By Kim Raisanen
Keeping the summer momentum of cat grooming going into fall and winter can be a bit challenging but not impossible. For those of us in the northern states, we normally see a drop in our cat clients because of our harsh winters, but there are ways to keep the cats coming in. For instance, those cats that needed to be shaved in the summer are prime candidates for winter maintenance sessions.
Fall and winter maintenance grooming really begins in the summer months when customers bring in their matted cats. I educate their owners in Mat Removal 101 which is the anatomy of a mat and the tools I use to remove it. I show them the underneath of the mats or, in some instances, the pelt. They then understand that the look of mats may be deceiving. The top of the mat may resemble a bump in the fur but once they actually see and try to pull apart the webbing of a mat they “get it”.
It’s important to continue educating your customers by explaining that you have to use a very short blade (#10) in order to get underneath the mats. Once they truly understand the consequences of lack of combing and taking care of the cat, they are more apt to comb their cats on a regular basis. Please educate your customers in a professional manner; no one likes to be blamed or ridiculed. They came to you because you are the expert. Remember, you can attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. I have never lost a customer because I have educated them on taking care of their cat, if anything those owners are the ones more apt to come in on a regular basis because they understand the importance of consistent grooming.
Back to the story of the once–a–year cat. After the matted cat is clipped, bathed, dried and combed out, I send them home with a comb and a bottle of rinseless cat shampoo that can be used between professional grooming sessions. By selling them the comb and cat safe shampoo, I am content in knowing that they have the proper supplies for their particular cat.
You may be surprised to find out that many owners use super soft brushes on their cats, which we know do nothing but make the top coat look nice. Brushes do not reach down to the skin where mats begin to form. I instruct my owners to start combing the cat while the hair is still very short to help the cat get acclimated to having a comb touch his skin. Most of the time, these cats begin to enjoy the home–grooming because they are receiving attention and, instead of being pulled and tugged, the cat now is getting caressed and loved. Even though the owners begin to get in the habit of combing their cat, I suggest a professional maintenance groom every four to six weeks. If they wait too long, we may have to work with tangles, mats and long nails again, bringing us back to square one.
Although my personal goal is to keep as many cats in full coats as possible, I will show the owners different lengths of attachable combs. Knowing that it normally takes approximately three months for a #10 Lion Cut (with the grain) to grow back in, I start mailing informative postcards to all clients in late August listing bullet points of the necessity of maintenance grooming. A three month growth of hair is the perfect length to work with using blending shears and attachable combs to even out the coat. It’s a win–win situation for those customers who don’t like “all that hair” and it reduces having to shave their cats continuously. In order for me to gradually work my way from comb cuts to completely full coats, I need the customer’s assistance. That is why I assign them an intricate part in the grooming equation. In doing so, I am helping the cat, involving the owner, and gaining a lifelong customer.
Another reason to keep the cats coming is the belly smoothie. For the owners that want less hair to care for, I’ll suggest having just their cat’s tummy shaved. I thoroughly explain that by clipping from the armpits all the way down their inner thighs, I am reducing ½ of the amount of hair on the cat and in the house. When done correctly by blending the ruff with the chest, the belly smoothie isn’t as visible as a blunt cut style.
A mid–winter’s bath and blow out is another reason for cats to come in when the snow is flying. The only difference is that I request to have the cat stay with me for an additional ½ hour when the weather is frigid. I want to make sure that they are completely dry and there is no open skin pores when they leave my salon. It’s always a great idea to suggest that the owner place a bed or light blanket in the carrier and a heavier blanket draped over the carrier in the chillier months.
Clipping the sanitary area and armpits is a winter maintenance technique that I perform on all long hair breeds. This reduces the likelihood of twisting armpit hair and the occurrence of fecal matter sticking to their withers.
Educating your clients and compassionately caring for their felines goes a long way in building respect, authenticity, and repeat customers. It’s your honest to goodness love for cats that will bring them back. Your grooming reflects the joy that you have working with their pet and no matter the outside temperature, the owner knows that you will greet their cat with adoration and warmth. Now, go pour yourself some hot chocolate and start writing reminder postcards! ✂