Did you know that cats have been pets for over 9,000 years? They are much-loved companions, and one cat was even Mayor of a small Alaskan town. In fact, this cat beat out many human challengers in his local mayoral race. Cats are a lot of things, but what they are not, is a dog.
As a different species, there are behavioral and physical differences groomers need to be aware of before working with cats:
1. They are less domesticated than dogs. Cats are hyper aware of their surroundings, and what may not be too much for a dog can send a cat into overwhelm. Calmer environments are best.
2. Cats lack certain enzymes that dogs have in their livers. This means they can’t metabolize certain substances out of their bodies. Instead, the substances are stored in their livers and, over time, can cause organ failure. Problematic substances include certain essential oils, botanicals and alcohol in topical products. Two other concerns include triple antibiotic and a chlorohexidine wound rinse stabilized with citric acid. While an allergy to triple antibiotic is rare, if a cat is allergic to the combination of the three ingredients, it’s fatal.
3. Their skin is not attached to muscle. They basically wear a skin suit. If the cat is nicked, it could turn into a tear easily. It’s also the reason that scruffing isn’t a good idea. You put pressure on internal organs when you tighten up the skin by scruffing so it is best to use alternative methods.
4. Whiskers, or “Vibrassae,” as they are known, are a sensory organ, and one that is well developed in cats. They need them for balance, as well as for knowing if they will fit into small openings. Don’t shave them off.
5. Like dogs, cats clearly telegraph their moods, though the behavioral cues are different. Swishy tails and ears flat against their heads mean danger for you from a cat, but these same signs can mean a dog is happy to see you. Peeing and pooping are signs of significant stress, as well as drooling and vocalizations outside of purring.
6. Cats have fragile neck bones. Cats should never be looped. If they jump off a table, they could snap their neck. Instead, use a figure-eight harness or a TrachSaver. Sustained weight on a cat’s fragile neck bones should not exceed 11 ounces. The round muzzle that looks like a hamster ball weighs in at 14 ounces. The half air muzzle, e-collars and happy hoodies are better options.
I have three secret weapons for cat grooming:
1. Towels. Lots of them. Cats need something soft to grip, so those towels go in the tub and on top of the table. Cats also like boundaries. I create a “box” and surround the cat with towels.
2. Acclimate the cat to grooming. I am never “set up” for the cat. I bring the cat in and open up the carrier. Yes, this is done in an enclosed space. Then I start gathering what I need. It gives the cat an opportunity to adjust to their surroundings.
3. Leave the carrier door open. Cats are pretty smart. They know the way home is through the carrier. By leaving the carrier door open, if the cat bolts, it is more likely to run into the carrier than to hide in my work space.
Now that you understand the differences in cats and dogs and are in possession of my top three tips, how do you talk to owners about why their cat needs to be groomed?
First, you dispel the notion that cats are self-cleaning. Owners need to understand that what cats do with their barbed tongue is licking. The cat is trying to remove excessive hair. Licking is not bathing any more than using your own tongue to take a bath is. Ask the owner to lick something like peanut butter off their arm. No matter how long they lick, it won’t be clean. I find that using references to a situation that personally impact an owner is the best way to explain something.
Ask if they are they dealing with hairballs. When excessive coat is not removed via combing and brushing, the cat swallows the hair, leading to hairballs which either get vomited up in the client’s home or cause health issues for their cats.
Inform them that regular professional grooming prevents matting. When excessive coat is not removed by combing and brushing, the hair begins to interweave and form mats which become tighter and tighter as time goes by. These mats may cause skin irritations and even open sores, especially if the cat gets wet. Ask the client how they would feel if they wore clothes two sizes too small over the course of the day.
One last thing, in addition to my regular Terms of Service, I had an extra signed and dated “Cat Addendum.” Cats have what I like to refer to as a “turkey timer.” When it pops up, the groom (turkey) is over (done), regardless of completion. When I went over this with first-time clients, I made sure to start with what was most important to the owner to get completed as the amount of time I had with their cat was unknown.
I made sure my forms included the following statements:
- As cats are physiologically more sensitive to grooming, Pawsitively Pretty Mobile Grooming Salon LLC will cease grooming when it becomes detrimental to the health of the cat or dangerous to the groomer.
- Minimum charges will apply regardless of completion of grooming.
- In the event of matting or coat removal, Pawsitively Pretty Mobile Grooming Salon LLC will not be financially responsible for condition of skin or injury due to the stripping process.
With an estimated equal number of cats as there are dogs in the U.S., cat grooming is an underutilized market. In addition, it is quite feasible for the knowledgeable cat groomer to not only groom cats, but to consider being cat exclusive. You can work smarter with less stress on your body by grooming cats. ✂️