Many dog groomers hold off adding cats to their business offering, because of their aggressive reputation. However, cats really aren’t all that bad, and with the right training, there are plenty of steps you can take to calm an anxious cat, and give them the care that they deserve.

Sarah Mackay and Fern Gresty – The iPET Network

The iPET Network launched the UK’s first cat grooming qualifications last year, and we have found that many first time cat groomers are understandably a little nervous.

That is why we have put together our definitive guide to becoming a cat groomer, which offers advice and support to new groomers, and existing dog groomers who are thinking of branching out. 

The guide can be found by going to

Below you will also find some wonderful advice from Katie Gwilt, a Tutor for Four Paws Groom School in Cheshire. Four Paws Groom School is one of many iPET Network approved training providers and Katie explains how she takes the pain out of grooming the cats she cares for.

Katie Gwilt

Claws and teeth can be very sharp and many cats aren’t afraid to use them as a warning signal. They growl and hiss when annoyed or anxious which can come across as aggressive.

You can split seemingly aggressive cats into three types: Defensive, Reactive and aggressive.

When cats get that surge of adrenaline they go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Many cats will appear aggressive when in reality they are scared and protecting themselves.

When a stranger comes into the home to groom them or they are taken to a salon they can become stressed very quickly.

Many cats associate the cat carrier with going to the vets and a lot of cats don’t travel well in cars, so often by the time they arrive at the salon they are already in such a heightened state that they immediately lash out in fear or anxiety.

The best thing to do if the cat is showing signs of defending itself is to see if you can spend some time letting the cat get used to your presence and the new environment.

There are calming sprays available and pheromone diffusers such as Feliway you can plug in to try and create a more calming environment.

I ask clients to bring a towel or blanket that has their cat’s home smell on it so you can give the cat a chance to hide if they don’t like being exposed on a grooming table.

Assess your handling techniques and brush up on the best and safest ways to handle cats that are species specific (scruffing is not correct handling).

Reactive cats are those that suddenly attack when you go near a sensitive area. This may be a vulnerable area such as the tummy or an area that is in pain.

This could be due to mats/knots/pelts or joint pain etc. Older or sick cats are often reactive when you reach an area they don’t want you to touch because it causes hurt or discomfort. Cats are very good at letting you know as soon as you hit a no-go area.

With reactive cats, again think carefully about the handling techniques you are using. Older cats often have stiff back legs so thinking about where their weight is placed when working around them is vital.

Consider they may not be able to sit or lie in certain positions, so working around the cat is essential rather than trying to make them work to your specific routine.

Grooming cats on your lap is to be considered, or at floor level, so they aren’t at any risk of injury if they fall/jump off the table. 

You can support their weight better using your flexible body. Consider making sure the grooming surface isn’t slippery either if the cat’s limbs are sore or weak.

Genuinely aggressive cats are actually few and far between. I have groomed thousands of cats and I have only turned three down due to their level of aggression towards me.

These three have all come over to me and tried to attack me before I even started working with them. This is in sharp contrast to those who swipe, hiss, growl etc because they are afraid or I have touched a painful or sensitive spot. 

I use towels a lot to protect myself and the cats I work with.

Placing it loosely over the shoulders stops the cat from being able to turn and reach me if they do become anxious, defensive or reactive.

Making sure I know any medical conditions before starting a groom is essential so I know which areas to be more gentle with. Observing the cat and how they move and position themselves will also give you a lot of clues about how they may react. Sometimes having the guardian present can help the groom go smoother for more anxious cats, but if the guardian is very anxious too then be careful as this can heighten the cat’s anxiety.

If the cat becomes too stressed, stop the grooming and take a break. Sometimes you can split the groom over two sessions, or request the guardian speak to their vet about a prescription for gabapentin (a mild sedative which can help calm the cat prior to grooming).

If it isn’t safe for the cat to continue (or you) then stop immediately. Welfare for all concerned must always come before aesthetics.

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