The Secret to Grooming Cats

To successfully expand your business to include clients of the feline persuasion, it is important that you start with the basics and build your offerings as you gain experience.



Have you been wondering about adding cat grooming to your service offerings? Spring is a great time to investigate this type of opportunity because pet owners will be looking to get their cats cleaned up. If you love cats, it’s easy to start with the basics and expand your business as you gain more knowledge and experience.

If you are apprehensive about bringing cats into your salon because you may not have a lot of hands-on experience, I suggest you begin with easy styling techniques such as a thorough combing, trimming nails and ear cleaning. As the old saying goes, “You have to start somewhere.” There is no shame in taking baby steps; it’s actually commendable because you care enough to know your limits and skill level. Cat grooming has been around for a very long time, and before there was formal cat grooming education, many groomers were self-taught. 

As you work with more and more cats, you will achieve a greater understanding of their quirks and temperaments. A beneficial way to get experience handling cats and basic grooming is to volunteer at your local shelter. Cats that are up for adoption will need at least an in-depth combing and a nail trim. 

Once you feel comfortable handling different temperaments and have a better understanding of working with cats, you can add clipper work. Sanitary trims are a good way to get an introduction to clipper styling. All you need is a quiet clipper and a #10 blade. Always cut with the grain, being very careful of the private area. If you question your skill level at this point, stick to the basics and forgo the clipper.

When you decide to start working with cats, it may be a good idea to adjust your schedule. If you set appointments for an hour per dog, I would suggest you add an additional half-hour for cats, especially in the beginning. That way, you won’t be pressed for time, so you and the cat will have a more relaxed experience. Also, if you have the opportunity to keep the cats out of the main grooming area where the dogs are, that will go a long way in keeping your feline clients relaxed.

Of course, safety always comes first in the grooming salon. With that in mind, I highly recommend you use bite and scratch resistant sleeves and gloves, as well as e-collars when you’re very new to cat grooming. The sleeves will give you protection from your wrist up to your elbow. The gloves can be cumbersome, but there may be times you will need them. An e-collar will reduce a cat’s ability to bite you and is one of the best pieces of equipment you will invest in. These collars do not smash the whiskers, which is important. 

On the other hand, there are some items that you do not want to use on cats. For example, never use a grooming loop around a cat’s neck or a muzzle of any kind. You really have to be observant of the cat’s nonverbal cues to “read” the cat’s stress level. Using a muzzle prevents you from observing the eyes for dilation, the mouth for panting or drooling and the overall facial expression. 

Remember, you can refuse any cat based on its temperament. I’ve been grooming cats for over 20 years, and I still decline overly aggressive cats that I feel would become very stressed. A scared cat is a dangerous cat. I say to the owners, “For your cat’s safety and that of my staff, I will not be grooming your cat today.” I also recommend that they take their cat to their veterinarian for assessment. 

Love for felines, knowledge and experience are the keys to become a successful cat groomer. The secret is being able to “read” the cat’s stress level through its nonverbal cues. To help you along your journey in cat grooming, there are feline-specific grooming books, instructional DVDs, certifications and memberships.

Cat grooming is a rewarding career with plenty of opportunities. If you enjoy them, then you’ll look forward to going to the salon every day. Start out slowly, gain as much exposure as you can, and you’ll be on your way to years of fun grooming those kitties.

Kim Raisanen is president of the Professional Cat Groomers Association of America.


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