I still believe the best environment for almost all cats to be groomed is in their own home. At the time of writing this article, I had just begun seeing my clients in their homes after a year break, which was due to both covid restrictions and client comfort levels. I would like to share with you the story of three cats that are proof that house–call grooming is the best environment for felines.
Chubbs is a shy six–year–old Domestic Short Hair. Shortly after the teenage daughter got Chubbs I began giving him lion cuts. Pre–covid I would sit on the bathroom floor, give him his lion cut while chatting with the daughter or mother. I did not use barriers such as a hard–sided muzzle or Kevlar sleeves. After I shaved him, we would go to the kitchen for a bath then return to the bathroom for drying. Rarely he would urinate during drying. During the entire groom, he would just lie in my lap like a sack of potatoes without struggling, vocalizations, signs of aggression, panic or stress.
During the covid restrictions, Chubbs was groomed in my home. I took the time to let him explore and settle into the grooming area. I groomed him in a bathroom of similar size and layout. I used the exact same procedures with the only variables being my home instead of his home and his humans were not chatting with me during the grooming process. Things did not go well. He urinated in the car every trip to my house. He tended to flail during his lion cut. Drying was impossible because he would pant. I had to use barriers because I was concerned he was going to bite or scratch.
Sometimes even when cats have been groomed their entire life, they will all of a sudden decide they do not like or want to be groomed. I was beginning to come to this conclusion with Chubbs—then the family invited me back into their home for his grooming. Even though a family member did not sit in the bathroom with me while I was grooming, Chubbs’ grooming behavior was 100% normal. No urine. He laid in my lap like a sack of potatoes, motionless. He handed me his paws for his nail trim. No panting. No screaming, howling or crying. It is now clear that being in Chubbs’ home is the key for him to have a positive grooming experience.
Sam is a 19–year–old Domestic Long Hair. I have been grooming her for about six years and I would classify her as compliant with a turkey timer. In her home, I am usually able to do nails, a full belly comb cut and ruff trim, bath, and about 10 minutes of drying before Sam would make it very clear she was done and was not playing around.
Due to her age, genetics and medical conditions, Sam tends to have a greasy coat. She sleeps most of the day and refuses to allow her family to comb her. If she does not have a professional grooming every four to five weeks, she develops matting. During her house–call grooming session, I work alone in the bathroom while the mother works remotely and the children are at school.
Enter covid, and Sam was then being transported to my home for her grooming. She would scream the entire way. The panting and dilated pupils would begin almost immediately. The aggression that was usually displayed about 40 minutes into the groom now started as soon as the carrier was opened. Her agitation over being removed from her home steadily grew as the state continued to specifically say groomers may not enter client homes. Sam reached the point that she could no longer be safely groomed outside her home.
Sam’s first groom back in her home went just like her in–home grooms pre–covid. She was calm for her pre–bath prep work, happy in the bath and gave me about 10 minutes to dry her. In Sam’s case, the only variable was the location.
Fran is a four–year–old aggressive Persian that I started grooming at about 18 months due to matting from her coat change. She lives in a large family with lots of active children, so she has learned how to say “leave me alone!” What was very interesting was that the aggressive cats, that I had assumed would be easier in a new environment, were about the same. While she did not know where to run and hide if she got away from me, I had no intent of letting her have that option. And she did not seem any less grumpy.
I still believe that most aggressive cats will do better outside their home environment because they do not know their next step if they can get away from you. That brief moment of hesitation will give you an opportunity to grab them and regain control.
While I have always believed house–call is the best environment to groom a cat, my belief has only been strengthened after the local covid measures. I still firmly believe house–call grooming gives you a longer time frame to groom each cat. Both Chubbs and Sam are examples of that.
While in the cats’ homes, Chubbs’ lion cut would almost be done and Sam would be in the bath in the same amount of time it would take for the owner to get the cat into the carrier and transport to a salon. Time wise, house–call grooming gives me an average of an additional half hour of the cat’s patience.
Working in the cat’s home environment also gives comfort to the cat. Most cats do not like to leave their house and will panic when taken out the door by their owner. Chubbs, like many cats, displayed this anxiety by urinating in the carrier. This is another area where house–call has an advantage over both salon and mobile grooming. And while salons and mobile units offer many benefits and luxuries for the groomer, I truly believe and can now prove that house–call grooming is what is in the best interest of almost all felines. ✂️