Catering to Cats
Grooming Business: How robust is the demand for cat grooming services? How and why has demand grown?
Kim Raisanen: There was a time when cat grooming was considered either a nuisance service or a sub-culture cliché segment of the grooming industry. However, thanks in part to the influx of demand from dog groomers who saw the potential of an untapped market, the need for education increased, as did certification in cat grooming. The grooming of cats is growing every year.
GB: What can offering these services do for a groomer’s bottom line?
Raisanen: Over the past few years, we have seen cat-grooming spas opening up around the country. These are salons exclusively designed for cats, where dogs are not allowed. One such place is the Cats Meow Spa in Mill Valley, Calif. They offer “pawdicures” and a full menu of feline-specific services. The salon has two waterfalls greeting you in a feline-only retail store. Each of the spa rooms [grooming areas] has meditation music playing softly in the background.
Places like this were not around 10 years ago. When you take into account that the groomers use less electricity, water and shampoo when working on cats, the savings are almost instantaneous.
There are limitless opportunities to include and improve the cat-grooming segment of a grooming business by adding individual services. Most salons are charging more for grooming cats than they do for dogs.
Some groomers are introducing cat grooming on specific days of the week when there are no dogs in the salon, or they service their cat clients before or after regular business hours. However, there are many successful salons that groom dogs and cats together in close proximity every day. Groomers are finding out how to implement cat grooming in their business, and by doing so, they are adding to their bottom line.
GB: Is cat grooming a good fit for every salon? Why or why not?
Raisanen: Cat grooming isn’t appropriate or even manageable in every salon. Most groomers know if they are not cat people and make the decision not to groom the felines. These groomers should be applauded for making that call. There are cat groomers right down the road that love to receive their referrals.
GB: What are some of the biggest misconceptions that groomers have about working with cats? What is the truth behind those misconceptions?
Raisanen: One misconception about grooming a cat is that it has to be restrained. That is not the case; in fact, less restraint is better for a number of reasons. A cat that is forced or restrained to withstand grooming is more likely to feel threatened. When cats feel threatened, they will instinctively go into a defensive mode. A defensive cat can be extremely dangerous to itself and the groomer. Once the groomer understands how to properly approach and calm the cats in their care, gentle handling will become second nature.
Another misconception is that using a grooming loop will keep a cat tethered to a table. It is important for groomers to know that when they place a grooming loop around the neck of a dog, the dog will stop pulling once it feels tension on his neck. A cat, on the other hand, has a completely different gag reflex and will still try to jump off the table and can strangle itself or snap the delicate vertebra in its neck.
Cats are very sensitive and observant to their surroundings, and when the grooming staff learn the appropriate introduction of cats to their salons, the cats will appreciate the kindness and, in most instances, will be willing, unstressed participants. It is all about the approach the groomer follows even prior to the cat’s arrival. By simply understanding the feline, you can tweak your salon into an inviting, peaceful, non-threatening place for them. For example, washing the tubs, tools and tables prior to the cats arrival will not only be healthier for the cat, it will also reduce the smell of dog.
GB: What are some of the biggest challenges that a groomer will face in grooming cats? How can they overcome these challenges?
Raisanen: One of the biggest challenges a groomer will face in grooming cats is acknowledging that cats need to be treated differently than dogs. Groomers who are not versed in cat grooming should seek education and certification prior to working on cats.
There are supplies and equipment that dog groomers use on dogs that shouldn’t be used on cats. It is common knowledge that a dog anti-flea application medication is lethal to cats, but so are alcohol and some essential oils. Cats are self-groomers, which means whatever you use on or around the cat will eventually be digested. Cats absorb cleaning liquids, disinfecting sprays and powders through their skin, paw pads and, of course, by swallowing after they groom themselves. Cats do not have the necessary enzymes in their livers to properly eliminate toxins and continue to have a build-up over their lifetime.
GB: Is there any specific equipment that a grooming salon will need to offer cat grooming services? Is there equipment that, while not essential, will help groomers to be safer and more efficient?
Raisanen: There are many supplies that groomers have in their salons that can be used on cats. However, when trimming a cat’s nails, the groomer should be using a small cat nail clipper. When a dog nail clipper is used, they tend to smash or squeeze the nail rather than make a nice, clean snip.
In addition, there are numerous ingredients in dog shampoos that are not cat-friendly, and can be very dangerous and lethal to them.
GB: What does the future hold for cat grooming? Do you think this business will grow?
Raisanen: As more and more groomers are adding cat grooming to their list of services, we have seen a surge in membership and certification. Groomers are hungry for knowledge and most will benefit from being informed with up-to-date information.
Cat owners are extremely loyal to a professionally educated and certified cat groomer. They consider their cat a valued member of their family, and once the owners find a groomer they can trust, they are likely to become lifelong customers—not only with their current pet, but for the other cats that will enter their lives years down the road.
Cat grooming has definitely arrived and will not be going away any time soon.
Based in Fairview Park, Ohio, the Professional Cat Groomers Association of America is an international education, certification and consulting organization formed by dedicated cat grooming professionals who have extensive experience, continued education, advanced certification and business savvy. For more information, visit professionalcatgroomers.com.