Compassionate Cat Grooming

Post by: Cat Guru, Sheryl Woods of Wet Whisker Cat Grooming
August 9, 2014

There have been a few cases of late when groomers made the news due to their techniques. The groomers in question were blindsided with the backlash from the grooming community at large, due to their belief that they were being compassionate.

What is compassion? Synonyms include empathy, concern, sensitivity, warmth, love, mercy, kindness, & humanity. The groomer should try to see what’s happening through the viewpoint of the cat. If they cannot do that, they can at least try to imagine how they, themselves, would feel. If the groomer doesn’t believe cats have feelings, they should be in an entirely different profession.

How long something has been done a certain way has no bearing on whether it’s a good technique or not. One groomer said she’d been using the same methods on cats for 40 years & had learned from a groomer who’d been using them for 30 years prior. Well, a lot has changed since WWII as we’ve become more enlightened!

It is beyond comprehension why a groomer wouldn’t choose to use a respectful & compassionate approach when grooming cats. In my mind, the self-centered groomer who uses force & restraints is only interested in the money. The cat is incidental. These are inhumane groomers and I sincerely hope that the general public can pressure them to change their ways or change their profession.

Fear is a factor with many new groomers and cats. If the groomer is afraid, imagine how much more afraid the cat is of the groomer. There are many techniques the groomer may utilize to calm & reassure the cat, thereby enabling a safe grooming experience for cat & groomer. Techniques that do nothing to quell a cat’s fear are scruffing, force, tethering, muzzling, and taping or the psychological feeling of being trapped. These techniques can also traumatize the cat psychologically & sometimes physically.

If you’ve watched even one episode of My Cat from Hell, you undoubtedly picked up on Jackson Galaxy’s theory that the cat isn’t the source of the unwanted behavior, it’s the owner. The same holds true when grooming cats. Is the cat reacting badly? Well, what are YOU doing to cause it? Or if the owner caused the fear, how are you perpetuating or escalating the cat’s fearful reaction? The groomer must think through what they’re doing & it’s impact on the cat.

There is no such thing as an aggressive, domestic cat. That terminology puts the burden on the cat, where it doesn’t belong. In reality, the cat is fearful & reacting with a primal, self preservation response. This way of thinking puts the burden & responsibility where it belongs; on you, the groomer. After all, the cat was minding it’s own business until you came along!

It is my sincere opinion that the grooming industry as a whole needs to change its attitude towards & its perception of cats. Until groomers change their way of thinking, they’ll continue to be presented with reactive cats. Wouldn’t it be better to build a trusting bond with the cat for a lifetime of pleasant grooming?

Sheryl Woods

Feline Facials

Post by: Cat Guru, StaceyWard

April 9, 2014

This is my process for cleaning a cat’s face during a full groom session. Maintenance upkeep is similar, without the bathing.

Buddy, the Persian cat, with a messy face
Buddy, the Persian cat, with a messy face.

After spending a few moments petting the cat, I begin by placing my left hand over the top of the cat’s head and gently pressing down to cover the ears. I tilt the head back slightly using my thumb just under the right side of the jaw and my fingers on the left side. This position helps to avoid water going into the eyes and nose. With my right hand I hold the water nozzle/sprayer close to the skin and wet the coat starting at the shoulders, coming up the neck, over one side of the face/cheek area, moving the water flow to the top o the head, down the other cheek, under the chin and down the ruff. I will then lightly rub the coat with my fingers so it’s not dripping too much. I allow the cat a moment to regroup, then I proceed to wet the shoulders, the back of the neck, and finally the back of the head and ears.

Using my hands, I apply shampoo to the wet coat and massage it in thoroughly, paying extra attention to the back and base of the ears. I find this to be a wonderful opportunity to relax the cat with gentle petting strokes.

Next, I clean the ears using cotton rounds, cotton balls, or a thin baby washcloth and a small amount of ear cleaner. Most cats like a brief and gentle massage at the base of their ear. I use round cotton tip applicators to remove visible wax or debris. I finish cleaning the ears by giving them a gentle wipe with a dry cotton round or ball. I make it a strict practice to never ‘double-dip’ my ear cleaning tools. Any cotton ball, etc. I use in the right ear does not get used in the left.

Buddy looks and feels much better after his facial.
Buddy looks and feels better after his facial.

I then rinse the shampoo using the same process as the initial coat wetting. I use 100% cotton rounds or gauze soaked with saline solution to gently wipe away eye discharge. If it’s extra crusty, I’ll wet the area again with saline solution and move on to another part of the face, like the corner of the mouth or the nose. By letting it sit wet for a moment, the debris is typically easier to remove. Using a different baby washcloth than the one I used on the ears, I add saline solution and gently wipe around the eyes. I’ll use a small eyebrow comb or the Chris Christensen face & feet comb to get anything left around the eyes or the mouth.


I like to use a pointy cotton tip disposable eye makeup applicator to clean the nostrils. I dip the cotton tip in saline solution, then pat it on a paper towel to remove excess liquid before use.

Pumpkin Head loves having a clean face!
Pumpkin Head loves having a clean face!

Most of the cats I groom receive 2 full-body shampoos. I like to clean the face while the second shampoo application sits on the coat and skin. Typically at that point, the cat has relaxed and accepted the bathing process. If I’m using any medicated shampoo, this is the perfect opportunity for it to remain on the skin and coat for the extra couple of minutes it takes to clean the face.

I towel dry the face using soft squeezes and short rubs with a cotton towel. Then I put the Happy Hoodie around the cat’s head to cover the ears while drying.

My favorite tip: If Kitty doesn’t want any more drying, but the coat is still damp on the cheeks or top of the head, simply take a paper towel and blot the coat. It works exceptionally well.


Aunt Stacey