Once you’ve decided that your feline needs some professional grooming attention, you will most likely go online to begin searching for the purrfect place to provide your kitty with a spa treatment. You may be surprised to find that many groomers do not groom cats. The groomers that do offer cat grooming services are few and far between and the range of services and qualifications can vary quite a bit. So what do you look for when hunting for a cat groomer?
The grooming industry is unregulated. That means that anyone can buy a comb and nail trimmers, hang a shingle and call themself a professional groomer. However, there are certification organizations in place in the US, Canada and other countries that provide optional certification achievements to those that wish to take a series of rigorous exams and earn a certification title.
There are several dog grooming certification programs in North America, but there is only one cat grooming certification program in the world that provides groomers with useful training options and as well as an exam-based measurement of a specific groomer’s skill level founded on show-quality grooming standards. Since 2007, the National Cat Groomers Institute of America, Inc has been training and certifying groomers around the world. The title of CFMG™ (Certified Feline Master Groomer™) is awarded to those who pass a series of exams, both written and hands-on, that cover topics such as feline temperaments and handling techniques, breed standard requirements, knowledge of coat types, and an understanding of common feline health issues. In addition, a CFMG must show a proficiency to groom a variety of cats to breed standard as well as be able to perform such common groom styles as a lion cut, comb cut, sanitary trim, belly shave and more.
Many groomers may have attended a grooming school, but even then the level of education varies greatly from school to school. The vast majority of grooming schools around the world do not offer any in-depth cat grooming training. Their focus is either solely or primarily on teaching dog grooming skills. The National Cat Groomers School in Greenville, SC is quite the opposite in that it exclusively teaches cat grooming skills.
Any groomer in the US that claims certification by their state or county and does not have a title awarded by a private groomer certification organization has not taken any exams to prove a level of proficiency. This simply means that the groomer has a “license” to operate a business as no such local or statewide government groomer certifying agency exists in the US at this time.
When searching for a cat groomer, ask what type of a training a groomer has, if they attended a school (get the name of the school), and if they have any certification titles. Also ask about their experience grooming cats – how long, how often, etc.
There is much to be said about the environment in which a pet stylist grooms cats. A quiet, peaceful environment can seriously make the difference between a cat being agreeable or being stressed to death. An environment full of noisy, barking dogs and a lot of chaos and commotion can put a cat on edge before it even begins the grooming process.
When searching for a cat groomer, ask if the business is feline-exclusive, meaning the cat will be cared for in a separate building away from the dogs or during a separate time set aside just for cats. More and more feline-exclusive salons are popping up these days, as the cat grooming industry continues to develop and grow. If you are lucky enough to have one of these nearby, operated by a CFMG, you are in luck!
3. Type of business
Groomers either groom in a salon-type setting, in a vet’s office, in a mobile grooming unit (such as a van or trailer), or they offer in-house grooming services in your home. Knowing which type of business your groomer operates will, of course, give you a better idea of what kind of environment your cat will be in during the spa treatment. Mobile grooming provides a very private, peaceful environment for your cat. In-house alleviates the need for kitty to even leave his own home, however, this means that a groomer will be bathing and drying a cat inside your house. For some cats this truly is a good option. Both mobile and in-house grooming eliminate the need for a cat to travel away from home and provide premium services right at your door.
Salon environments vary greatly. Some salon businesses will offer boarding services and retail products in addition to cat grooming services. Salons can be big or small, busy or quiet, feline-exclusive or not. If you want to know more about a salon, stop by during business hours and check it out for yourself. You’ll get a feel for it as soon as you walk in the door. Some feline-exclusive salons may pleasantly surprise you, presenting much like a human hair salon with a spa-like atmosphere.
4. Type of services
A CFMG will be able to offer a wide variety of services for you and your cat, everything from simple nail trims to the removal of tight pelts and everything in between. Comb cuts, lion cuts, belly shaves, breed-standard face trims, de-shedding treatments, Softpaw™ nail caps and more will be offered based on your specific cat’s breed, coat type, temperament, skin condition, age, and health status as well as your particular preferences. A CFMG will be able to offer the appropriate styles and choices, complete the groom, solve your kitty skin and coat problems, and more.
Watch out for groomers that offer simple “comb outs” without the bath, as this is the best way to make a cat angry and torture it with painful mat removal without actually doing anything to prevent the mats from happening in the first place. Humane care of a feline includes mat prevention as well as prevention of other unsavory conditions that make life miserable for the cat and for you. Just because a groomer grooms cats does not mean they understand this or put this into practice. So find one that does offer complete grooms and has a basic knowledge of your cat’s breed, color, and coat type to start with. Make sure your cat groomer can offer you real solutions to your problems and offer preventative services going forward in order to maintain good skin and coat health.
You will notice I left pricing out of this list entirely. While it may be at the top of your list, pricing, in my opinion, is hardly a factor after considering the four factors listed above. The old adage “you get what you pay for” rings true in this scenario more often than not. Because cats are tricky to handle safely and because things can get out of control rather quickly and end with disastrous results, pricing isn’t even a consideration when it is weighed against safety for your feline and experiencing REAL solutions to whatever issues you are dealing with.
In my years of grooming cats I have seen the results of some major CATastrophes. Cats injured by scissors and other inappropriate grooming tools, cats injured by improper handling such as putting a loop around the neck (cats are NOT dogs!), and cats nicked or cut by groomers who don’t know how to shave a cat safely or refuse to shave a cat when the skin condition is such that it shouldn’t be shaved at all.
Grooming cats may not be rocket science but it isn’t for everyone and it does require some basic knowledge, a great amount of skill, and a good bit of finesse. I think it is safe to say that a majority of groomers in the industry are not cut out to be cat groomers. I have come to this conclusion because, for one reason or another, most groomers opt not to groom cats. It can be quite dangerous to handle a cat with a bit of an attitude. Eighteen claws, a set of very sharp teeth, and a few acrobatic tricks up its sleeve make an angry cat a force to be reckoned with. A single bite or scratch can put a groomer out of commission for days, weeks, or even forever. Such injuries can be life threatening or permanently debilitating.
There are some elite, brave souls out there that are excellent cat handlers and turn out fabulous cat grooms that will have you saying “WOW! I didn’t know my cat could look like that!” Finding that golden nugget of a cat groomer is the real challenge. You can visit the NCGIA website to search an online directory of CFMGs around the world.www.nationalcatgroomers.com
So, yes, your kitty could use a good degreasing bath and blow-dry to get rid of the clumps, tangles, mats, dandruff, odor, dried poo balls, sharp claws and excess shedding hair. The transformation from before the groom to after will amaze you when the groom is performed by a professional that knows their stuff. It can change your life. It can change your cat’s life. So what are you waiting for?