A day in the life of a cat groomer
Naturally Cats Blog by Katie Gwilt of The Kat Lady - Why I became a cat groomer.
What led me to grooming?
I’m Katie, The Kat Lady and I am a master level mobile cat groomer based in the North West and beyond. I had a bit of an unusual route into cat grooming if I’m honest! I graduated with a degree in Biochemistry and Neurobiology and was a scientific sales representative for 10 years before one day collapsing out of the blue at work.
I was in and out of hospital for the next 3 years having a series of major surgeries and ended up moving back to Liverpool from South London. As I began to learn to manage a mixture of chronic health conditions, I had the chance to restart my life from scratch and focus on what did I really want to do moving forward.
I had wanted to get out of scientific sales for a few years, but was tied into a mortgage, other financial commitments etc. and just wasn’t sure how to move away from that. Being ill forced the issue, which turned out to be a really big positive!
I saw a job advertised for a cat sitter for The Cat Sit Company. It was perfect for me. I’ve always had cats growing up and after university and have always had an affinity for them. Combine looking after cats and understanding them with flexible hours and a boss who was compassionate, and it was a no brainer.
I had always wanted to work with animals, especially cats, but didn’t realise it was something that was actually possible. During my two years as a cat sitter, I worked on improving my health and energy. I was hungry for more responsibility and to find my own individual path whilst still working with cats. Being a mobile cat groomer again seemed the perfect fit. Having control of my own schedule whilst still following my passion of working with cats was just ideal.
How do you become a cat groomer?
One month later I was off to London to spend 4 weeks (144 hours) studying four levels of cat grooming at The Cat Grooming School. Oh my days it was intense! During the training I had firsthand grooming experience of: different breeds, ages, temperaments and backgrounds. The cats were a mixture of pedigree, rescue, elderly, kittens, excellent condition and very poor matted/pelted coats, aggressive and others very relaxed. I learnt how to handle all these cats (and more!) using a wide range of techniques.
I had learned so much by the time I completed the master level and finally graduated, I was ready to set up my own business.
There isn’t an accredited body as such in the UK like there is for dog grooming, but there are a couple of professional schools around that will train you as a cat groomer. It’s very physical work and takes an enormous amount of concentration, patience and skill. I often wish I had at least one more pair of arms!
Why do you need a cat groomer?
The perception is often that cats groom themselves, so why would you need a cat groomer? Yes, they do to an extent, but would you be happy ingesting all that fur! Long haired cats or those with thick undercoats especially struggle to maintain their fur without it getting knotted or matted. Older cats or those with ill health often are unable to reach to groom themselves like they used to and need some extra help. Grooming also helps increase your bond with your cat (it’s a self-soothing exercise for them) as well as moving their natural oils around their skin.
Grooming cats helps with so many issues. If the cat has mats or is pelted, these can restrict movement and be very painful for the cat. A number of times now, when clipping them out the cat has stopped to put their head on me or look at me and I know that they feel much better. I’ve also had cases where the cats behaviour has changed in a positive way post grooming. They become less aggressive and shy of being touched, presumably because their fur and skin no longer hurt all the time. I’ve had some really magical moments when I’ve connected with the cat I am grooming that have really touched my heart and I love getting feedback from the happy humans who see a real difference in their cat post grooming.
When it all goes a little wrong…
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though. Cats aren’t great at sitting still or being amenable to having certain areas of their body touched (especially by a stranger!). I’m very careful when it comes to cat bites as these can be very nasty. I use a towel to help wrap the cat or just to cover their head and help them feel less anxious if they are able to hide. I’ve seen some horrible injuries and I try my best to avoid getting bitten at all costs.
I have had a few scratches though… I know cats body language pretty well from my years of having my own cats and working with them, but sometimes they do surprise you! One leapt up at my face and latched on which was unexpected. Usually they jump forwards rather than upwards, so I learn to look out for that very quickly now! At the time my reaction was to freeze while the cat and I just looked at each other, neither knowing quite what to do next. I talked to her calmly and let her unhook her claws from my face without stressing out either of us any more than was necessary.
Shaving or trimming cats’ bellies comes with its own hazards too. I am sure you’ve seen the cat belly memes on the internet – well that’s even more true when you have a blade in your hands. You have to try and do the best job you can whilst the cat is often moving a lot and also trying to avoid accidentally catching one of their 8 (yes even the males have 8) nipples. It is a challenge for sure! All cats have different spots they don’t like being touched and it’s always interesting meeting a new client and finding out their sensitive spots. Some have ticklish feet, others don’t like their chest or face area to be touched, it’s very mixed and often the owners don’t know as it’s not somewhere they have tried touching much before.
Since graduating this year (2020) I have now set up my business in the North West and have to say it’s the best decision I ever made and I wish I had discovered it years ago. I love working with cats and helping them. I know I had the misconception that cat grooming was all about the humans needs for less cat fur in their house, but it is so much more than that.
As I move forward with my cat grooming, I am more and more finding my own way and what works for both me and my feline clients. I believe in a holistic approach and spend time getting to know each cat individually. I experiment with the height each cat likes to be groomed at (floor level, lap or table height), what positions they find relaxing and comfortable for the trickier areas in particular and I try to groom them in rooms they are familiar with. I also put music on and have started experimenting with hydrosols and scent work more (thank you Naturally Cats).
I’m studying to become a feline behaviourist (hopefully qualifying 2021) and where possible add in my behaviour knowledge to making the environment as comfortable for my cat and human clients as possible.
All told, I genuinely love my job, but it isn’t for everyone. The first session with a new cat client can be quite tough as neither of you know what to expect from the grooming experience. I wouldn’t change it for anything though and have finally found my life purpose: working to help cats and their humans have happier lives together.
NB: Naturally Cats is not affiliated with The Kat Lady.
Naturally Cats does not support or condemn the practices and procedures referred to in this blog.
This guest blog is for informative purposes only so readers can experience another cat related role.
All Blogs by Julie-Anne Thorne
In this blog we’ll look at how you can help your cat. It’s not about litter trays, it’s about looking within. It’s about helping you to see that you always have a choice in how you show up for your cat. Let’s look at how your energy affects them both mentally and physically, and why you may need a time out!