When a cat comes flying at your face, you dodge it, and it leaves a trail of nail scrapes down the door you were standing in front of, it is probably too aggressive for you to groom. When a cat has you trapped in your work area, it is probably too aggressive for you to groom. When a vet will only see the cat in a trap cage, it is probably too aggressive for you to groom.
New and experienced groomers alike struggle with knowing if a cat is too aggressive to groom. But like with any groom, the benefits must outweigh the risks. When comparing benefits to risks, many times we are talking about elderly cats that have thin and baggy skin and need pelt removals. Sometimes we are talking about cats that are prone to stress during the grooming process. When presenting the benefits and the risks of a groom to a client, we are usually telling the client we are worried about their cat’s life and safety, and that we believe one option is better than the other. When we are talking about benefits and risks of grooming an aggressive cat, we are talking about our health and safety as the groomer.
The first step in trying to figure out if a cat is too aggressive for you to groom is by accurately assessing if the cat in front of you is aggressive. There are several methods to determine the temperament of a cat. While the cats that are growling and hissing are obviously aggressive, an aggressive cat can also present as self-assured and confident.
Many measure aggressive cats on a scale with the cats that are all vocalizations on the low end and the cats that will charge unprovoked at any human on the high end. Keep in mind that aggressive cats tend to escalate in aggressive behavior during the grooming process.
Next you need to accurately assess your skill level: How long have you been grooming? What is your experience with cats? Have you had cat grooming training? How many cat grooms have you successfully completed? How confident are you with your cat grooming skills? This all goes into assessing your individual skill level. Training by an organization that specializes exclusively in grooming felines is invaluable if you want to groom these highly-aggressive kitties.
When I started grooming, my limited life experiences with cats gave me many false assumptions. Experience has shown me that not all cats are groomable in every grooming environment. I have also learned that while many cats are unnecessarily sedated for grooming, these highly-aggressive cats can get a nice lion cut or pelt removal under sedation at a veterinarian’s office.
After you have established that there is an aggressive cat in front of you to groom, know and feel confident in your skill level, realize that not all cats are groomable in every grooming environment and that there are other grooming choices if you turn this cat away. Then and only then can you make an informed decision if this cat is one you can and choose to groom.
When making the decision to groom an aggressive cat, do not make the mistake of letting pride enter the equation. Many new groomers think they can handle more cat than their skill level allows due to the expectations or beliefs of friends, colleagues or clients. Injuries from cats are very dangerous and should never be taken lightly. Cat bites can result in emergency surgery, hospitalization, loss of movement in a finger or even loss of a finger. When the choice is made to groom an aggressive cat, we need to take measures to keep our bodies safe.
Kevlar sleeves provide protection for our bodies. I use leather-covered Kevlar sleeves that have allowed me to take a direct bite from an angry cat with only a nasty bruise left behind. The Kevlar prevents the tooth from penetrating the skin.
Hard-sided muzzles are also a huge asset when grooming aggressive cats. Learning to use these muzzles does have a learning curve and should first be mastered with compliant cats before attempting to use them on an aggressive cat. When using a hard-sided muzzle on an aggressive cat, keep in mind the feline’s neck will puff out making it imperative to double check that the muzzle is secure. Aggressive cats also will try to throw the muzzle. It is important you have full control before putting the hard-sided muzzle onto the feline. Keeping the muzzle well maintained is also essential. Check the screws and fasteners before you begin your grooming session.
Another factor to consider when deciding if you will groom an aggressive cat is how your day is going. You need to be 100% focused and calm with no distractions when you groom an aggressive cat. If there is something going on in your personal life that has your mind occupied, it is best to walk away from that groom.
While I no longer groom the cats that cartoons are made of, I will still consider grooming aggressive cats. I must be having a “good” day. I need to be calm and focused. And unlike six years ago, I am not afraid to walk away. When things start falling apart, I am finished. I believe in my skills and training. I know every cat is not groomable in the house-call environment. I always under promise the client. I also know that if this truly is a highly-aggressive cat, a local veterinarian will be willing to manage their coat under sedation.
When determining how aggressive is too aggressive for you, remember a cat bite can put you in the hospital, potentially ending your grooming career. It is always best to err on the side of caution when making this decision. Remember that the cats which present as aggressive are likely to escalate in their aggression during the groom. Your safety is the most important factor when deciding if a cat is safe for you to groom and when to walk away. ✂️