When an owner advises that they only want a little taken off their cat’s coat, it can mean anything from a bath to a comb cut to a lion cut. What most owners do not know and really struggle to understand is that a clean coat with the dead coat removed will make their cat appear just a little shorter than they probably expected.
Giving the cat a good bath where you can loosen the dead coat and remove any binding agents from the living coat will allow the majority of the dead coat to slip off during rinsing and drying. Any of the remaining dead coat will be combed out during drying and in the finishing stages of the groom. A good bath and dry is not only easier on a cat than a long brush–out session, but is also easier on the groomer’s body.
While you can attempt to explain how dead coat makes the overall coat appear longer and that a good bath will shorten the coat, most owners are not open to hearing this. The majority of the time the owners are so excited to see their cat looking “fluffy” again, they forget they wanted coat taken off. I then make a note in their file so I know next time that they are happy with just a bath and dead coat being removed. At the next visit, when they request that a little coat be taken off, I respond with, “I will do what I did last time and we can go from there.”
While a bath pleases many client requests for a shorter coat, there are some clients that actually want something shorter than the appearance a bath gives, but longer than a lion cut. These clients truly want a comb cut. Many times these clients have busy lives and they do not have the time to brush their long–haired cats.
Over the years, I have had several clients that did not like the pattern on their cat. These clients wanted to shorten the coat so the tips would not show. This is common for owners of silver shaded cats who want a white–colored cat. Another group of owners who want comb cuts are those owners of older cats that loved regular lion cuts, but as these cats have aged, their skin has become too thin and baggy to safely shave.
Before attempting a comb cut, I would advise that you are comfortable with and have mastered your lion cut. A comb cut utilizes the same pattern and techniques as a lion cut but with a few additions to get a smooth finish without lumps or ruts in the coat. Once you understand these extra steps, it will take much practice to perfect your technique.
When I started offering comb cuts in my business, I only offered them to my best clients. I charged the client a bath price and always offered to turn the comb cut into a lion cut for free if the owners did not like the cut. This strategy gave me time to tweak my equipment and technique so I could launch comb cuts as a new service for my business at a later date.
The first important thing to know about comb cuts is that they cannot be done if the cat has any mats. If a cat has more than one or two mats, my policy is to provide a lion cut at this visit, then moving forward we can maintain the cat in a comb cut. It is also important to know if the owner tried to cut out any mats. This means you will most likely have a lumpy finish.
A successful comb cut needs the correct base before you begin. Think of comb cuts as an art that requires a freshly–bathed and completely dry canvas to work on. If the coat is not clean, it will stick together leaving ruts in the final product. If the cat’s coat is not completely dry, it will clump together leaving lumps in the coat.
The correct tools make all the difference when striving for a good–quality comb cut. A suction system and sharp blades really are a must for feline comb cuts. When the coat is lifted up then cut, the final product is elevated. I understand many of the options for a suction system are costly and heavy. As a house–call groomer, I run my system off a small shop vac from a big box store with the hose and attachments from one of the suction system companies. Beginning with this setup will allow you to test the system and refine your technique at a lower price point.
Once you have a mat–free, clean, dry foundation, plus the correct tools, it is time to work on technique. It is important for you to remember to always hold the skin tight and work in reverse. Cats with loose, baggy skin (not just senior cats) can get their skin sucked into the clippers. Many times groomers have a false sense of security because the comb raises the blade off the skin and they forget the importance of working with tight skin.
I do my comb cuts just like I do my lion cuts; holding the skin tight and shaving in reverse with the same pattern and lines I use for a lion cut. When the skin is not tight, not only does the likelihood of cutting the cat increase, but you will get ruts in your final product.
Another important and often overlooked factor in obtaining a high–quality comb cut is a sharp blade. When the coat is mat–free, clean and dry, and you are holding the skin tight and using suction, yet you are still getting tracking or the coat isn’t being cut the way you expect, first check your battery (if using cordless clippers), then change to a new blade. A new blade can make a huge difference in the quality of your comb cut.
Comb cuts are difficult to master. But, once mastered, they can bring in a larger profit margin than lion cuts. Remember to practice the basics and your comb cuts will be smooth and rut–free in no time! ✂️