09 Oct

How To Groom A Cat That Hates It


I literally stole this article title off a Google search for cat grooming. It made me laugh. I wasn’t sure if people searching for this information were looking for ideas in how to wrestle a cat into submission, armour themselves for a battle, or attempt bribery and distraction.
Grooming is an act of love between individuals. It should be enjoyable and a wonderful bonding experience. So how does it become so unpleasant between some individuals? We need to step back and get the background story.
Here are nine reasons cat grooming goes awry:

1. “What’s in it for me?” Look at grooming from the cat’s perspective. Is it enjoyable? Rewarding? With no bred-in desire to please like a dog, you have to give the cat a reason to want to do this. 

2. The cat wasn’t handled and groomed while young. A crucial opportunity missed. If started young, any pet learns that grooming is just part of the scenery, no big deal, and that it’s quality time spent with the owner.

3. You didn’t start grooming until there was a problem. Aren’t cats supposed to “groom themselves”? Well, no. Not all cats have the ideal hair, weight, and overall health to make self-care a breeze. The owner goes from oversight to suddenly being all over the issue pestering the cat. The cat rightfully believes you are Jekyll and Hyde. The problem is usually painful or uncomfortable. Tugging on private cat areas really hurts and is offensive.

4. You are using the wrong grooming tools. There is a lot of bad information on the web about the cat grooming tools. Here is my recommendation. Use a “feel good” tool for training and reward, and an aluminum comb to do the actual grooming work somewhere in the midst of a grooming session. Be sure to use the grooming tools on yourself first to have a good idea of how it actually works and feels. If the tool is uncomfortable, or you would never use it on your own (8x coarser) hair and scalp, don’t use it on your cat.

5. Doing too much at once. If you haven’t been practicing since young, you can’t possibly expect a cat to have patience for a grooming session more than a minute or two long if it has little prior experience. It takes time for a cat to build up trust and patience with you. Start with the good enjoyable stuff, and sneak in one hard-to-get-to spot, and finish on a positive. Keep sessions short enough so that you quit before the cat does. Short and frequent grooming trumps intermittent and arduous. Build on the good stuff.

6. Wrong time, wrong place. Never be in a rush or attempt cat grooming during rush hours in your home. Find a quiet time and place. No interruptions, no distractions. It’s quality time for both of you.

7. Former traumatic experience. At some point the cat has had a fear inducing experience. Could be bathing/falling in the tub, could be a shavedown that pushed the cat too far with multiple people holding it down, could be declawing. What ever it may have been, your cat is caught in a fear-based defensive mental loop anytime the cat is handled by a person. Slow, patient rehabilitation using different strategies are the only way to overcome a PTSD-like fear.

8. Level the playing field. Cats are armed with sharp claws and teeth. You’ve just got your wits. Wear long sleeves and pants. Groom in your lap with a towel wrap for shy/nervous cats, or on a slippery surface to reduce traction and leverage for the runaways or swatters. If you are worried about being bitten, use an elizabethan collar, or welding gloves. Most cats quit arguing when you’ve proven you can ignore and thwart their offence. 

9. You are not the original owner. Kudos to you for giving a cat a new home! Build on trust following all the other recommendations above.
I haven’t told you how to groom a cat that hates it. I have given you direction and mindfulness you need to start over so the cat will come to at least tolerate it, and with time hopefully enjoy it. Every cat/owner relationship and history is different. If the cat’s grooming needs are beyond what you’re capable of, seek a certified professional cat groomer to get you back on track. Then work on maintaining the reboot, and go for professional seasonal tune-ups.

21 Jan

Growth is a wonderful and terrifying thing.

Today’s blog is a departure from cat grooming, and instead much more personal. I  just checked the blog and was astonished to find I my last one was written 1 1/2 years! That’s horrible! bad, bad, very bad. And that’s what this blog/share is about.

Growth is a wonderful and terrifying thing. Every new business owner has to beat the odds to get their company off the ground. Only a small percentage make it past two years. Due to overwhelming response of wonderful clients, we’ve easily rounded that curve. But what comes next? More personnel? More locations? More services?
It’s easy to get sucked into a mentality that to be successful you have to grow. But what kind of growth is good for the clientele? For the company? For the people who work here? 

As I started out, I added many revenue streams/features to try and see what worked, what resonated with the clientele, and who exactly was my ideal clientele. I couldn’t compare what I knew about the dog grooming industry because, like the animals themselves, the clientele is different. I have groomed. I have taught and administered grooming exams. I sold Chubbs Bars. I created grooming aids. I have worked six days a week in the grooming studio for the last three years (and on the seventh, I’m still working on accounting and marketing).

One of my many interests is horticulture, but I don’t have the time. But what I learned from gardening long ago was that when all the new shoots on a plant are growing, they all compete for a limited amount of energy from the core of the plant. That is why it is so beneficial to prune. A good gardener is merciless in cutting back weak, non-productive growth that doesn’t support the core of the plant.

So rather than grow Cat’s Pajamas unchecked, it is important to stay true to our core and refocus on our purpose, which is to make each cat a masterpiece for their pet parent. I would hate to disappoint our core clients, or make bandaid decisions to just fill demand. It won’t benefit anyone.

Sooooo, going forward into 2019, I need to prune. Some things may make some people unhappy. For those who understand and “get” what Cat’s Pajamas is about; they will benefit.

First cut: No more walk-in services on Mondays and Fridays. Giving 3.5% of company time to a revenue of less than 1% of the business makes no fiscal sense. Also, the point of creating a walk-in time was to convert walk-in visitors into clients. It didn’t happen. I would say 90% of that 1% revenue just don’t believe their cats will benefit from proper grooming. Spot shaving mats or just combing is not proper grooming. Need a nail trim? Make an appointment for full luxury bath service instead. Still not convinced? We may not be the groomer for you (That’s another blog idea coming soon).

Second cut: Closed Mondays. If you have an appointment currently scheduled for a Monday – do not panic! I will of course grandfather all existing appointments. I need Mondays to do business development such as hiring and training employees, writing blogs, recharging. We may re-open Mondays in the future once appropriate employees are trained and put in place, but in the meantime…..

There are a few other branches I need to prune, but they won’t affect the grooming clients in any way, so I won’t go into it here.

New initiatives: We are going to upgrade our reception to improve clientele experience and social engagement. We are also exploring even better ways of making appointments, reminders, etc. We may have to limit accepting new clients in the future to better serve our existing loyal regular customers.  This may slow down growth, but that is a good thing, as each decision will be done keeping in mind our core purpose of why we are here in the first place.

So that’s the low-down of what this year’s streamlining for betterment is all about. If you have ideas on how we can improve your grooming service experience with us from a customer point of view, we would love to hear from you!

​Just send an email to: hello@catspajamasgrooming.ca

29 Aug

The Value of Cats

Most cats are unplanned acquisitions.

More than 50% of cat owners were not seeking ownership at the time – their cats “found them.”  And up to 70% of new cat owners didn’t pay anything for their cats. With virtually no investment or planning, new cat owners have little, or no education on how to look after their new responsibility. The very casual nature of cat ownership at the outset sets a tone of a devalued pet when compared to dogs.

New cat owners start with good intentions. An estimated eighty-three percent visit the veterinary in their first year of ownership, however, over half of them never return. Why is that? In my experience, most cat owners either are unaware of the value of regular maintenance check-ups to keep their pets healthy, or they are unable or unwilling to spend the money on a cheaply acquired pet. In other words, why spend money on something that didn’t cost you anything from the beginning (other than litter and food).

Pet ownership is a luxury, not a right. In my opinion, if you cannot afford regular maintenance, you should not have a pet. It is unfair to the animal to suffer from a lack of proper care. If you struggle to look after yourself, don’t bring an innocent into the mix as an extra burden. An average cost of a cat over a 15 year lifespan is $25,000. That is without emergency care.

I have seen much willful neglect by owners as a pet groomer. Willful neglect is the conscious choice of pretending not to notice a bad situation.

How people cannot notice a filthy, matted unhappy creature, and have it living in and sharing their personal living space boggles the mind. A maggot-infested cat sleeping on the owner’s bed was the most recent (of many) willful neglect episode I’ve encountered.

I always thank people with a grooming situation for coming for help. I always add a side dish of education on how to prevent the situation from happening again. Most people are very grateful for the instruction and follow my maintenance advise. There are some, who treat professional advise with suspicion, because they know better or think its just a scam of some kind. When they end up in the same situation again a year later, I charge double from the first visit. If it happens a third time, its triple.

As an animal lover can you condone willful neglect? There have been several times where I have started to groom a bad situation only to uncover something much, much worst. These poor cats are collected immediately by their owners to be whisked off to the vet for a one-way only emergency visit to never come home again.

How does it get to that point? Is there no interaction with the cat at all?

Why have a cat if all if you do is fill a food bowl? Cats need interaction, play, love, and grooming. The more you put into the cat, the more you will get out. These are the fundamentals of a thriving healthy relationship. These simple actions prevent obesity and depression, and a whole other range of ailments. You understand your cat better, and can recognize when something is not right.

Regular grooming keeps prevent shedding, hairballs, and keeps mats under control. When approached correctly, grooming is also a pleasurable bonding time. Regular hands-on grooming is a maintenance activity as it also will tip you off of anything out of the ordinary, like wounds, swellings, parasites, etc.

Let’s not forget the huge benefits that cats have for our health and well-being. They reduce our stress and anxiety, trigger calming chemicals, like oxytocin, in our bodies. They decrease the risk of stroke heart disease, lower blood pressure, boost immunity, lower cholesterol, and increase sociability. That’s a lot of medication in a furry four-legged package.

Cats have value. They ask very little in return. They give us companionship, love, health, and entertainment. Can you put a value on that? 

21 Jul

Why We Don’t Groom Sedated Cats


the administering of a sedative drug to produce a state of calm or sleep.

Why do some cats need sedation?

It can vary from a highly suspicious and defensive feral nature, previous traumatic experience, intolerance of handling due to fear of being hurt; the list goes on. The bottom line is that the cat is already on high red alert, or in a “postal” state before it even comes out of the pet carrier. It takes hours for this extremely high adrenaline state to come down, and we haven’t even started. At this heighten state, a vet will tell you, sedation doesn’t even work anymore.

The combination of a sharp cutting tool such as a clipper and a crocodile rolling fury of fangs and claws does not mix. It would be foolhardy and irresponsible to believe that there is no risk to either the groomer or cat. I’m sure most clients would be upset if their cat was injured. What about the employee? Would a client be willing to pay for employee days off work for injured tendons or a courses of antibiotics administered by I.V. daily for week? Unlikely. I know several professional groomers who have permanent damage from grooming cats. Employees do have a right to refuse work that they feel will endanger their health and safety.

Cats are very sensitive to environmental toxins and can vary a great deal in their metabolism of chemicals from day to day. In other words, medication doses that may work one time, may not work the next time, or work too well. There is a fine line between a minimally depressed consciousness induced state of sedation vs. a depressed consciousness whereupon the cat is unable to continuously and independently maintain a patent airway, has partial loss of protective reflexes (such as vomiting) and the ability to respond to verbal or physical stimulation. The risks increase with age. Sedated pets can also come out of a sedated state too soon, or become even more defensive because they are aware of their vulnerable state. A groomer is not trained to monitor and identify the state of consciousness of your cat.

The risks of sedation is greatly reduced if a facility is properly able to handle a medical emergencies. This can only be done in, or adjacent to a veterinary clinic, NOT a grooming salon or in the home.  Cats have a very delicate balance of internal systems that make them very prone to sudden medical crashes. For comparison, I’ll point out that Joan Rivers died while under sedation at a private clinic. Had she had her procedure done at a medical hospital, the risk of her tragic death would have been significantly reduced.

I compare groomers to car detailers. We work on the exterior surface. We clean, polish, and bring to your attention any surface damage we may notice. Anything that requires “under the hood” scrutiny, behavioural modification, or potentially messes with the internal workings of the finely balanced engine of a small predator requires veterinary supervision.

Some cat owners lament that veterinary grooming is costly. Yes, and for good reasons. But for some this is preventable. Most of these aggressive cats actually do quite well as bath and brush cats. They are much more receptive to the bath and combing, than the excessive handling and clippers required for shaving. This requires education and a regular professional bathing schedule to prevent mats and a cranky attitude from forming.

That said, I did say “most”, not “all” cats. Some cats will always need veterinary supervision for the safety for all parties concerned.

So why don’t we groom sedated cats? Because we value your cat.

Trying to be cheap, and handing over a known aggressive or sedated cat over to a unsuspecting groomer to save money is negligent. Full and clear disclosure from the start will usually get you the information or strategy you need to figure out a better long-term course of action in managing the grooming needs of your cat. The Cat’s Pajamas is unwilling to put any cat’s well-being at risk. We strive to educate and promote regular grooming for long-term health and enjoyment because we are passionate about what we do, and feel cats are worth it!

03 Jan

Opinion: The FURminator 

As a professional groomer with over 20 years experience, I fully understand the exasperation of shedding hair. One of the best marketed pieces of equipment is The FURminator  (and other similar knock-offs). Used correctly, can help “card” out excessive undercoat just like the carding and stripping knives used by professional groomers. The issue I have with it is the poor design, and that it does not come with adequate instruction in its usage. Because of this, in the hands of average pet owners,  the Furminator ultimately does more damage than good.
Stripping/carding knives are designed with a quality thick blade with teeth on one end and a handle on the other end. The depth and spacing of the teeth will vary by model and make of the carding knife. The purpose of the carding knife is to comb out the excessive undercoat, while still leaving the outer protective guard hair.  The tools are used at an approximate 30-45 degree angle to the surface of the pet’s skin in a combing motion.  The edge of the blade is a millimeter wide, so it is blunt. Even so, I always take new carding knives and scrape the edge on some concrete to ensure there are no sharp edges or burrs.

You would start with the widest and deepest toothed carding knife and successively use finer and narrower models (just like sandpapering) to get the finer undercoat or in shorter more sensitive areas (i.e. head). You know when to stop working an area when you can no longer feel or see longer fuzzy undercoat and the outer guard hair is laying flatter. My favourite quality brand is the Mars Stripping Knives. They last forever, have a wide variety of sizes, work well in tight areas, do a great job with out harm or damage, and the pets enjoy it. They are less expensive than the FURminator.

The FURminator has a thinner blade, and therefore a sharp edge, with tiny teeth. It is  designed in the form of a rake, with the handle perpedicular to the cutting edge. Yes I said cutting, as this tool can cut and scrape.  The handle design being perpendicular encourages the user to drag and use too much force in order to stay in contact with the hair since the teeth are very tiny. The action means the blade is dragging at a 90 degree angle to the hair, so it is catching and shredding the hair, not combing.

The FURminator is deceptive because it looks like you are removing a lot of hair, but what actually happens is you are scrapping and shredding the outer coat and undercoat hair along the top dorsal, with little focus on the areas that actually have more undercoat, like the hind end and mane. Because the FURminator is indiscriminate by design in which hair is being removed, a user doesn’t know when to stop because hair will keep coming off until the damage has been done and bald/damaged areas are apparent.

I can always tell immediately when a pet’s owner has been using the FURminator. The hair is literally shredded and the hair cuticles damaged. Because of this, these pets tend to mat more easily, as ragged cuticles absorb more dirt and snag on one another. Underneath, the skin is red and scrapped. Sometimes the damage is so bad that only alternative is to trim off the damaged hair, throw away the Furminator, and start over.

I teach a lot of grooming, and my first rule for newbies is to use a grooming tool on yourself first to understand how it works, feels, and how much pressure or finesse to use. If it is a tool you wouldn’t want to use on yourself, chances are you shouldn’t on a pet. Keep in mind human skin and hair follicles are twice as thick as a dog, and a dog’s skin and hair is twice as thick as a cat. A cat’s hair and skin is a 1/4 as fine as humans which makes them especially prone to tearing and damage.

If you want to keep your expensive FURminator investment, I suggest you dull the edge, use minimal pressure in the dragging action, use evenly all over the body, and use frequently for a very limited time.

14 Nov

Does My Cat Need Grooming?

Yes, your cat needs grooming.

Cats have hair and skin which is constantly in a cycle of shedding and renewal. Cats have very delicate skin and hair, about 1/4 the thickness in epidermis and hair follicle compared to our own  human skin and hair. They are 30% more absorbent of chemicals, pollutants, dirt, etc. in their environment than we are. So why do we still believe erroneously that cats are self-cleaning?

Oh yes, they wash themselves. But lets look at this accepted “norm” with fresh eyes and common sense. They wash with spit to disguise their scent from larger predators. Their saliva contains a multitude of bacteria, AND 5 known allergens. This is why cat allergies are more common than dog allergies; you get a double whammy of dander (dead skin) and saliva.

Cats are also very greasy, more so than dogs, as they have an oil gland located along the top of the tail about two inches from the base of the tail. This is a hormonally driven pomade factory. In nature, the build-up of this pomade would be kept in check by swimming, rainfall and moisture from underbrush. For the indoor cat, the oil just keeps building up, creating a greasy coat that dirt and loose hair sticks to creating mats.

If you happen to own a ultra shorthaired cat, that is fit and young, you may not need to bathe your room-mate too often. But if your cat is overweight, long-haired or plush short-haired, has medical issues, or elderly, your cat and you will greatly benefit from a regular grooming schedule. A clean cat feels soft and smooth to the touch. Lumpy/chucky hair with peaks and valleys that separates into strands means your cat is in need of assistance. Mats are a definite sign of a problem that needs addressing as they will not disappear without intervention, and can be prevented by regular grooming.

The benefits of regular grooming include controlled shedding, reduced hairballs, less destruction from scratching, controlled dandruff, less cling-ons from the litter box, clean face and ears, and a pleasantly fresh room-mate who is much happier and affectionate from simply being clean. Cats are very narcissistic creatures!

Below I’ve posted a few photos of regular cats with different grooming issues. You’ll see that it is both short and long haired, because yes, shorthaired cats do need grooming too. All these cats are indoor cats, and none of these cats are an extreme example of neglect. Rather they are cats whose owners needed some guidance as to the maintenance and long term care required to keep their companions in healthy condition.

After browsing the photos below, take a look at your cat with fresh eyes, and ask yourself, “Does my cat need grooming?”

06 Sep

Cat Repairs R Us -Repairs vs. Maintenance

Grooming repairs are required or necessary if your cat is suffering or becomes unpleasant to live with. No different than your car, or your health, if you don’t plan on regular maintenance, you are exponentially increasing the odds of an unplanned expensive repair bill. 

For a cat owner, grooming repairs can include or uncover mat and pelt removal, imbedded nails, fecal removal, excessive shedding, parasites, dandruff, hair ball prevention, and ear and eye infections. When a serious problem is revealed, there can be another level of repairs required from your veterinary. 

You can see how quickly a lack of maintenance can add up to very expensive repairs. 
All of these repairs are easily preventable by regular maintenance visits. Figuring out the best maintenance schedule for a healthy cat depends on coat type, age, cat lifestyle, and your at­home grooming routine. 

In other words, there is a difference in service maintenance for a city driver vs. a highway driver, a fat cat vs. a fit cat, a new car vs. an older car, a young cat vs. an elderly cat, and so on. 

If you have a cat in its prime or younger, fit and active, short­haired, and you are willing and able to do regular at­home combing, your cat may only need professional grooming once a season to help keep shedding under control and to wash away built up impurities and dander. 
Once a season bathing is a bare minimum of any pet that shares your living space, just from a hygienic point of view. Does the shedding drive you crazy? Does your cat like to share its smelly bottom with you? Do those gross flakes fall off all over your house? Do mats just “suddenly” appear? Then your cat needs more regular maintenance. 

If you have a cat that is older, long­haired, overweight, with medical issues or depressed, and you are unable to do regular combing, your cat may need a maintenance schedule of professional grooming every four weeks just to keep your cat from being a health hazard. 

Don’t begrudge me that our repair costs are going up. Why? Should a client who comes in for regular cat maintenance pay the same as a person who comes in once and a while with a repair job? 

Repairs take longer (more time in the bath to get clean, more drying time, more combing time, more de­matting or shaving), they are gross, and the cats (understandably) less cooperative. Time and effort = money. 
For a certain percentage of clients, suggested regular maintenance falls on deaf ears. They assume a one time visit fixes everything. They are unwilling to realize cats, hair, skin, health, and environment are not static and constantly change. How to make them take notice of a chronic, but preventable problem? Hit them in the pocketbook. An unfortunate truth. 
So to my regular clients, rejoice, as you are appreciated (and your cats appreciate you)! 

To new clients, welcome, and let me get you on the right path after your first, and only* kitty repair job. 
To my intermittent clients, you will be charged appropriately for your ongoing cat repairs. 

29 Jun

Should You Trim The Hair On A Cat’s Paws?


In the pet grooming world, it’s a dog-centric world out there. So while it is the norm to trim the hair on the paws of a dog, is it o.k. for cats?

There are a few things to consider; tradition and practicality.

The majority of dog breeds have the hair around their paws trimmed (if there is some) for practical working reasons. They are heavier and larger, the pads are deeper, and produce more sweat, therefore collect more dirt and debris around the feet. Think of the accumulative difference of snow or mud between cat and dog paws and you get the picture.

There are a couple of dog breeds that require hair on the paws NOT to be trimmed. The Pekingese and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are strictly indoor and formerly “palace” breeds whose hair slippers are prized (it’s also prized for deadening the sound of nails on hard floors).

Cats, with shallow pads and being generally light of paw, do not accumulate the volume of debris and dirt comparatively unless they are already very dirty. Dirty greasy hair attracts more debris to stick to it. Regular bathing reduces paw debris.

Most people are unaware that cats have tactile hairs (whiskers) along the back ridge of the limbs and between pads. This provides feedback from the vibrations in the ground. If you feel uncomfortable about the notion of cutting the whiskers on a cat, than don’t.

Cat breed standards prize the toe tuffs of cat’s paws. They are fluffed up and accentuated during cat shows. But is it practical for pet owners? My advise is if it is causing a problem such as spreading letterbox debris (which can be controlled by having clean paws from regular bathing), or lack of traction for the elderly, have it trimmed. Just be aware you are trimming whiskers and creating a sharp blunt ends instead of a natural supple tapered point.

Dog groomers will automatically trim your cat’s paws because that’s the norm for dogs. A knowledgeable certified cat groomer won’t trim toe tuffs unless you ask.

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