By Kim Raisanen
As part of my business model, I have implemented an incentive to owners of recently adopted cats in the area. When a cat is rescued from any local shelter, I offer my initial service for free. This has proven to be a win-win approach in gaining customers as well as caring for their new family member for years to come.
If offering a service for free isn’t feasible in your salon, maybe you could offer a special price or add an additional service.
Shelter cats come in all sizes, shapes, breeds, ages, disabilities, backgrounds and temperaments. It’s refreshing for me not knowing what’s coming in next. The new owner may give me a brief summary about the cat’s behavior when making the first appointment, but it’s something entirely different once you have that cat on your table. You need to be able to “read” the body language and understand the nonverbal cues that all cats give us. Once you master that, grooming them is a piece of cake.
The grooming needs of a recently adopted cat can be time consuming and may call for some added patience on my part. The cat may be excessively nervous or frightened, rightfully so, but by me taking baby steps and working within the cat’s limits can set the stage for a lifelong furry friend and a loyal customer.
When a rescued cat comes in, I make an extra effort to be calm and controlled. I ask the owners to stay and help reassure him that he’s going to be taken care of and isn’t being dropped off and left again. It is all about gaining the trust of the cat by not pushing him out of his comfort zone.
The first appointment may include a simple combing and a nail trim or partial nail trim. Maybe that is all the cat can tolerate this time. There are times I’ll comb this type of cat while they are cradled in their owner’s lap. It’s all about caring and not over stimulating the cat. This approach has worked for me and as the cat continues to come in every few months, the grooming sessions go faster, smoother and further in detail.
On the other hand, there are the “nosey roseys” of the cat world that come in for their first professional groom. These kitties are the outgoing ones who want to explore this new environment and couldn’t care less of my giving them a bath as long as they can grip the side of my tub and look around. They are so distracted at this new surrounding that they eagerly comply with my continued grooming.
By the time I have them wrapped in warm towels after the bath, I sit down with them for a minute or two and get to know them better. It’s the perfect time to wipe their faces and clean their ears all the while continuing to tell them what a good job they did in the bath. I sometimes wonder if the cats I talk to really understand me or if it’s the tone of my voice and genuine love for them that they pick up. Whatever it is, it works.
These initial visits also help cultivate a dialog between me and the owners about the benefits of maintaining the coat at home. I always suggest they buy a comb and nail trimmer while they’re here, and most of them do. I demonstrate the proper techniques and have them comb their cat so they become comfortable with the comb.
Am I trying to make more money by selling them a comb? Yes, but just as important, I’m helping them get a feel for handling their pet and into the routine of combing. I haven’t lost one customer by showing them how to care for their cat. If anything, I have gained their trust and respect and these clients soon become regulars.
Both cats and owners can benefit from each other during the mini–grooming at home. I recommend that the comb be placed by the TV remote so it’s easily accessible. My motto is “when opportunity presents itself, take advantage of it”. Meaning, if the comb is at the ready and the cat comes over for attention, the situation is perfect to let the bonding begin.
All in all rescued cats may need a bit more patience from us, but when given a chance they can prove to be wonderful additions to our salons. I feel that I have accomplished a great feat when a new cat returns and remembers me. That trusted relationship is appreciated by both of us. If you haven’t already, introduce yourself to your local rescue groups and get paid by head-butts until they are adopted. Once adopted, their owners may very well seek you out based on the rescue’s referral. ✂