The importance of Understanding cat behaviour during grooming

copyright Jan 2015 Anita Kelsey

holistic mobile cat groomer


This is Smudge above. She is 19 years old and suffers from joint issues. 6 months ago a vet recommended a dog groomer come visit the home of Smudge. The dog groomer held Smudge in the bath under a shower unit and proceeded to rough handle her in all manner of positions. Whilst Smudge was crying the groomer was combing her fur roughly. The client did not know what to do. Smudge, since this visit, has developed a fear of grooming or being handled and it is not surprising. I hear the same patterns time and time again. It’s not really about whether the groomer was a dog groomer or not. This is about a bad groom. It is about having knowledge with handling cats and especially elderly, shy, or fearful cats.

There are some really important factors to consider doing cat grooms and I’d like to highlight some now.

london mobile cat groomer

The groom is never about the groomer but about the cat.

What do I mean by this?

Well, a client has paid me to groom their cat and they expect me to turn up and do just that. But, in some cases, it is not possible to go ahead and do a simple groom. The cat may be too scared to co-operate, may be fearful and therefore display various levels of aggression, may be arthritic, may be old and frail so touching the body in places that hurt etc. All cats are individual. They cannot communicate through talking as we know it. Instead they communicate to us through body posturing, size of pupils, positioning of the ears, movement and appearance of their tails, vocalisations, and behaviours. I have seen some horrific handling of cats, personally and via photos and video footage on the internet, from cat groomers who expect all cats to do as they command because THEY are the groomer and they WILL get the job done. This is the worst attitude to start a cat groom with and will put a cat in a fearful defensive state.

It is important to understand that restraints, scruffing, muzzling are all actions that will put a cat on guard and worsen any existing fear.

  • When a cat bites..

When I was badly bitten on a groom, my friendly vet said straight away, without any thought for me “it’s never the cats fault”. He’s right! It’s always the fault of the person handling the cat. What he meant by that was the person bitten had to of been either

  • using inadequate handling techniques
  • failing to listen to the cat (ignoring the warning signs) or
  • doing something else wrong to make the cat react in this way.

I agreed with him 100% and it made me smile inside! The lesson humbled me.

London holistic cat groomingWhat is best for the cat?

When it comes to cat grooming, not all clients understand what is best for their cat, because they are not trained in this area, so it really is up to the groomer to educate them as to what they feel would be the best and most humane way to groom their cat. It is a cat groomer’s duty to be the voice of reason with clients and to use their expertise when deciding what should be done, despite what a client is requesting. Too many groomers ignore what’s best for the cat, fail to take into consideration the cat’s personality, and are concerned merely with keeping the client happy and the fee they will receive for performing the request.

Getting back to the case of Smudge who I mention earlier. I asked the client why she didn’t stop the groom when she heard and saw how her cat was being treated? She didn’t really know what to say. I guess clients assume the groomer, especially one recommended by a vet, would know what they were doing or perhaps the client trusted the vet knew WHO they were recommending.



A typical cat muzzle used by UK vets and groomersThe photo left is a typical cat muzzle used by UK vets and groomers

Muzzling – right or wrong?

How would a human being feel being plunged into darkness with a hood over their heads and a small breathing hole, not knowing where the next touch on their body was going to be, not knowing what was being done to them, panicking and afraid. I have heard ‘vets use them, so they must be safe for the cat” They may be safe but are they humane and the best option? Far from it. Most cats respond badly to being muzzled and this can have a very negative effect on how a cat will view any future grooming. Also, When a cat wears a face muzzle, the groomer cannot monitor its breathing. When a cat starts to pant, the heart is working overtime, and for cats this can be dangerous, even fatal. A groomer needs to stop what they are doing if they see this happening. The cat needs a break and re-assurance. Sometimes the groom has to be stopped all together. So how safe is a muzzle under these circumstances?

  • Compassion and understanding the situation from a cats perspective

Being open to learn from others paves the way for reflection and better practice. Sheryl Woods, a cat groomer based in Illinois, wrote an article on compassionate cat grooming which articulates perfectly the need for more understanding in this area. Compassionate and low stress handling within the cat grooming industry is slowly growing and cat groomers like US based Stacey Ward, Sheryl Woods, and UK based groomers such as Gillian Harvey & Svetlana Broussova have also been inspiring figures within this arena.

As Jackson Galaxy states:

“A cat will always have a story to tell”

I thank everyone who continues to help me grow including my wonderful clients and their fur babies.

Thanks to all of the cat groomers out there who are going above and beyond to find ways to groom cats with kindness and compassion. It is all they ask of us as sentient beings who share the planet with them.

If you have a cat who needs grooming, especially one who is afraid of the whole process or extremely shy then please don’t hesitate to email Holistic cat grooming London is on the rise! get behind this type of cat grooming because it is one of the most important factors to consider when buying a long haired breed of cat.

If you need help grooming your cat and would like a home visit please contact

I specialise in many challenging cases and will be able to help you.

Understanding cat behaviour during grooming is what I do best.


My cat hates being handled or groomed….

If this is what you are telling friends and family then you need to contact me as I  may be able to help.