I’m a Cat Groomer, and These Are the Horrors I’ve Seen


I love cats. I always have. They are such narcissistic creatures, totally full of themselves and doing everything on their own terms. What’s not to like?

I fell into cat grooming by accident when I obtained a Persian cat and was invited to show him at a CFA show. Back then I knew nothing about grooming cats, but I did understand the very basic principle that a cat should at least be clean and not have matted hair. The education I received in the show ring taught me just how to go about that. It’s so easy, really. A regular bath, blow dry, and nail trim. Of course, there are many more options when the cat isn’t headed for the show ring.

Note that cats do none of the above by themselves. If you think a cat grooms itself, think again! Licking and professional grooming are. Not. The. Same. Thing. Period. I could have saved myself a TON of money if all I needed was my tongue to groom cats. Forget the Forever Stainless Mini Tub, HV dryers, Catty Shack Vac, expensive shampoos, clippers, combs, and such. A tongue is all you need! Ready, set, go! Start licking!

I tell you all of that to let you know I’m a credible source when it comes to cats and their grooming needs. Recently I was looking through my "before" grooming pictures. Afterward I felt downright dirty. Disgusting. Bleh! I sifted through hundreds of dirty cat pictures (that’s "dirty" as in gross) and thought, "How does this happen?" How can human beings be so intentionally unsanitary by their inaction? Never mind the health, comfort, and well-being of the cat. How is it that PEOPLE are okay with stuff like this?

And just in case anyone thinks this is offensive in any way: Good. Because I’m offended at the condition these cats are in. (The cat is, most likely, offended too.) So now we’re even.

To start with:

1. Ingrown claws

This has to be painful. I have a hard time with a hangnail, so imagine the pain and suffering for a cat to walk around on paws with sharp claws growing up into them. Wow! And then there’s the unsanitariness of it all. Imagine the germs in the black gunk buildup on the nail and inside the puncture wound. Litter box germs, household germs. Great stuff there.

This could be prevented so easily. Regular bath, blow dry, and a nail trim. Easy.

2. Matted fur

This Persian cat smelled like pee when she was brought in. No wonder, since her entire body was covered in a pelt that extended down both back legs and across her private parts. Every time she went potty, the pee ran down her matted legs, where it stayed until we shaved it off.

Notice the red, raw skin underneath. That’s because the matting was pulling so tightly. It addition to her pee-saturated, pelted coat, the cat could barely walk. Her range of motion was restricted because her matted hair had all fused together.

3. Enough fur left over to make a whole other cat

Before anyone says that combing and brushing would prevent all of this: It won’t. You could make an argument that combing and brushing can cut down on or even eliminate mats in the first place, but because cats are so oily (Yes, they are!) and because they continuously shed, the coat needs to be properly washed and dried to eliminate both greasy hair and loose hair.

Thus, combing/brushing does not CLEAN the cat. Nor does it remove urine and feces. The act of combing and brushing does spread around the grease, and cat saliva (since cats are so good at licking themselves) and removes some of the dead, loose hair. So you have a combed cat with dirty hair. Fabulous.

4. Flea bite dermatitis

This cat has an allergic reaction to flea saliva. Each time the cat gets bit by a flea, the skin reacts by becoming itchy and oozy. The cat tries to scratch at the infected area (hard to do for this cat, because of the location of the rash and the fact that it was previously covered with a thick pelt of matted hair).

Imagine hundreds of hungry fleas crawling around under matted fur, feasting on the cat for weeks on end. All the while, the cat is suffering from an incredibly itchy rash that it can’t scratch. That has to be loads of fun!

If a cat is groomed on a regular basis (i.e. every 4-6 weeks), a groomer can spot fleas BEFORE an infestation occurs. Wouldn’t that be great?

5. The Creature from the Black Lagoon

I don’t know the back story on this, but imagine this cat nestled on the bed, next to your pillow. Or basking in the ray of sunshine on the kitchen table. Simply delicious, don’t you think?

What I do know about this particular cat was that it had to suffer a great deal while the pelted encasement of hair was shaved from its body. Very tedious work. I would think that the bath that came afterward was rather soothing and refreshing, since the cat’s skin hadn’t been touched in quite some time.

In case you’re wondering, pelts can kill a cat. The matted hair covers the entire back end and blocks the anus, which leads to intestinal blockage, which leads to a slow, painful death as the cat essentially rots from the inside out. I groomed a cat once who was septic from this exact scenario. Fortunately one of my fabulous, caring clients was willing to save the cat’s life by paying for multiple surgeries and providing regular, ongoing professional grooming care so that it never happened again.

And to think this could all be avoided so easily. Regular bath, blow dry, and nail trim. By an expert who knows what they’re doing.

Not all groomers are experts, because we are not required to be. But some choose to be experts. Find an expert and use them to avoid problems like this one.

6. Turn your cat into a rug

I post this just for fun. What’s not fun about a cat pelt, or "Persian rug" as I like to call them? I have an entire collection of these. The only thing this rug needed was a decorative frame to turn it into a true work of art.

The other half of this pelt — the cat part — went home naked but with cute little "go-go boots," a puff of hair at the end of his tail, and most of the hair on his head still intact. The raw sores on his body eventually healed.

Bath, blow dry, nail trim. By an expert. Easy.

About the author: Danelle German is the founder and president of the National Cat Groomers Institute of America and the inventor of the Catty Shack Vac drying system and Chubbs Bar degreaser shampoo for pets. Danelle writes about grooming issues at her blog. She lives in Greenville, SC, with her Persian cat, Chubbs; her dog, Truman; and her horse, Whit; a fabulous husband; and five children. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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