When a cat client checks in and asks for “just a little off” and we immediately know the only fluffy part of the cat is the top ¼ inch, convincing an owner their cat is pelted is not an easy task.
Even more difficult is telling the client the dangers of a pelt–removal and that their cat will be “naked” at pick–up.
The starting point with a client like this is a difficult balancing act. If we are not gentle and firm, we risk the potential of the cat not getting the coat care they need. We as groomers know the only humane option is to shave the cat; yet the owners came in for their cat to be fluffed up. The owner may not like the idea of what needs to be done, but having the tools to educate the owner of what is in the best interest of the cat decreases the chances of the owner walking out with an uncomfortably pelted cat with limited mobility and increases our chances of being able to help this cat today.
After my initial 20–second assessment, checking to see where the cat is matted and feeling the coat condition, I am able to understand how this situation most likely occurred. Usually the cats that are just matted on the belly and do not feel greasy enjoy lying in wet sinks and bathtubs. The young pelted cats are usually the ones that have gone through their coat change and the owner did not know or could not keep up with the natural shedding process. And the ones that have hip matting or full–body matting are a result of the released coat being trapped in the growing or resting coat by a buildup of natural oils. Usually these cats are older and underweight which makes them more difficult to safely shave.
Once I understand why the cat most likely got pelted, I like to use a sample pelt to show the owner what they are feeling on their cat and then explain why pelting happens. I continue by showing the owners on the sample pelt how I am going to find an opening between the mats, shave down to the skin and then literally peel the pelted layers off of their cat. This goes a long way in establishing my education and professionalism. This education is what builds the owner’s trust in us as groomers and belief that we are the best groomer for their family.
When choosing a sample pelt to use for demonstration purposes, I have found that having a good inch of solid pelt with a fluffy top is the best visual for owners. Owners can feel the top of the pelt and agree it feels like their cat. Then I can show them all the hard and thick coat under the fluffy top. While most clients do not like it, they can understand why it must be removed. Having a second pelt that is lumpy, like golf balls, can help explain how you intend to remove the pelt off their cat. Using a sample pelt for the education portion of the groom keeps us from prodding at the cat which will cause its attention span to shorten for the actual grooming process.
After the owners understand their cat is pelted and the coat needs to be removed, a plan to move forward is critical. A plan does two things: First, it prevents the owners from panicking. And second, it gives the owners hope and understanding that their cat can have the full, soft, flowing coat of their dreams.
It is important to prepare the owners for the positive changes they will notice in their cat after a pelt–removal. Depending on the age of the cat and length of time the matting had been present, the owner will probably notice improved mobility as the cat moves around their environment with a new eagerness to jump. This increased mobility is often a surprise and many owners claim their cat has another life. These kitties will also want more attention. Petting no longer feels like their coat is being pulled which causes many cats to act like they can’t get enough pets. This can alarm an unprepared owner.
At check–out it is also important to go over the danger sign of excessive licking in one spot. Sending an owner home with this information in written form goes a long way in preventing panicked phone calls and emergency trips to the veterinarian.
Having a plan to get the cat into the coat condition the owner expected after this groom not only helps to convince the owner to have the pelt removed, but also gives them a newfound dedication to their beloved family member. Each business will address this differently.
I address it on a few different fronts. I like to check in with the owner a few days after the groom to see how the cat is doing and answer any questions. I have an optional email sequence they can sign up for with brushing and nail trim tips and instructions. In eight weeks, if I have not heard from the owner, I call to follow up and remind them what signs to look for to indicate another groom is needed. I also have face–to–face approaches to help owners. By offering a free nail trim at six weeks, I can check the coat condition, help with brushing skills and am able to accurately recommend a bathing schedule. Follow–up is key in preventing these cats from pelting again.
Telling a customer “no” is never easy in a service–based industry. Telling a customer you are going to shave their cat when they expected you to make their cat fluffier is even a more difficult balancing act.
When we as groomers can accurately assess and explain the causes behind the pelting, then offer a plan with real solutions to get the cat into the soft, full coat the owner desires, not only do we bring comfort and a higher quality of life to the feline, but we create a client that is dedicated to us as a groomer, our knowledge–base and professionalism. ✂️