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Fear Not

Back in October, during a Pet Groomer Radio call-in segment, host Stephen asked me if it was possible for a groomer with a fear of cats to become a good cat groomer. I answered Stephen during the radio program (you can go back and listen) but later, after thinking it through, I wanted to expound on that question and answer a bit more.
It’s a good question. If you’re afraid of cats will you ever be able to groom them?

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First off, I want to address the “fear of cats” part. Is it a fear of all cats or a fear of angry, aggresive cats? And how afraid are you? Terrified, pee-in-your-pants afraid or full of healthy respect for these fine and seemingly unpredictable creatures? There’s a big difference between paralyzing fear and healthy respect.
If you are deathly afraid of all cats, I’d say to move along. Find another vocation. Stick with the canines. Stay away from the cats.
If, however, you have a bit of aprehension about handling a creature you find entirely unpredictable and hard to understand then I say there is hope for you. Absolutely. Getting past that type of fear is possible with some understanding of feline behavior and their reactive nature in addition to the implementation of some appropriate handling techniques.
I know this type of fear can be overcome quite successfully because I’ve witnessed it happening time and time again since I began professionally training cat groomers in 2006. Fortunately, for those with aspirations of becoming a confident cat groomer, there are resources available beyond the archaic “live and learn, trial and error, school of hardknocks” way. Fortunately. I find it is always better to learn from another person’s mistakes than to learn by making those mistakes yourself. When 18 claws and some very sharp teeth are involved, this is definitely the case. Trust me on that.
So to overcome apprehension, the fear of the unknown, what needs to happen?
1. Get to know the unknown. Understand the creature that can either become a weapon of mass destruction or your new best friend. Know how it moves, what it reacts to and why it reacts the way it does. Understand reactions based on fear and those based on anger. They are different and should be handled differently.
Where would you go to get this “understanding?” I know of a few places. (Try On the Road with Jodi and Danelle DVD for starters.Daisy the DSH is the one you want to watch, in particular.)
Personally, I’ve explained this whole cat behavior thing hundreds of times over the years of speaking publicly in the grooming industry. It has been recorded along the way (TryKryptonite for Cats or some of the videos onLearn2Groom.com). I’ve also written about it in The Ultimate Cat Groomer Encyclopedia and covered it during a few of the NCGIA webinars (in the recorded library on the website). You could attend Personalize d Private Instruction (PPI) at the NCGIA or a 1 day Cat Clinic workshop or a workshop event held at another location (check the NCGIA website for dates and places). I promise, in a week or so of PPI you’ll get PLENTY of understanding. Gracious plenty.
2. Build confidence. If you aren’t a confident groomer you will never be a good, safe cat groomer. The cat will know you aren’t confident and rip you to shreds. It will act up unnecessarily and may end up hurting itself in the process. Lack of confidence will leave you with incomplete grooms, crooked, uneven lines, not-so-smooth finishes, cats going home in worse condition than what they arrived in – sometimes with your blood on them, and so much more. All of it undesirable. Bad for your health, bad for the cat’s health and bad for your business.

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Confidence, on the other hand, will produce the exact opposite results. I can attest to this. Over the years, as graduates have left the National Cat Groomers School, those with an abundance of confidence and an ounce of determination go on to do some amazing things – truly changing things for cats and their owners, in addition to building a solid business with some great stories to share. Confidence is vital to this kind of outcome. And it generally begets more confidence as experience adds to it.
Keep in mind, customers also buy confidence. We, as consumers, do not buy into insecurity, apprehension, and fear. We buy when confidence is present. So do your potential customers/clients. The keyword here being “potential.” (This is where I would normally go into my mechanic’s parable, but I’ll save that for the classes and seminars.)
So, now, what about you? How would you characterize your fear of cats? Is it overcome-able? If so, do you really want to overcome this fear? And then what? Do you want the confidence to become a true master? If the answer to that is ‘yes,’ I know a good place to get started making that into a living, breathying reality.

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