A different approach to cat grooming and the rise of the holistic cat grooming movement.

Author: Anita Kelsey: Notting Hill cat behaviour counsellor. Copyright. 7th September 2014

cat behaviourist at cat cafeI have been grooming cats for 4 years now, although I feel like the journey has been much longer due to the ever-changing way I approach my work and also the wealth of information I’ve picked up along the way by trial and error, research, speaking to other groomers whose methods I respect, as well as my extensive and never-ending study and research of cat behaviour.

There are some really important factors to consider doing this type of work and I’d like to highlight some now.


19 year old Orlando is arthritic so his groom had to be handled with great care.








  • 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.

This cat didn't mind me touching her tummy. Some cats react badly to being touched on this venerable area.

This cat didn’t mind me touching her tummy. Some cats react badly to being touched on this vulnerable area.










  • What 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.

A typical cat muzzle used by UK vets and groomers

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 info@catnips.co.uk. My web sites are



Thanks for reading


About Anita Kelsey - Cat Behaviour Consultant

Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also a qualified cat groomer and specialises in grooming aggressive or phobic cats. Anita writes for Your Cat Magazine and is on their experts panel answering readers questions on cat grooming. She also advises on feline behaviour for the CFBA (Canine and Feline Behaviour) magazine as well as being a full member. Anita is based in Notting Hill, London but consults all over the UK as well as international requests. She lives with her husband, a music producer, and two Norwegian Forest cats, Kiki and Zaza. Anita's debut book, Claws, Confessions Of A Cat Groomer is published by John Blake Publishers and is out on 7th September 2017 (available for pre-orders on Amazon UK)
This entry was posted in FELINE BEHAVIOUR ADVICE, low stress handling techniques and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Low-stress-handling-cat-grooming

  1. weggieboy says:

    A thoughtful cat parent will mention special needs to the groomer, too, or those things the cat doesn’t tolerate that well. I imagine most groomers have a policy of refusing service to “problem” pets, and this small courtesy could save your cat and you the hassle of being banned or the groomer suffering scratches and bites.

    I always leave a big tip as well since my cats’ groomers (at least!) seem particularly good with them and their occasional peeves. (One doesn’t like his tummy touched except under circumstances he alone determines! Force the issue, and he does the classic four-paw-with-tooth-accompaniment business.)

    I always ask the groomers if the boys were good while there, and I think they appreciate that it is as important to me that they aren’t exposed to tooth and claw as it is that the boys come home well groomed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting. If the pet owner has a cat who finds grooming a problem then a good groomer will try to find out what exactly the cat is afraid of. Most of the time this can be determined by spending time working WITH the cat to find comfortable positions etc. If the cat is aggressive it is due to fear and one must take the time to find out why the cat is so fearful and any background on when this behaviour started and the possible reasons why. If groomers keep saying no to a cat that has a problem with grooming then the cat guardian is left with a cat who is going to A: become badly matted and B: a cat who is not going to be presented with any training to change the behaviour. If the cat has an attitude, which is a learned one to stop its owners grooming, then that is also a behaviour to be worked with. I recently groomed a cat who learnt that by farting his owners would stop combing him. He tried it with me. It ended up being a very smelly groom :-)..A tip? Wow.. what is that LOL.. I guess my tips are extreme gratitude 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • weggieboy says:

        My Persians have a good history of behaving at the groomers, but I was warned before the first time that the shop mostly groomed dogs, that they’d try the boys out for behavior, then let me know from there if they could continue to groom them.

        Fortunately, both Andy and Dougy behaved, and their groomers love them. (Let’s face it, Persian cats are sweeties, soft, and cute. They won the groomers over both for their lovability and their good behavior!)

        I am so grateful that I can get the boys properly groomed that a nice tip is nothing. (20%, since there are several people sharing the tip, and most people don’t tip much if anything)

        Liked by 1 person

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