Encouraging Owners to Make Wise Diet Choices for Their Cats
By Deborah Hansen
When I was a child, I used to hear it all the time, “you are what you eat”. While I don’t hear that saying so often anymore, it is true. Our human bodies respond to the nourishment we put into them. Yet many have not made the connection that the same is true for their pets.
What owners put into their cat’s body is going to either positively or negatively affect the biological functioning of their cat.
As groomers, we know that diet affects coat, nails and waste of our clients’ cats. If we can help owners understand this principal, we will not only improve the overall wellbeing of their pet cat, but also improve the relationship the cat has with its owners.
When trying to help clients understand how diet affects a cat, a great place to start is with waste. Litter box use and other litter box issues are the top annoyance of many cat owners. By helping owners understand a high quality food will produce more consistent stools with less odor, we can get and keep their attention. Then we can use this momentum to educate the owner on the importance of a good feline diet.
When we get a cat in for grooming and there is fecal matter on the coat, this usually is a great stepping stone for discussing diet and nutrition. Many owners have not made the connection that when a cat has loose or smelly stools, diet can be the cause. At check in, if a cat has a crispy booty, I usually ask if there has been a recent diet change. If the owner looks at me with confusion, I follow up by asking what food they feed their cat.
I take this approach because many cat owners are not aware that a change in food should be done slowly over a period of time. Often, as a groomer, I am able to establish that the reason for loose stools in a cat was a quick change in diet. Without this knowledge, many times owners will buy the cat food that is on sale this week without realizing the delicate digestive system of a cat may not tolerate switching from one brand to another.
After I ask about what food they are feeding their cat, I am easily able to ask about litter box habits. I usually jump right in and ask if the fecal matter is well formed or soft then continue with how bad does it smell. Most owners are shocked to learn that a higher quality food can make the cat’s bowl movements more consistent and less stinky.
It is important to talk to the cat owner at this point to stress the importance of picking one brand of food and committing to it for an extended period. The owner also needs to be instructed on how to properly transition their cat from the current brand of cat food to the new brand of cat food. The major cat food brands have directions on how to transition a cat’s diet on their websites.
Another thing you may not think to ask about are the treats and snacks that are given to the cat. Treats and snacks can sabotage the best of us humans; they have the same effect on cats. Often times we do not think to include treats and snacks into our calorie count or think of them when our human diet is not working the way we expected. The same is true for the cat owner.
When looking for ways to improve how the feline body is functioning, we need to look at everything that is ingested. A cat can be on an excellent food, yet when supplemented by treats, the diet can have a negative effect on the cat’s body. It is important to specifically ask about treats and snacks when attempting to help your clients make a positive change.
After you have had the discussion on how to make your client’s home life better with less stink and better formed fecal matter, you can then jump in with the benefits that a high quality diet will have on coat, skin and nails!
Did you see how I started with the client’s pain point, then slid in what is the most concerning to us as groomers? When attempting to help cats by changing the owner’s behavior, I have found this to be the best strategy.
I start with what bothers the owner, then explain how it will also benefit their cat’s grooming needs. While most clients will not pay more for better food because of skin or coat issues, the hopes of a better smelling litter box will usually convince them to give a better diet a try.
Cats on a lower quality diet tend to be greasier and have more dandruff than cats on a higher quality diet. This obviously leads to matting, which requires more professional grooming. Unfortunately, many owners do not address the matting and it results in discomfort and lack of mobility for the feline. When we can get owners to use a higher quality food, conditions such as grease build-up, dandruff and matting will improve.
Everyone from the cat to the owners to the groomer benefits when the feline is on a better quality diet. This will not only improve the biological functioning of the cat, but also improve the cat’s relationship with the owners. ✂️