Feline grooming can be a beautiful and rewarding career choice, but there are many things new cat groomers need to know.
While I can talk about how to groom a cat, I am going to take a different approach and share with you the things that no one told me before I began grooming. I believe the things that surprised me the most about feline grooming can be much more helpful to a new groomer. While they are very ugly, knowing they exist will help you be ready for them when they come.
I entered the grooming field a little differently than most. Cat grooming was my second career after teaching elementary school for almost 20 years. I began by attending a feline-exclusive grooming program before I opened my cat grooming business. The knowledge and experience I received by attending a feline-exclusive school was invaluable and I would recommend it for everyone as their first step in their journey of feline grooming.
When I started grooming, I naïvely believed everyone loved and cherished their cat at least as much as I did. I was always very attentive to my pets, seeking medical care if anything didn’t seem quite right. When I opened my house-call cat grooming business, I was quickly awakened to the harshness of the world of pet ownership. I never saw myself as spoiling my pets, and I surely never treated them as if they were human. I honestly thought I was a moderate when it came to caring for and respecting felines. I quickly learned that few cats have as good of a life as I give my own cat. This is the harsh reality new groomers need to be aware of.
Almost daily, we will be called on to resolve cases of neglect; cats with coats that are as thick and hard as a turtle’s shell due to pelting, ingrown nails that are so bad they have grown out the top of the paw, cats that have urine burn on their skin and fecal matter caked into their coats. The cold hard truth is that the cats you will groom need your help. Helping that cat on that day sometimes is all we can do for that specific animal. For your mental wellbeing, you must have a strategy in place to help you navigate how others choose to care for their cats.
Occasionally you can turn a stinky, pelted kitty into a regular grooming client with a luscious, full coat. These are the fabulous success stories we experience. While not common, they do happen. When they occur, it makes all the heartache worth the mental anguish we experience during a pelt removal. Sometimes you discover that the neglect the cat experienced was ignorance on the owner’s part and the owner is willing to learn and help their cat.
Another thing I did not know is that feline grooming is very physically demanding. If you groom on a grooming table, in your lap or on the floor, the demand on your body may vary slightly, but overall, cat grooming requires a lot of upper body strength. Using your combs, brushes, clippers, water nozzles and dryers require a lot of repetitive movements with your hands. Your upper body and hands will also be used for holding and possibly restraining felines. In addition to the actual grooming, you will need the physical strength to carry the cat in the carrier between the check-in area to your work area and back to the check-out area. A squirmy cat in a carrier can be quite difficult to carry. To end each groom, you will need your hands to clean and sanitize your work area and tools. Grooming is hard on your hands, elbows and shoulders. If you are standing to groom, it can also be hard on your knees and hips.
Before I began grooming, I would giggle at little fluffy, angry cats. If you do not have a lot of cat experience, you will be very surprised at the strength a cat has. A six-pound angry Persian has much more pure physical strength than most people expect. When you have an aggressive 12-to-18-pound kitty, you will need to use every ounce of strength you have to keep the feline and yourself safe during the grooming process. Grooming multiple cats a day will require a good level of physical endurance.
The most important advice I can give a new feline groomer is that cat bites are very dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Never underestimate a cat bite. Over the years I have experienced many bites. I have also had emergency surgery for a bite. The problem with cat bites is that they enter your body as a puncture wound and leave bacteria at the depth of the puncture. Many times basic first aid will be enough, but sometimes oral antibiotics are needed—and occasionally emergency surgery is required. Most cat bites occur on the hands where there are many tendons. A pierced tendon is another possible complication of a cat bite.
The best strategy for avoiding cat bites is a sound feline grooming education that includes instruction on using barriers such as Kevlar sleeves and hard-sided muzzles. I am a firm believer in having the grooming skills I need to prevent bites, while also using protection to prevent a bite from puncturing my skin when dealing with difficult cats. Another tip for avoiding cat bites is accurately assessing the temperament of the cat before agreeing to the grooming session and walking away if the feline becomes more than you can handle.
Feline grooming can be a fulfilling and profitable career choice. Knowing the ugly truths can help you better prepare for your journey into cat grooming. In my opinion, there is no substitute for a formal education in feline grooming by a reputable feline-exclusive organization. Cat groomers see many neglected cats, but each cat we help makes the world a better place. ✂️