As a cat groomer, a common reaction I receive from people is amazement that a) cats can be groomed and b) cats need to be groomed. That’s usually immediately followed by the more concerned question, “How do you groom cats without injury to you and them?” It’s all in the interactions I create and facilitate.
Beautifully groomed cats are a sight to behold. To stroke their soft, luxurious coat is a pleasure. Wanting to provide a high quality finished groom is why I spend considerable time researching grooming tools, products, and techniques. It’s also very important for me to concentrate on the emotional aspects of their grooming interactions.
Being a compassionate groomer, I recognize and appreciate the value of connecting with my groom cats in positive ways. I understand, through respectful practices, I will earn their trust. That makes all the difference in the world! I continually assess how the cats are feeling because I need to help build their confidence through my actions. I want the cats and I to thrive together, not just survive a grooming.
But how do I measure success? I use my personal and professional experience with cats coupled with my understanding of cat psychology to draw conclusions based on specific feline behaviors. I pay close attention to their non-verbal communication in addition to their varied sounds. I know without a doubt my groom cats are bonded with me when they routinely show their appreciation in the following ways.
1. The cats solicit affection from me.
Beyond merely tolerating physical touch, my bonded cats will encourage and often instigate it. This may include a head bonk or body rub. Other signs of affection from cats are slow eye blinks and contented purring. Obviously, I want to avoid the cats recoiling from me at all costs.
2. The cats eagerly anticipate and partake in the rewards such as food, catnip, and play I provide before, during, and after grooming.
In accepting the offer, my bonded cats understand I’m a bearer of goodness, joy, and pleasure. The personal satisfaction creates a correlation in their minds that form positive connections with me.
3. The cats comply with my considerably intrusive handling.
Trusting the process to be safe and the outcome to be of benefit to oneself, my bonded cats cooperate willingly with assisted grooming. I make every accommodation possible to successfully achieve this display from them. A cat’s defeated submission is the polar opposite of what I desire.
4. The cats choose to remain close by rather than leaving my general vicinity when not doing hands-on grooming.
Relaxed and calm, confident in the safety of my presence, my bonded cats are likely contemplating the probability of receiving additional rewards. I continue to encourage this behavior by fulfilling their wishes with certain predictability.
5. The cats exhibit positive physical and emotional behavior following our grooming sessions.
Reported by their guardians after our time together, my bonded cats not only maintain typical non-stressed behavior, but also show an even greater sense of pride and confidence. This is reinforced by the guardians doting on their cats with tremendous affection.
True bonding is what I strive for with every cat encounter. I may not receive all, or any, of these moments during every groom, but through constant effort, the likelihood that I will increases. There’s tremendous value in celebrating when my groom cats feel comfortable with me. It’s a big deal!
Building trust and bonding have immediate and cumulative positive effects on the health and happiness of the cats I’ve chosen to care for. Being part of their lives comes with the responsibility of showing them unwavering respect and kindness under all circumstances. Like every meaningful relationship, nurturing care and a willingness to make adjustments are needed to provide opportunities for genuine connections that matter. I know firsthand the benefits are far greater for me when cats grace me with their approval. The more I can understand and provide for my groom cats, the better skilled I become as a groomer.
I’d love to know more about your grooming experiences. What are some other behaviors and interactions that confirm you’ve bonded with your groom cats? Do you recall the ‘breakthrough moments’ when your groom cats shifted from anxious to ambivalent to accepting of your interactions? Please share your successes and challenges by commenting below.
Happy cat grooming!