Grooming house cats can be a very different experience from grooming outside cats. Some groomers will not groom outside cats, while others will groom outside cats when the cats meet specific requirements.
When deciding if your grooming business will groom outside cats, there are many factors to consider.
The first and most important thing to consider is that an outside cat will be much wiser and knows how to successfully use resources to their advantage. The life experiences of a cat that has lived its entire life inside, with stable meals and a clean litter box, are much different than a cat that has lived outside and knows how to hunt and to instinctively doubt the intentions of people.
When a house cat gets angry and wants grooming to stop, they typically go through a trial and error system to see how they can convince you to leave them alone. However, when an outside cat who has learned to defend its life is done with grooming, it takes strong technique, nerves and strength to finish the groom. Grooming an outside cat is not necessarily more dangerous, but takes a different skillset than grooming an inside cat.
When you are grooming an outside cat it is best to work methodically with a firm but gentle touch. The cat needs to know you are helping it and that you have their best interest in mind. If you take a “scruff and go” approach with this type of cat, they will interpret your actions as a threat and stage a methodical attack against you to defend their life.
Another thing to consider when deciding to groom outside cats is how often they visit the veterinarian. In my experience, outdoor cats tend to visit the veterinarian less often than inside cats. This is important because when you find something abnormal and recommend a vet visit, in my experience, the owners are less likely to follow through. Outside cats tend to get more abscesses that need medical attention due to interactions with other animals. The amount of medical care inside verses outside cats receive is something you will have to observe and put policies in place to make sure the felines that need medical attention receive the care they need.
Cats that are outside also tend to pick up parasites more often. As a house–call groomer who services mostly cat–only homes in an area with very few parasites, when I encounter fleas, I have to complete an in–depth cleaning to assure I do not transport fleas or flea eggs to another home. If I was not expecting to encounter fleas, it not only affects my scheduling, but also requires an additional cleaning cycle that I was not anticipating. The amount of parasites on outdoor verses indoor–only cats in your area and the amount of additional time it takes when you encounter parasites is something to consider when making the decision to service outdoor cats. This could be a nonissue for a salon or mobile unit that assumes all cats come in with fleas.
Outside cats tend to have a shorter lifespan and get injured at a higher rate than inside cats. It is not uncommon to start grooming a healthy, active cat and a few years later have them marked as “missing” or be grooming them in a cast or with a body part amputated.
When you want an honest answer if a cat is an inside–only cat, ask, “About how often does Fluffy go outside?” If it is truly an inside–only cat, you will get a very strong “NEVER.” I always follow that with, “Good, I do not groom cats that go outside.”
One thing I have learned the hard way is that I can talk from now until I can talk no more and it will not change if or when the cat goes outside. I believe this is a two–fold issue. First, the cat is used to the routine that has been established, and changing a cat’s routine is usually met with a tantrum of vocalizations and inappropriate behavior. Second, the adults do not believe a car will really hit their cat or a predator will really take their cat. When it does happen, they did not anticipate how upsetting it would be to the family.
In my business, I do not groom any cat that spends any time outside—even if it is just on the patio or in a “catio.” The owners that state their cats have “supervised outside time” seem to be the ones with the cats that get bitten by rattlesnakes, snatched by a coyote when the owner looks away for a second, or “somehow” makes it to the front yard and gets hit by a car.
For my emotional wellbeing, if a cat goes outside, I do not groom it. All my clients are on a schedule. When a cat I have spent 90 minutes with every six to eight weeks gets hurt by something that could have easily been avoided, it is too emotionally upsetting for me. Over the years I have come to realize there are plenty of inside–only cats to groom to keep my business running at a full and profitable level.
The choice of grooming outside cats can be a heartbreaking decision. We all want to help as many cats as we can. Yet when a cat brings parasites into your establishment, or you are emotionally upset by an event out of your control, your attention is not on serving the cats who also need you.
Like with anything in business, it is all about balance. You need to make an informed decision, set policies and be consistent about enforcing those policies. When a time comes that those policies no longer make sense, it is OK to revise your policies.
Choosing whether or not to groom outside cats is a personal decision that should be based on the facts and characteristics of your local area while also taking into account what policies allow you to service the most cats. When setting those policies, make sure they focus on what keeps you emotionally focused on the clients you do have, plus what works best for the flow of your business. ✂️