As spring turns to summer and the temperatures begin to rise, the phone starts ringing with customer concerns for pelted kitties. And after a slow start to the year, the increase in appointment requests can be a positive sign for your business and personal finances.
It is tempting to schedule every cat that you are contacted about to groom. But while taking every appointment request can be beneficial for your business and personal finances, it may not be the best option for your physical or mental health.
Pelted cats are physically demanding due to the strength and endurance the pelt removal process requires. Constantly making sure the skin is held tight—especially when you cannot see the skin—and chipping away at the hard mats at skin level can lead to hand cramping. If the kitty is impatient or aggressive, more of your physical strength and energy is required to hold the cat.
A pelt removal can extend the amount of time spent performing the shaving portion of the lion cut from 10 minutes to over an hour, and possibly more in some cases. I do not recommend working on a cat for longer than 45 minutes to an hour at a time. Difficult pelt removals are best completed during multiple appointments. The physical demands on your body from a pelt removal can be much greater than those from a regular bath and brush or lion cut with no matting.
After you are physically worn down, the emotional aspect of a pelt removal comes into play. Knowing the cat you are grooming had been neglected for months, if not years, to get into the condition they are in today can bring up a wide range of emotions. When we know this is not the first pelt removal for this kitty, our emotions escalate even more. When you see one or two pelted kitties, it is easy to convince ourselves we are helping the cats—we are making the cat’s life much better for the next few months.
As summer approaches and the temperatures begin to rise, it is not uncommon to go from one or two pelt removals a month to multiple requests for pelt removals a day. This is the point that cat grooming can become very hard on our emotional wellbeing. It is important to have strategies in place to finish lion-cut season in a good place mentally.
It is very easy to become angry, frustrated and sad after you have seen multiple pelt removals in a short period—especially if you had removed a pelt from those cats previously. Lion-cut season is a time when it is easy to burn out and lose your joy and passion for feline grooming. Often this leads to being short with clients who made an honest mistake or did something out of ignorance, which is not fair to them or their kitty.
The first step in setting healthy boundaries during lion-cut season is asking the right questions before setting up an appointment. My favorite question is, “Can you get your fingers between the fur and the skin on kitty’s back?” Instantly I will know if kitty is pelted and usually how bad the coat is by their response.
Once we can predict that the appointment will be a pelt removal, we need to carefully choose where we will place this cat on the schedule. If you had a slow winter, you may be desperate for every kitty you can get. I know I was for many years. The temptation is to put the cat on the schedule for today, or stack as many cats as possible into one day. While every business is different, that strategy is not sustainable for the long term.
Scheduling pelt removals in a way that prevented burnout was an art that took me years to perfect. During the “off season,” I schedule one pelt removal on my first day of the week. That way I am well rested and able to spend all the time and focus I need to help the kitty and family to my best ability. During lion-cut season, my plan changes to taking one pelt removal a day as the last cat. Before I meet the cat and family, I schedule a nice long break to refresh.
Charging Your Worth
The next step in taking care of yourself during lion-cut season is by charging what the service is worth. A pelt removal takes much more time, skill, and physical and emotional energy than a lion cut. Your pelt-removal fees should reflect the proportional increase in your time and skill needed for this advanced groom. You can itemize your fees or charge by your time. Both strategies can be very lucrative.
I charge by my time for cats that came to their new owner already pelted. When the current owner had nothing to do with the cat’s current coat condition, I am happy I can help that family. For the majority of my pelt removals, I itemize the charges. I have my standard lion-cut fee that covers the amount of time to shave a cat with no mats, then I add on my pelting fee. This is the padding I have for the average additional time it takes to remove a pelt. I also have a “skin-in-pelt” fee for those kitties that have their arm pit skin twisted into the matting. A “fecal-removal” fee is usually necessary to compensate for the fecal matter being caked into the blades. Elderly kitties tend to be underweight, so I have an “elderly” fee for the extra time it takes to remove a pelt on an underweight cat.
All my fees are posted, and before I start the groom, I make sure the family knows the cost of the groom. If I am not sure about skin in the mats, I do include that charge in my quote. Families are always relieved when the total is less than the initial quote. It is never good to increase the price after you begin grooming.
Repeat pelt removals are hard. Of course you want to help the cat, but you have to protect your emotional wellbeing. My policy is to provide the tools and education needed to prevent pelt removals in the future. I do this by having a pelt-removal package that offers a series of grooms, plus education on how to brush the cat.
At the first appointment, I stress I will only do one pelt removal on this cat. If I haven’t seen the cat after about two months, I send out a “we miss you” email reminding the family I will not preform another pelt removal on their cat. When they call a year or two later, I may or may not groom their cat. If I do take their cat, the price goes up and I make it very clear that this is the last time I will perform a pelt removal on this cat. Then I stand firm and will not do another pelt removal.
These are the cats that are hardest on our emotional wellbeing. For our personal health, it is important to set firm boundaries, otherwise you will be preforming a pelt removal on these cats every few years.
Lion-cut season is when many groomers make the money to last them through the slow periods of the year. The high volume of work can take a toll on a groomer’s mental and physical health. Screening calls to establish if the cat will need a pelt removal, limiting the number of pelt removals you perform in a week, charging for the time and skill the groom requires, and saying “no” to repeat pelt removals will help you have a profitable lion-cut season without burning out. ✂️