electron-greedy” object from the other object. One object now has too many electrons (the comb or brush) and is negatively charged, while the other has too few electrons and is positively charged (the hair). The “crackles” you often hear when rubbing objects together are sparks made by rubbed-off electrons jumping back onto the object they came from to try to make both objects neutral again. But lots of the rubbed off electrons can’t make it back, so the objects stay electrically charged…at least for a while. This is static electricity.’
In winter, air is dry, whereas in summer, there’s a lot more humidity in the air. The humidity or water makes it easier for electrons to move from one place to another. They search out objects with fewer electrons and stay put. Because they are not floating around looking for a home, there’s a lot less static electricity. In winter, they can’t find that home, and in their outward search, we hear, feel and see the sparks.
Now we know where static electricity comes from, how do we prevent our felines and us humans from getting shocked.
- The best answer is to put more moisture in the air, by running a humidifier. It’s safe for us, and it’s safe for our cats.
- Another answer we find is wetting our hands before petting our cat. Again, that won’t hurt us or the cats.
- Pet wipes could be a possibility because they have been tested as claiming to be safe for your feline.
- Other suggestions are more questionable. Wiping your cat with a dryer sheet or putting fabric softener on your cat could get exposed to toxins that could lead to serious health issues. Paws would recommend staying away from these, and sticking with safe ways to add moisture to our environment.
Are your cats full of static electricity this winter? What’s your funniest story about static electricity? Have you ever pulled a blanket off your cat, only to find his fur is sticking out like toothpicks? Do you use a humidifier to help your human skin as well as your cat’s fur stay manageable during the cold winter months? Please share your thoughts and your stories.