05 Apr

Cat Grooming: You’re Doing It Wrong, Part 3 – Products

The last in the series, of “Cat Grooming, You’re Doing it Wrong”,  we talk about products that are marketed for felines. By products, I mean items that are used on the coat of the cat.

Standing in the aisles of most pet supply stores, you will first notice a deficient of tools and products specifically for cats. Most are dog-centric have just been repackaged for cats. This can be dangerous and does a disservice to cats.

Never ever use ANY product that is meant for a dog on a cat. It may contain ingredients that are very toxic or even fatal if licked by the cat. This is particularly critical for any flea control products. Use a cat-specific labelled product only. This is for drops, flea collars, shampoo, foam, premise spray, etc.

The most popular cat shampoos marketed typically have a conditioner in it. I suppose it is meant to control the static electricity commonly associated with fine hair. The problem is that cats are naturally greasy. In fact, they are greasier than dogs. It makes no sense to add oil (conditioner) to a coat that is already amuck with grease. You best choice is a natural degreasing shampoo to thoroughly wash the skin and hair. Damp cat hair should squeak when it is clean. This doesn’t happen with any cat shampoo I’ve ever seen in a pet supply store. So although you may has “washed” the cat, it really isn’t clean. It’s still greasy. It is no wonder that pet groomers get frustrated with the results of attempting to wash a cat with poor results. They are using the wrong products.

Show cat fanciers used to use four separate steps to adequately wash and prepare their cats for shows. Some still do. Some will use solvents, Dawn, d’limonene, to get the grease out of the hair. Followed by a hypo allergenic products to get any gear easer residue out in the final step. It doesn’t need to be that complicated anymore. I use Chubbs Bars. It is an organic degreasing shampoo that can degrease most cats in just two washes. It uses no solvents, or anything else that is potentially harmful to a cat. Just simple old fashion clean.

Have you ever shampooed your hair using wipes? What kind of result do you think you would get? The result is about the same on a cat. It might smell perfumed for an hour from the chemicals on the wipe, but it didn’t succeed in getting your cat any cleaner. Use wipes if it makes you feel better.

De-tangler sprays for cats is a bit of a farce because you cannot de-tangle cat hair. Once the hair has started to bond with other hairs the only thing that can be done it to ease the mat out by pulling it out of the coat. It won’t magically come undone. Pulling on wet sprayed hair damages and stretches the hair follicles even more. In fact, trying to comb out mats on a dirty cat is tantamount to torture. The hair is locked up and pulling it out hurts. No wonder kitty isn’t happy when you try and do it. If the mats haven’t interlocked into a pelt (which then requires a shave down) than the mats must worked gently out of the coat only AFTER the cat has had a proper degreasing bath, followed by a velocity drying to loosen and blow apart the mats. It is the only humane and effect way to remove the knots on a cat. If you have a matted cat and decide to wash it at home, never let it run around to air dry otherwise the mats will shrink and bind only tighter.

As I have blogged before, only a show cat with 2-3 baths a week regime may ever need conditioner. Dandruff is dead skin on cats, NOT dry skin. If you have a very staticky kitty, you can use a metal comb and a light misting of plain water to neutralize the ions. For hardcore problems, look at increasing the humidity in your home or buying Biogroom anti-static spray. It doesn’t add oil and it is safe for cats. It’s what we professionals use.

Ears have delicate tissue, but it does get waxy at times. You don’t need any fancy ear cleaner that may have alcohol or oil in it. I like to use witch hazel.

Eye cleaner are need for flat-faced breeds like Persians or Exotic Short-hairs. Their eye ducts frequently don’t drain as easily as the longer nosed breeds and staining results. The staining is caused by protein deposited on the hair. You can buy the fancy stain removal products ( this is the one area that cat and dog product crossover is safe) but a simpler and less costly alternative is to use saline contact lens solution. The same stuff you rinse your contacts in before putting it you own eye. Don’t use the red-tipped protein busting solution.

So as you may have noticed, most of the cat products on the shelf in your local pet store is junk. If your cat’s grooming needs are getting beyond your comfort zone, or becoming a point of contention in your relationship with your cat, call a Certified Feline Master Groomer for help or advise.

24 Mar

Cat Grooming: Your Doing It Wrong, Part 2 – Tools


In part 1 we talked about raising your expectations for cat grooming. There is no reason to expect less in cat grooming than dog grooming and be charged more. When we talk about tools, we are talking about the equipment used to groom our cats.  With varying degrees of tolerance, even from day-to-day, cats may give you only a small window of opportunity for at-home combing. You must be prepared and make the most of every second you have and have the right tools.

If you go to the local pet supply store you will either face a complete lack of grooming tools or tools that are identical to dog grooming tools except typically coloured in pink or purple and on a slightly smaller scale. Dogs have 8 different types of coat, cats only really have one type of coat, but it varies in length and in the volume of undercoat. 

My dog grooming kit is a workshop cabinet. It has three drawers full of brushes, combs, clippers, stripping knives, clipper blades, products, and spare parts. Over the years I have pared down my tools in what works best and avoid duplication. It’s still a cabinet full. My cat grooming kit is contained in a tiny tool box. That is all I really need to effectively and humanely groom a cat, aside from cat-appropriate clippers for lion and teddybear trims.

I will share with you what is in the cat tool box, by telling you what is NOT in it. 

1. NO slicker/wire brushes. This might work well for dogs, but is a big no-no for cats. You can demat dogs using slickers carefully, but you cannot demat cat hair. The only thing a slicker-type brush accomplishes on a cat is damaging the hair by damaging the hair follicles and scratching the skin.

2. No pin brushes. This is great for long coated dogs but rather useless on cats. Cat hair is too fine and any small mats will be missed.


3. No cat nail clippers that have holes for fingers or guillotine style nail clippers. Use a small scissor-type nail clipper instead. Cats can be wiggly. There is nothing more annoying and potentially dangerous than nail clippers you can’t immediately drop or disengage from because it is wrapped around your fingers or a nail. Safety first.


For at-home grooming the only tool you will need for a medium to long-haired cat is an aluminium “Greyhound-style” comb with coarse teeth on one end, and fine teeth on the other. The coarsely spaced teeth are good for easing out small mats and combing out the tail. The fine-toothed side is excellent for general body combing and removing loose hair.


For short-haired cats I recommend a rubber curry or boar bristle palm brush. These will remove the loose hair when used in a circular motion, followed by a sweeping motion. Most cats enjoy this type of grooming and it is an excellent entry level of grooming even for longer haired cats. It may not be effective on long-haired cats but it is a good training step to build tolerance and trust before the comb. Don’t dwell in this phase too long for your long-haired cat, otherwise your cat will mat without regular combing. 

Always use a comb on the body to check your work on short or long hair. (Yes short-haired cats can and do mat). Your work is done when it glides easily through the whole coat. This is the professional groomer’s secret for all pets.


Location is another important tool. If you have a lap kitty, your lap will do fine as the grooming location. If you have a a cat who is more independent or prefers to bolt after a few strokes with a comb, find a location that is high and smooth. A smooth surface works in your favor and advantage. Give a cat traction and they are more likely to give you a hard time. This could mean the top of the washing machine (when it is off), a table top, counter, etc., the point is to be consistant. Use the same location every time and treats and favourite toys everytime. This is training time. Don’t expect to accomplish more than a 1/4 of a cat the first few times. With a patient attitude, speedy and efficient technique, you’ll be able to do more each time. Never try to tether your cat like a dog. You run the risk of serious injury should they decide to make a jump for it. 

If you have a cat that tries to constantly avoid the situation, you may need to scruff them gently but firmly by the back of the neck just as momma cat used to do. This is only done with all four paws still on the ground. Use scruffing only for a few moments while you comb the underside or backend; those difficult to get to, but very necessary spots. It will give some measure of control and safety from biting should your kitty object. Speed and efficiency are necessary skills when it comes to combing certain personalities.


One other tool in my kitty arsenal is a Furminator-type shedding blade. I do not recommend using one of these tools at home. I have seen a lot of damage done to cats and dogs by improper use. If you really do want to use one of these shedding blades  be sure to take your tool to a professional groomer and get a lesson in its proper useage. You must learn what to do with the blade to make it safer for use before ever applying it to the hair and skin of your pet, plus where it can or can’t be used.

In summary, all you need at home is good quality comb, a bristle or curry palm brush, and scissor type nail clippers sans finger holes.

Next week we will talk about cat grooming products.

18 Mar

Cat Grooming, You’re Doing It Wrong, Part 1 – Raise Your Expectations


Cat grooming is filled with misdirected good intentions, misinformation, misconceptions, myths, and just flat out ignorance. We take horse grooming to a higher level than the feline that resides in our house, walks our counters, and sleeps with our kids. So why the blind spot? Why the incredibly low expectations?

Most uneducated attempts at cat grooming are a miss at best, and frequently a fail. It is doing your cat a serious disservice to it’s long-term health, it’s mental well-being, and your enjoyment of your pet. Let’s face it, if it smells funky, feels greasy, looks dandruffy, or has chunks sprouting down it’s back, how much time do you spend playing and cuddling it? It’s more like having a roommate you avoid that doesn’t wash.

New clients are often very apologetic. They believe their cat to be a self-grooming flunky. They don’t know why the cat is in the state it’s in.  We expect the cat to stay beautiful and clean all on it’s own because it spreads lots of time spreading spit all over it’s hair. Hygiene standards changed for dogs when they stopped working for a living and we brought them indoors. The same should go for cats. I don’t know any Pekingese who doesn’t need regular brushing and bathing, why would a Persian be any different? If you do not have the time, or are unsuccessful in developing an enjoyable grooming routine with your pet, seek professional help for their health and well-being. You owe to them, as a responsible pet owner.

Owners and even pet groomers give-up or have incredibly low expectations when it comes to grooming cats. Here are a few of the statements or accepted norms/myths I encounter regularly, that as a professional, I have to debunk.


“Just comb out the mats” 

You can’t detangle fine cat hair once it mats. It must be pulled out. Pulling on mats is a great way to piss off the kitty, because IT HURTS. Loose hair + moisture + grease/dirt =  MATS. Even if you pulled out the mats, they’ve already started elsewhere and be back even sooner because you’ve damaged the hair cuticles by combing when its dirty. You’ve done nothing to prevent it from happen again or to break the cycle.

“Just shave out the mats”

Some cats really don’t like clippers. Then there’s the really bizarre looking reverse mohawk/baboon butt  creature wandering around your house after the chunks have been shaven off. Course it still is greasy, dandruffy, dirty and has the aroma of a litter-box. Don’t you feel proud to share your living space with this poor creature?

“Just do a lion clip”

Do you get a better haircut if the barber just wets your hair with a spray bottle, or when you get a massaging hair wash and blow dry by a stylist?  The results are dramatically different, you feel different. Now the cat just looks and feels naked AND dirty. That makes for a vengeful kitty. Doing an annual dirty shave-down because your cat is matted is inhumane and unhygienic. This is a house pet, not livestock like sheep or alpacas. Stop making excuses. There are better alternatives.

As a professional, I will not do or recommend any course of action I know is not a long-term solution for you and your cat. If I lower my standards, how could I be a professional? I would never do the “just” minimal with a dog groom, why would I do it to a cat?  Your cat can be trained and pampered too,  differently than a dog, but with the same goal and end result.

RAISE YOUR EXPECTATIONS. Your kitty will thank you for it. Most cats do enjoy being bathed and blow-dried. They particularly love how they feel afterwards and seek your admiration and affection. 

All cats benefit from regular baths and grooming, but if your cat is any of the following issues: long-haired, over-weight, elderly,  diabetes, kidney problems, depression, hairballs, dietary issues, or any number of well hidden feline health issues, you can improve their quality of life dramatically. How dramatic? We often have  clients who don’t recognize their own cat after just a professional bath and comb (no trimming).You just have to raise your expectations and try just one professional groom by a Certified Feline Master Groomer.  

Reveal the glamour puss you may not realize you own. 

10 Mar

Why is Cat Grooming More Expensive Than Dog Grooming?


Excellent question!!

Typically in the working world there are three words that accompany the higher paying jobs: dirty, difficult, and dangerous.

I have been a professional pet groomer for many years and I have to be honest and tell you that pet groomers are very under paid and under appreciated for what they do.
Pet grooming is very dirty, from feces, to fleas, to inhaling dander. It is difficult; hard on your back, feet, hands, and it gets very hard when you have uncooperative clients. It can be dangerous from parasites, strain injuries, falls, and bites. 

Dog Grooming:
If you compared the square inches on a person’s skull and what a hairdresser will charge you, for just a wash and trim, it would be on par to the square inches of a Yorkshire Terrier. We don’t get a mani-pedi, Brazilian, ears cleaned included. We also usually sit still and don’t try and bite our hairstylist. So when we encounter clients who complain why does it cost so much for a dog groom, they simply haven’t considered the education and skill, the amount of products, metered water and electricity during peak hours, and the time to comb out. Pet grooming is very energy intensive.
Hair stylists have two kinds of hair to content with: straight and curly. A good stylist will go to trade shows to stay current with styles and techniques. Dog stylists have to content with eight different types of
dog hair and a vast variety of breed specific styles and pet trims. Education for a quality groomer is also ongoing as equipment, styles, and products advance.

Cat Grooming:

Cats generally have two types of hair and three lengths. A few exceptions would be some of the rare wire-coated breeds, wavy coated, and hair-less. By the square inch, cats have more real estate than a person’s skull but a lot less than most dogs. Cats have very fine hair and it takes longer to dry per square inch than dog or human, plus they like to make it more difficult by staying tucked up and making the underside inaccessible to drying.

Pet groomers do not receive training
on grooming cats, therefore when an attempt to groom cats with dog-centric equipment, products, and process goes amuck it can become very dangerous for the groomer and the cat. Cats are contortionists, own 18 weapons of mass destruction they aren’t afraid to use, and have teeth that puncture a deep wound and infect the blood stream. Dog bites can be messy, but they are easy to clean. A bad cat bite can end your career.

If you are not paying attention to the very subtle warning signs of tension, a pet groomer can get caught by a “sudden” attack, or attempt at escape. It is no wonder many groomers will not groom cats or minimize contact by just spot shaving, or running a comb over a dirty, dandruffy cat with a nail trim for $50. A grooming (shave down) at the veterinary clinic will include sedation for the safety of the vet tech, and in our area will run about $300 and they aren’t stylists. None of these services include solving the cause of the mats and dandruff in the first place; it’s dirty and greasy and needs a bath.

Now that I have explained the “3 D’s” of why it is more expensive to groom cats, I can also offer hope. With proper training and certification, there are some groomers who are truly qualified to groom your cat, in a safe, feline sensitive environment
. Please look for a Certified Feline Master Groomer in your area. As they are a rare commodity, they do have the right to charge in a manner that gives value to their skill and knowledge in providing the best care and solutions for your cat.

As the Ottawa Human Society’s volunteer cat groomer, I can attest that all the cats I groom there have never encountered any professional grooming
before. To date, none have needed to be sedated or required more than just myself in handling, bathing and drying these grateful kitties. Every one of the cats I groom at the OHS receives a bath as a minimum, because it rejuvenates and cleans their skin and hair, and they feel much better afterwards. They get a fresh start. and a better chance for adoption. If grooming stray cats can be done in a productive, life-enhancing manner, why not spoil yours at a cat spa designed for cats?

02 Mar

What is a Teddy Bear Trim For Cats?

PictureMister is very cute in his Cat’s Pyjamas trim of 3/8″

A Teddy Bear Trim (aka, comb trim, cat’s pyjama trim) is a longer styling option for felines. When done correctly, it is an adorable, low maintenance style for your cat that varies between 3/8″ to 1 ” long depending on the owner’s preference and the most attractive length for your feline’s hair and physique. Mane and tail lengths are customized.

This is a very specialized and advanced trim for felines, so I can only recommend it be attempted by a proper Certified Feline Master Groomer. There are no scissors or naked clipper blades used for this style. If the hair is not properly cleansed, prepared and trimmed using the most cat appropriate products and equipment, the results will be VERY disappointing. It will look like your cat fought, and lost, to a weed wacker.

Reasons to consider a teddy bear trim:

  • It’s adorable when done correctly
  • Lower maintenance demands between grooming appointments
  • Reduces shedding
  • Reduces problems with hairballs
  • Not as extreme in appearance as a lion trim
  • For people who want a stylin kitty but prefer the clothes left on

Reasons not to have a teddy bear trim:

  • Your cat is overly aggressive or very nervous/shy. The styling process demands a patient kitty. Trimming is only possible after proper cleansing, blow-drying, combing, and possible dematting. If your cat is not tolerant, it is unfair to inflict a longer grooming session than necessary. A bath n comb package would be a better option.
  • Your cat is very matted. Your best option is to get a lion clip first, let it grow out for a few weeks, and then schedule a regular grooming appointment to keep your kitty at the best teddy bear length.
  • Your cat is elderly or has a medical issue. This is a case-by-case decision as the feline stylist has to take into consideration the temperament, health of skin and hair, lifestyle of the cat, and the grooming maintenance plan the owner can adhere to.

Is trimming a cat cruel?

  • Cat’s don’t have to dwell in the Dark Ages or be second-class pet citizens any more. If it has skin and hair, and lives in your house, surely you can understand the need to have roommates wash at least once a season as a minimum. They actually really enjoy the process and share how fabulous they feel afterwards.
  • Unlike many breeds of dogs, cats can have their hair shaved or trimmed with no effect on the regrowth. Once the hair is totally grown out, many champion cats re-enter the show ring and the judge is none the wiser. This isn’t possible in the dog show ring ring as the damage done by clipping or shaving is very evident and not reversible. So the decision to shave or trim your cat is not about the possibility of damaging the hair.
  • Trimming whiskers, the head, cheeks and legs does constitute as dangerous and unnecessary and no true feline professional would consider complying with such a request.
  • No different than dogs, cats can be introduced sensitively and with understanding to professional grooming. There is always a learning curve for each new visitor, no matter what age they are started at. In my experience, cats learn at the same rate as dogs in trusting their groomer and  becoming familiar with the equipment and process. The difference is the equipment and process is different, from start to finish, for a cat vs. a dog and that is comes down to proper education and training.

18 Feb

Is a Lion-Shave Good For Your Cat? – by Janet Wormitt


Lion trims polarize opinions in cat owners.  Whether you think they are adorable or ugly, will solve your shedding and allergies problems, here’s what you truly need to know before booking in that appointment.

First, what is a “Lion Shave”?
 A  classic “Lion Shave” is the  shaving the body and belly of a long or short-haired feline smooth, to the skin with varying options of shaving the tail, leaving a traditional “tuff” at the end and leaving the neck ruff according to the owners preference or condition of the cat.  It should NOT include the head or cheeks, or the limbs and paws as these are all very sensitive areas with tendons and whiskers, plus  very easy to nick . There is no professional justification to shave these areas. Cats have very flexible and thin skin and it is very easy for a pet groomer to accidentally cut your cat simply by using the same tools and grooming routine as they would for a dog. Please never attempt a lion shave at home, and find a certified master cat groomer in your area.


Reasons to consider a lion shave:

  • Cat is very matted to the skin and it is the only humane option.

Reasons owners “think” they need a lion-shave:

  • Owner or family member is allergic to cat and rather than give it up, shave it. 
  • Cat is obese and can’t “groom itself”
  • To keep a longhaired cat “cooler” for summer
  • Cat is an heavy shedder or suffers from excessive hairballs 
  • Cat has irregular hair growth stemming from an underlying health problem
  • Chronic flea problems. Owner can closely monitor any re-infestations.
  • Owner lifestyle preference 

What a lion shave will NOT do:

  • Prevent mats from occurring again. Only a proper de-greasing bath followed by a professional blow-dry on a regular schedule will prevent mats. A conscientious cat owner can easily break the cycle of oscillating from dirty shave-down to dirty shave-down with a regular professional bath n comb schedule.
  • Stop shedding indefinitely. Once the hair starts to grows out, the shedding cycle starts again. A regular bath and comb routine is the best strategy to reduce shedding.
  • Keep your long-haired cat cooler. Cats don’t sweat through their skin like humans, BUT if the hair is matted, it creates a barrier trapping the heat in.  Regular professional grooming reduces loose hair and permits air to circulate through the fur freely, as it was meant to, providing both a cooling and warming effect depending on the season.
  • Absolve the owner from a regular grooming schedule. Oscillating from severely matted to shave-downs is willful neglect and irresponsible on the part of the cat owner.

Reasons NOT to do the lion shave:

  • Repeated shaving causes follicular dysplasia and occlusions, to the detriment of your cat’s skin and hair health.
  • Cat skin is 30% more absorbent of it’s environment than human skin. You have removed natural defences to toxins, parasites, etc.
  • Your cat is elderly or has a delicate physiology. The skin is very thin and often dehydrated, plus over a bony structure and therefore very easy to nick.
  • Your cat has an underlying health condition. Whether it is diabetes, heart condition, or autoimmune diseases, the risks outweigh any benefit, plus be warned, the hair may never grow back in.
  • Your cat is aggressive or intolerant. Sharp instruments mixed with a defensive cat can only have disastrous results. Cats that don’t tolerate any handling at home are not good candidates for lion trims. Lion trims are the most invasive type of grooming, requiring precision and lots of rolling, stretching,  and clippers in sensitive areas. An intolerant cat does much better with a regular (and more forgiving) comb trims or bath n comb schedules to keep them in good condition. Just not the precision shaving with clippers. If the cat is very matted and aggressive, it may be referred to being groomed under veterinary care for its own safety.

Is shaving a cat cruel?

  • If it is matted, NOT shaving the cat is cruel. There could be parasites, bruising, or sores lurking under that pelt, not to mention the possibility of a septic cat with poop stuck to it’s rear end. It’s grumpy and doesn’t move much because every step hurts with the hair pulling tighter and tighter every day. Cat torture by neglect.

Is there a better option?

Many cat owners aren’t aware that a regular pajamas trim can resolve all the perceived “hair” issues without the extreme of destructive shaving. A pajamas trim clippers the hair about 4 to 26 mm away from the skin surface, greatly reducing risks from clipper nicks, follicular dysplasia and occlusions, along with keeping the cat cleaner longer without shaving.

For allergy suffers, a regular bath routine will remove the dander and saliva which is the source of proteins causing reactions. It is NOT the hair!

Another option is just shaving some problem areas like the belly, inner thighs, and sani- area. You can keep the full-coated look and tame the gnarly feline underworld. 

Photos of Lion Shave Variations:

04 Feb

Guest Blog –  Danelle German, on Messed Up Numbers


One of the people I respect most, Danelle German, President of the National Cat Grooming Institute  was very kind to mention me in one of her recent blogs pertaining to the volume of cats vs. dogs and the lack of qualified professional feline groomers. Thank you Danelle.

Messed up Numbers – National Cat Groomers Institute of America

Messed up Numbers – by Danelle German, President of the National Cat Grooming Institute of America
A follow-up article to the previous State of the Cat Grooming Industry article

Last week I wrote an article entitled, State of the Cat Grooming Industry, which was published in the January 2014 edition of PetGroomer.com’s State of the Industry Report(also on my blog). As I flipped through the publication I was fascinated by some of the many statistics reported. In particular, I was glad to see that the survey results from over 10,000 respondents backed up my own survey findings by stating that, “Dog grooming (81%) was their primary interest and cat grooming (19%) second. However, interest in cat grooming continues to grow. In the last 5 years interest has more than doubled.”

In order to have growth such as this, there must first be a need. There must be actual consumers who are willing and able to pay for a product or service in order for the providers of the products or services to realize a pattern of growth with any consistency. Data clearly shows these consumers do exist. There is a need.

In fact, online reports from various sources show that there are more owned cats than dogs. In the US alone, there are close to 15 million more owned cats than there are dogs (see reports from Humanesociety.org). Canada follows suit with an estimated 2 million more owned cats than dogs. Other countries, such as Switzerland and Russia, report similar ratios. And some countries, such as Australia, show a reverse. Even so, there are an estimated 2.7 million owned cats living in the land Down Under. There is clearly a potential consumer pool in many parts of the developed world.

Even though the past few years has shown a steady increase in the number of professional cat groomers, and particularly those who offer some sort of feline-exclusive environment, the percentage of pet groomers offering these services is severely out of line with the number of estimated owned cats as mentioned in the previous paragraph. Sarah Miller, a CFMG in Michigan and a recent graduate of the National Cat Groomers School, wrote this in her survey response to us: “Feline care is poorly neglected compared to dogs.” She’s right. The numbers clearly show this. So what is the problem?

I believe that there are two primary causes for this imbalance. First, there are the myths that surround cats and their grooming needs. It is widely taught, even within the grooming industry, that cats groom themselves. As self-groomers, they have no need of human intervention to get them clean or take care of common skin and coat issues. I feel like a broken record repeating for nearly a decade and a half that cats do NOT groom themselves. I’ve been saying this to clients all along as I worked to build a steady clientele of caring cat owners who realized the importance of regular professional grooming for their felines. Cats do not groom, they lick. It’s that simple. A cat licks, it is covered in saliva and dander (and other icky things). It is dirty and greasy and somewhat smelly most of the time. If a cat is lucky, it is not also covered in mats or a thickly pelted layer of hair that was once long and silky. Back before the cat stopped grooming itself. (I am being sarcastic here.)

You can ask any groomer that’s had any small number of felines on his or her grooming table. Cats do not groom themselves. Cats do not use clippers or shampoo, they do not blow dry their hair or wield a comb or nail trimmer. They don’t clean their ears or rid themselves of waxy stud tail or keep their tushies all that clean. (Really, I promise. Check out your kitty’s butt sometime.) Cats are totally incapable of removing thick pelts of matted hair that eventually pull and tug on a cat’s body until it eats sores into the flesh if the pelt is not removed in a timely manner. Cats do lick, however, and ingest large amounts of dirty, shedding hair (sometimes with fleas), later to be regurgitated up in the form of a hairball (unless the hair decides to remain lodged in the cat’s intestines, only to be removed by a surgical procedure).

I believe the second cause of the percentage imbalance is directly related to the first. In the past, felines have generally been left out of the grooming industry, often times not considered at all even though the reference may be to “pet” grooming. Generally groomers think “dog” when hearing the term “pet groomer.” Of course, this has changed considerably since 2006 when I first started speaking at industry events and particularly later, in 2007, when the National Cat Groomers Institute was formed. But we still have a long way to go.

Janet Wormitt, a CFMG in Ontario who I first met while conducting some cat grooming classes in Kuwait City last year, wrote in her survey reply, “Cats are second-class pet citizens. (They) receive care only when it has become an extreme situation.” I have to agree with Janet. I have witnessed this attitude myself on more than one occasion. This way of thinking was my single biggest enemy when I started grooming cats for local patrons while still showing Persians in CFA. In the show world, I was surrounded by cat fanciers who spent inordinate amounts of time and a whole lot of money bathing and drying their cats to perfection in hopes of winning titles, points and pretty rosettes. When I started offering grooming services to local cat owners, I found that the vast majority of initial appointments were made because the cat was in very bad condition, well beyond anything that could be remedied at home. It was like being on another planet and left me continually thinking, “How on earth do these people let it get this bad?”

The trick, back then, was turning those first clients into regular clients who were more concerned about prevention and maintenance than about their wallet. I had to wean folks off of the myths that cats groom themselves and somehow their cat had suffered some temporary break-down in its self-grooming mechanism and here were are all matted up and in a really bad state. Time to call a pro. But surely this won’t happen again, right? Surely Fluffy will get back to grooming himself like before.

I found that my best weapon against myths and ignorance (and even against total lack of caring) was to WOW a client with a perfect
ly coiffed cat, groomed as if bound for a cat show to win “Best in Show.” It really didn’t matter what breed each cat was or even if it was a domestic mix-breed with origins completely unknown. The principles applied were just the same. The goal was the same: quality grooming that serves a true purpose in alleviating and correcting the existing problems that warranted the visit in the first place. Janet, up in Canada, is putting that very thing into practice and enjoying the results. She, like many others who are taking their job as a cat groomer quite seriously, are enjoying the benefits of clients that drive long distances for their services and are rebooking appointments as per the recommended schedule.

Even so, the myths that abound as well as the general attitude within the grooming industry still impact the growth of the feline-grooming industry, messing with the percentages and keeping them off-kilter. It is still commonplace for pet groomers that offer services for both dogs and cats to report that their cat clientele makes up a very small percentage of the total customer base. Carla Freestep, a groomer in California, wrote that while cats make up 20% of her total clientele, they make up only 10% of herregular clientele. Those myths are still leaving their mark.

With such high numbers of owned cats in developed countries and so few of that market actually being realized, there are some unique opportunities for those who do want to include cat grooming services on their menu. With that comes the unique challenges that I’ve already mentioned in this article. So who are the people that actually want to hurdle those challenges and go after that untapped market? What makes some of them only dabble in cat grooming while some of them are wildly successful, many times within a very short period of time?

I’ll address these questions in my next article, Who Grooms Cats and Why?. Stay tuned……

15 Jan

Do Cats Need Hair Conditioner? – by Janet Wormitt

PictureCombinationof dried saliva and dead oily skin (seborrheic dermatitis)

​Conditioners for cats is a greatly misunderstood topic. Professional cat grooming is still in its infancy and there are a lot of myths floating around like dandruff. In fact even veterinarians often erroneously recommend conditioner when they see flakes on a cat.

Previously we talked about dandruff and static and how and why they do not benefit from conditioner. Visible dandruff floating on the fur is either dried saliva or dead oily skin (seborrheic dermatitis), NOT dry skin. Large yellow/green flakes floating on the surface of the hair is just sloughed off oily skin, meaning the cat needs an exfoliating bath. Dried saliva is translucent and brittle. Dry skin can be determined only on the actual surface of the skin once scratched and best evident on the belly by tiny, tiny flakes, just like our skin.
Cats are naturally greasy for weather-proofing and most do not get bathed often enough to ever warrant using conditioner. The only time conditioner is required is if you are bathing your cat twice a week or more frequently. In other words, only show cats that are actively campaigning may require a light conditioner every other bath, or a cat groomed every six weeks or less with a specialty coat colour of a damaged nature, such as shaded silvers, dilute colours, 

Winter static problems well-meaningly remedied by owners with conditioner results in an ever increasing greasy lump of cat. Typically it is dirty hair which has the greatest static problems. It has to do with positive and negative charged ions. While conditioner adds moisture to the hair and smothers the hair cuticle, you can just as easily reduce static by adding moisture to the air and defusing the charged ions by humidifying the air, and/or spraying a fine mist of water over your static kitty before combing with a metal comb. Avoid plastic grooming tools as they conduct static. You do not need conditioner.

Most pet products have rubbing alcohol in their ingredients, among other dubious things on the list and it is not something you want your cat licking. Pet products were designed for dogs, and the entire grooming industry is dog-centric. These products can be dangerous for cats as they ingest them plus the fur and skin on a cat is very different than a dog. Most pet shampoos will not get your cat properly clean as they are much greasier than dogs, owners have difficulty properly rinsing, inappropriate pet shampoos and conditioners will leave residue behind in the fur, and all of the above will make the hair more prone to matting. Finally word, using conditioner or sprays to attempt to remove mats is a huge mistake. Cat mats never untangle (they have to be eased out) and you have a greasier mess than before. 

Indoor cats still produce weather-proofing oils despite being indoors. All this oil and spit builds up over time making the hair sticky and dirty making it the perfect breeding ground for mats to develop. It is unlikely the average household cat will ever need conditioner in its lifetime and more likely needs a regular bath schedule to remove dead skin flakes, saliva, loose hair, and revitalize the skin and hair to stay soft, silky and healthy.