By Deborah Hansen
Kitten season is upon us. It is a great time of year to reach the new kitten owners. Many kitten owners do not know where to start when trying to meet the coat and nail needs of their new kitten. As grooming business owners, the younger the pet, the more long-term potential profit there is.
To capitalize on this revenue, having a plan to help new kitten owners is a must.
When starting a new kitten program for your grooming business, it is best to reach out to your current and previous clients. You never know who is going to end up with a new kitten, or who knows someone who will unexpectedly have a new kitten in their household. After letting your current and previous clients know about your kitten programs, reaching out to local rescues and shelters is a great low–cost marketing strategy.
A successful kitten package is as much about client education as it is grooming. Many kitten owners have never had a kitten, or have not had a kitten in a long time. While their veterinarian will take care of the basics, many new kitten owners need additional help.
I like my kitten clients to have a series of five visits. I have found that after the fifth visit I can make an accurate recommendation for grooming needs during the remainder of the kitten and teenage months.
The first kitten visit to the groomer is all about fun! I like to play with the kitten to assess the kitten’s temperament and comfort with human interaction. I also like to learn about the family’s interaction with their newest family member. Many times I learn the family is afraid to hold or interact with their new pet. This is when I show the family how to appropriately play with the kitten. I also like to show the family how to pick up and hold their new cat.
I usually assign homework at this first visit. If it is clear the cat is not used to being handled, I ask the family to hold the cat and to touch each paw at least once a day. Depending on the length of the nails and the comfort level of the kitten with being handled, I may or may not do a nail trim at the first visit.
A week later I see the kitten again. My first question for the family is about how the kitten is doing with its paws being touched. I also ask lots of questions about the kitten’s playtime with the family. If a nail trim was not done at the first visit, I perform a nail trim at the second visit.
During the second visit, I focus on combing out the kitten and on the litter box. I ask questions about the actual litter box. Many times families have litter boxes that are hard for a kitten to get into. If there are multiple cats in the home, usually there are not enough litter boxes, or the locations of the litter boxes are not ideal for the cats. Clients tend to let me know if they are having any other litter box concerns or questions. At this visit I usually give the family litter box homework.
The third visit is based on coat condition. This appointment is scheduled about two weeks after the second visit. At this visit I introduce the cat to water! I start the visit by following up with the client on how their play schedule is going and asking how the family is doing with holding the cat and touching the cat’s paws. I do a nail trim (it has been two to three weeks and those kitten nails will be sharp) and a quick comb–out.
I then place the kitten in my bathing setup, running the water and lightly splashing the kitten without getting the kitten soaked. Once the kitten seems open to getting wet, I then take the time to slowly introduce the kitten to my drying setup. I will turn the dryer on so the kitten can hear the noise, then I will let the air gently blow on the kitten so the kitten knows what to expect. I conclude the appointment by following up with the owner to see how the litter box is working in their home. I also schedule the first bath in two to four weeks, depending on the coat needs.
The first bath day has finally arrived! Yes, it has taken four visits to get to the bath. Building this relationship with the owners, family and cat is invaluable to my business. I ask the client how everything is going at home and see if they need help fine–tuning anything. Then I do a nail trim and go straight to the bath. I always work at the kitten’s pace, not wanting the kitten to have a bad experience.
After the bath, I begin the drying. Usually by working slowly it can be a good experience; however, sometimes a kitten’s attention span is just too short and they get frustrated. If a kitten gets frustrated, it is the only time I will send a cat home damp. Remember, we want this visit to be a positive experience for everyone. The homework for this visit is to continue playing, holding and touching the kitten’s paws.
The fifth visit is very important. It is going to give me the information I will need to establish a regular schedule for this cat. Depending on the skin and coat condition, I tend to schedule long–haired kittens at four to six weeks and short hair kittens at eight to ten weeks. At the fifth visit, I ask the owner how everything is going, and answer any questions they may have. Often we talk about doing a nail trim between baths and strategies to prevent scratching in inappropriate places. This is the visit where the kitten gets the standard bath. If the owner has been interested in a sani, I will do one at this visit. I conclude the visit by letting the family know how to contact me with any questions they may have and schedule the next nail trim and/or bath appointment.
A kitten program works with the owner and feline to establish a lifelong, positive connection with the grooming process. When growing your business, kittens are worth their weight in gold! ✂️