Better Cat Grooming
Is it time to downsize
your cat grooming salon?

by Lynn Paolillo

With expenses rising and it being tougher to find employees, many grooming business owners are ditching their big, bustling salons and opting for smaller, cozy home-based setups—which is the ideal arrangement for a cat-only grooming space.

Cat owners are increasingly seeking out specialized grooming services in a calm environment without the loud, busy chaos of some traditional multi-species grooming businesses. This shift in consumer behavior has given rise to small, personalized grooming setups, and home-based salons are a great way to combine this low-stress environment with minimized expenses.

Advantages for Cats and Owners
One of the primary reasons for cat owners to choose this style of grooming business is the reduction of stress. The quiet, controlled atmosphere of a home-based salon can significantly reduce a cat’s anxiety during the grooming process by eliminating multiple clients coming and going during their appointment, as well as loud noises, smells and distractions from other pets being groomed.

The advantages of home-based cat grooming salons extend beyond stress reduction. They offer a one-on-one grooming experience that is tailored to the specific needs and preferences of each appointment. For cats, this individualized approach means that the groomer can take the time to understand their unique behaviors and preferences. This leads to a more comfortable grooming experience, which is especially crucial for cats with special needs or behavioral challenges.

With a small, intimate grooming space, cat owners can also feel more at ease. This is in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of a large salon in which some owners feel more like a number or that their concerns aren’t being addressed.

Setting up a home-based salon

For those considering starting their own home-based cat grooming business, there are several key factors to consider. First, and most importantly of all, is to find out whether a home-based grooming salon is permitted in your location. This depends on the specific municipality in which your home is located in. To find this information, you’ll need to locate the regulations that affect your property. To do this:

  • Use your area’s Zoning Map to locate your house and what zone it is in.
  • Find the corresponding zone in your area’s Ordinances (these are the local laws).
  • Look for Permitted Uses, which should list what the property can be used for, what will require a conditional use permit, etc.
  • Search the ordinances for the term Home Occupation, which describes home-based businesses, to see what restrictions are placed on them.

Much of this information is available online through the municipality’s website or by visiting their municipal building. The office you’ll want to look for is usually called “Land Use,” “Planning” and/or “Zoning.” Rarely are grooming businesses listed outright, so you’ll most likely need to chat with this office in order to determine if you’re able to operate in your home, if you need a specific permit or application, and what rules you have to abide by.

For example, my home-based business required a Use Variance, which was a separate application needing a survey and a hearing in front of a local board. There are also restrictions regarding the size and placement of any signage, the days and hours we can operate, how many clients I can have coming and going at the same time, etc. Most of the restrictions are to make sure that my neighbors’ “quiet enjoyment” of their property is not impeded.

Once you have determined you are able to operate in your home, you would then proceed with setting up a new business like usual—registering your business name, tax entity, business insurance and whether you need to collect sales tax. It’s crucial to research and comply with all relevant laws and regulations in your area to operate your salon legally and professionally.

Challenges and Solutions
While home-based cat grooming salons offer numerous advantages, they are not without their challenges. One common challenge is maintaining and growing a steady flow of clients, as many home-based businesses are not on major roadways and may not be allowed large signs for promotion. It may take time to build a loyal customer base, but with a small, specialized business, the number of clients needed is significantly lower than a large salon with multiple groomers.

A common concern for operating out of your home is clients intruding at all times of day since they know that you live there. However, this can be mitigated by establishing clear hours of operation, means of communication and, above all, boundaries with your clients. I personally do not advertise the fact that my business is out of my home on my website or social media. This helps to set expectations with my clients that we are a legitimate, professional business.

Part of onboarding a new client is providing information that includes how they can get in touch to make an appointment, where they can park, any relevant policies related to when pets need to be picked up, late arrivals and cancellations, and how long a typical appointment will take. Providing this information up front is good practice for all businesses, but a home-based salon particularly relies on clients respecting our property and time restrictions.

Space and setup in your home may also present some challenges when wanting to start an in-home business. Ideally a dedicated room or area with a separate entrance would be best. However, many convert a small bedroom, utility room or part of their basement. For some areas, a small shed or accessory building may be used.

The rise of home-based cat grooming salons is a trend that benefits cats, their owners and groomers, too. Without having a separate commercial location and its associated expenses, a home-based business can be much more profitable for the individual groomer. With a smaller, more self-contained business comes less stress during grooming, but also less stress for the groomer without having a large space, higher costs and employees to worry about. Will you be part of this cat grooming evolution?