Sani Struggle Solutions - Groomer to Groomer

Kitty's Corner

Sani Struggle Solutions

Sanitary trims can be very helpful for felines and their owners. Fecal matter is prevented from being stuck in the coat and deposited somewhere else in the house by cats that have a longer coat, or by those that rush in and out of the litter box. This shaving procedure also helps in preventing urine from trickling down the legs which results in matting. In addition, cats with matting between the back legs and body will find improved mobility with a sani trim. When done correctly, this trim is not noticeable to the casual observer. 

Another benefit of being able to successfully complete a sani trim is the added income it will bring your business. You can charge separately for the trim, or increase the prices of your packages to include a sani. Mastering the sani trim will cut the time you need to complete the procedure which will increase your bottom line. It will also make your pelt removals go smoother, as most pelt removals have pelting in this region. 

Giving a feline a sanitary trim can be very intimidating. Getting in between the back legs of a cat where the front paws can grab and hold your arm in the perfect position for the teeth to fully embed into your hand can be terrifying. You also have to consider the infamous rabbit kick; the feline’s favorite move to tear up your arm with all eight of their back claws. Shaving or brushing the sani area is a task most shy away from, even though the benefits are numerous. 

The great news is that there are safe and effective methods to work in the feline’s lower quadrant that will keep you out of the bite and scratch zones. Mastering a few holds will allow you the ability to improve on your grooming techniques.


Over the years, I have found the most successful method of cat grooming for me is to work in my lap. It allows me to have full control of the cat while using my body to both comfort and restrain the animal. However, keeping all the cat’s joints in natural alignment is important while grooming a feline. I also make sure to provide the same amount of opposing force as the cat is applying. This assures the cat is safe and I can complete the groom successfully. 

While I usually work on the floor, these same methods can be successfully used while sitting in a chair as well. Combing, brushing, comb cuts and shaving all can be done with the following holds and patterns:

The Sani Hold

I start with the feline on their side with shoulder blades stacked one above the other. My forearm applies even pressure to the shoulder blades and spine, keeping the back of the cat in alignment and keeping my body out of reach from the teeth and front paws. My elbow sits just behind the neck. It is important to be sure the shoulder blades are stacked to prevent the cat from twisting into a position where they can bite you.

The upper foot is gently held by my hand that is not holding a tool. I can either hook my finger around the paw (Fig 1) or wrap my hand loosely around the paw and ankle (Fig 2). The key here is to keep the leg in the natural alignment for that cat to prevent injury to the knee and hip. Only provide equal resistance to what the cat is initiating to assure you do not cause injury to the feline. Swishing tails can be tucked between your legs or under the cat to keep the tail out of your work area. 

When you are working on this hold or have a feisty feline, you may want to have a towel under the cat to protect your leg from an unexpected bite that may occur if the cat finds it has room to twist its head. If you are experiencing this problem often, simply apply more pressure to your forearm and make sure your elbow is resting at the base of the skull.

The Sani Trim

Shaving the sani area can be very daunting. After you have mastered your holds, it is time to start the shaving. It is important to only shave on a flat surface. I shave inside of one leg down to the stomach, then the inside of the other leg, continuing by connecting on the stomach and finishing under the tail. 

The key for a quick, smooth and even sani lies in the hold. When you can successfully hold a cat in a way where you and the cat are safe and comfortable, your speed and quality will naturally increase. 

Once you have your cat secure, you want to cut in at a 90-degree angle just above (towards the body) the calcaneum, sometimes referred to as the hock or heel. This will be your starting point and where you want to place a crisp line (Fig 3).  On a longer-coated cat (Fig 4), this first line will help you get your bearing so you can see what you are doing. I choose which side to begin on by the position I have the feline in when I am ready to start.

After you have your starting point, place your clippers flat on the skin and shave down towards the body, always making sure you are shaving on flat, taut skin (Fig 5). You may need to readjust the leg to assure you have a flat surface to shave on. 

Continue by going in and connecting the shave pattern on the legs across the stomach (Fig 6). On shorter-body cats, the connection will almost have been made when the inside of the legs were shaved. Your top line of the sani trim will be a straight line that connects the legs across the lower abdomen. Afterwards, you will want to remove any additional coat remaining in this triangle-shaped area. 

Now it is time to shave under the tail. I start by shaving both sides of the anus. I position shorter-body cats on their side as it is more comfortable for most cats (Fig 7). Larger cats or cats that I am struggling to see what I am doing on, I position more on their back (Fig 8). In this position, my forearm is pressing the shoulder blades into my knee so I can maintain control. My hand is pressing the back leg into the body, keeping the leg in natural alignment. 

Finally, I shave up from the anus (Fig 9 & 10). Never shave over the anus as you can cause damage to the feline. 

As you can see on a short-coated cat (Fig 11) and a long-coated cat (Fig 12), this shave is not obvious unless you are looking. Fecal matter and urine now have a pathway to prevent them from being trapped in the coat. This type of shave will also prevent the matting and pelting that cats with longer coat often experience. 

Additional Advice

A trap many inexperienced groomers fall into is attempting to shave the back of the legs. This often leads to knicks and cuts. If there is matting further over than you can shave on the flat of the inside leg, it is very important you slide the skin over to the inside of the leg and make sure the skin is flat before you shave. 

Another mistake is not having the cat’s body firmly wedged between your forearm and leg, and not having the feline’s leg secure before you start working. This can lead to a cat rabbit-kicking the clippers out of your hand. When your clippers go flying, there is not only the potential of damage to your clippers or blade, but the likelihood of the cat puncturing your skin with their claws or teeth. 

When working with cats, it is important both the groomer and cat are safe and comfortable. Depending on the temperament of the cat, this may be easier said than done. Starting with a firm foundation on cat grooming holds before working on feline grooming techniques will help you to become a successful feline groomer. ✂️

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