Kitty’s Corner
Educating Your Clients: The More They Know, The More They Need You!
by Deborah Hansen
W hen I first started grooming, I was worried about educating my clients on at-home grooming. My concern was that if I taught cat owners how to comb out their cat or clip their cat’s nails, they would no longer need my services or see the value in my grooming skills or business. However, time has shown me that nothing is further from the truth! In fact, the more I educate owners, the better they are at scheduling their cats for grooming before there is a problem.

Someone once told me that grooming their own cat was a chore, and people always prefer to hire out chores when possible. Think of a car wash: Almost everyone owns a vacuum, hose and some rags, yet most people prefer to go to a carwash and pay someone else to clean their vehicle for them. The same is true for cat grooming. Even those with the knowledge and equipment to groom their own cat often prefer to have someone else take care of the chore of grooming their beloved family member.

Another concern I had was if clients took pictures and videos, they would be able to figure out how to groom their own cat. I assure you—even if a client videos the entire grooming process and asks countless questions while you are grooming—they will not be able to achieve the same quality you are able to during your grooming session as a professional.

There are several reasons why just watching isn’t enough. The first reason is that pet owners love their cat and are afraid of hurting or upsetting it. This stops them from being able to use the appropriate amount of pressure and force during grooming. Most people use far too little pressure to firmly hold their cat while grooming, and the few people that hold their cat too tightly on their first attempt are usually met with aggressive resistance from their cat, resulting in these owners not giving grooming a second chance. Cat grooming takes a lot of practice and experience that an owner won’t get by just grooming their own feline a few times.

I teach my regular clients how to comb their cats. When teaching a client how to comb their cat, I start with making sure they are using the correct tool. Almost all cat owners are trying to brush their cat with a tool that is made for cutting the coat or a comb that is too fine for a full-body comb-out. My first recommendation is to use a medium comb with an ergonomic handle. The reason I suggest a comb with a handle is because it puts the owner’s hand further away from their cat’s teeth, making it a safer option. Using an ergonomic handle is also just easier for most people to hold. I recommend a medium comb because I am assuming that most of the combing will be done when the owner is trying to expand time between grooms, increasing the likelihood that the coat has grease built up and has matting in the early stages.

long haired grey tabby cat with bulb illustration behind
While it is a very valid fear to think that educating our clients will make our grooming services not needed, quite the opposite is true.
Cat owners tend to decide today is the day to comb their cat and expect the cat to lie still for 20 minutes while they comb them out. As a former elementary teacher, I like to relate combing their cat to doing flash cards with their child. If you do flash cards for 20 minutes, most small children will have tears after already taking multiple bathroom breaks, getting water and begging for a snack. Both brushing your cat and doing flash cards with your child are most successfully done in small doses. I recommend no more than five minutes of combing at a time.

Positioning a cat for an owner to comb out can be challenging. I teach clients to hold their cat in a standing (on their back legs), almost hanging position from under the front “armpits.” This accomplishes a few things: First, it assures the skin is taut so the comb will not tear the skin if the cat is underweight or elderly. Another benefit is that the owner is out of the bite zone, helping to keep them safe. Finally, it keeps the cat slightly off balance which gives the owner a better chance at being successful in their combing attempt.

I also give the owner a pattern to follow when combing. I tell them if they comb every day or two on a clean coat, they only need to make six strokes. I also make it clear that they need to finish each stroke by running the comb right off the end of the cat so dead coat doesn’t collect and start a mat in the lower regions. Giving owners a pattern to follow ensures the entire body is covered and they do not focus on one area which tends to annoy a cat. While I know the legs, tail, head and ruff areas are not being combed in the pattern I provide, the goal is to make combing easy for families while hitting the areas that will do the most good with the least amount of kitty resistance.

I also discuss with the family that when the comb no longer glides or they are starting to have “knots,” it is time for a professional groom. This is when I gently add that all mammals produce grease or oil on their hair over time, and this build-up is what will trap the living coat into the dead coat and will result in matting.

While it is a very valid fear to think that educating our clients will make our grooming services not needed, quite the opposite is true. When cat owners participate in maintenance grooming, they are able to recognize the signs that it is time for a professional groom and actually need you more often. These clients also tend to respect you as a professional and value your skills more than clients who do not comb their cats between grooms.