Who Grooms Cats and WHY?

Who Grooms Cats and WHY?
The second follow-up to my State of the Cat Grooming Industry article published in’s 2014 State of the Industry Report.

What makes a cat groomer successful? Some might say it’s all about location. Others will say that it’s more about the level of confidence or skill. I would say it has something to do with all three, plus a whole lot more!
I have been training groomers to groom cats for over a decade. Most of those people have gone on to either start a business of their own or expand an existing business. I have watched as a few of those people have failed to reach their own personal goals of business growth while others have gone exceedingly beyond their initial goals, and often in a much shorter time frame than originally planned. What makes the difference?
Sure, location is a factor. After all, if you live in a very rural, sparsely populated area it’s probably going to be a real struggle, and maybe even impossible, to have a booming cat grooming business. But how many groomers actually set up business in that far-away, middle-of-nowhere place with hardly any customers to be had? Exactly!
So what else plays a role in business stagnation, or even failure, or wild success? I believe that drive and determination on the part of the business owner have a great deal to do with being big or small. Based on my experiences with students over the years, I can tell you that those who walk in the doors with a “no fail” attitude and a whole lot of drive will predictably end up sharing amazing stories of success. Those who walk in the door with a “failure is always an option, maybe I can’t really do this” attitude often end up with a business that conveys exactly that message.
After determination and drive, I would rank confidence as the next most important determining factor of success or stagnation. By this, I mean confidence when grooming but also, more importantly, confidence when operating the business and communicating with clients. After all, consumers buy confidence. They do not buy insecurity or inexperience. Unless it’s super cheap, and then usually they don’t keep buying it for very long because it turns out to be a complete waste of money regardless of how inexpensive it was.
Here is my list of the most important components needed to establish and operate a successful cat grooming business:

1. Drive and determination
2. Confidence
3. Grooming skills
4. Management skills
5. Professionalism
6. Financial investment (cash flow)
7. Location
8. Local awareness (by vets, other groomers, etc)

Yes, I put location near the bottom. It’s important, but unless you live in the middle of nowhere it’s not as important as the first 6 components. And number 8 – local awareness – it is an ever-changing component that can be made even when it wasn’t there to start with. It just takes a little time and creativity. And proof. Proof is always important. It is hard to argue the old myths (refer to my previous article, Messed Up Numbers) when an amazing, purring transformation from icky to wow is staring you in the face!
So who are the people that get into cat grooming and why do they take on this profession ripe with obstacles to hurdle and the potential for bloodshed? In a recent survey we sent out to gather info for this series of articles, a groomer by the name of Anne wrote this in response to why she chooses to groom cats: “Grooming cats is like taking a walk on the wild side. You never know what you may be presented with. I like the challenge of handling animals that others are unsure of. Cats are awesome. They should be treated with care.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
The survey responses backed up what we hear time and again at trade shows and from our members and students: most groomers who groom cats initially do so because they were presented with a cat that needed help and no one else would do the work. So there’s an initial need (going back to my previous article in this series) and there’s a shortage of people willing (and able) to meet that need. Lisa from Reno wrote, “The ONLY reason I began grooming cats was because there were no other groomers in the area that would groom cats, and the veterinary hospitals only groomed them under sedation. I felt the cats deserved better than that.” Her sentiment nicely sums up the majority of the replies I received when asking the reason for initially grooming felines. Lisa is not alone. Many, many groomers have accepted the challenge because somebody had to and no one else raised their hand.
Nina from the UK wrote, “(My) vet kept saying to me that they are not groomers, they can’t do the quality of work that groomers do.” (By the way, a big shout out to this vet! Yes!!) And so this vet started referring kitties in hair distress to Nina, who realized, that while she initially started out caring for dogs, her true calling was to care for furry felines.
Jackie Larocque from Canada shared that her first experience grooming a cat was an emergency situation whereby the cat was actually choking to death from the matting around its throat. The cat’s tongue was blue when it was brought in and placed on her grooming table. Obviously it was a life or death situation quickly resolved by the deft hands of a groomer and a clipper. (Remember cats are supposed to be self-groomers so this stuff shouldn’t actually happen. Again, the ill effects of those pesky myths.) Jackie also wrote that when she started grooming cats in 2006 there were very few cat groomers around. Within the last two years, she reports, the amount of cat groomers in her area has increased. I might blame the NCGIA for that. (Sorry Jackie!)
According the stats collected by the NCGIA in 2012 and 2013, the average revenue per groom for those who are CFMG certified has gone up by $20 per groom. In 2012, the number was actually $21 per groom. So trending for two years (if that counts as a trend) certification has played a real role in the business growth efforts of cat groomers. This does not surprise me because the NCGIA puts a great deal of emphasis on most of the components listed above. Confidence, skill and professionalism are integral parts of our training program. When combined with some serious drive and determination, a decent location, an effort at raising local awareness (which the NCGIA also assists with), and a bit of cash flow, the results can be truly amazing!
Leigh Ann Donnelly, a CFMG and recent graduate from PA wrote, “Within the past 2 years it has really picked up, most people are bringing the cats back to be groomed at least every 3 months. And since attending the NCGIA my confidence has really gone up and the quality of my grooms has gotten much better. Also the speed in which I can get the cats finished has improved since learning better and safer handling skills.”
Sally Staples, a CFMG in British Columbia wrote, “The growth of my business was slow but acceptable (to me) throughout 2011 and 2012 (my first 2 full years of business). I attended NCGS (National Cat Groomers School) in January 2013. In February 2013, 2 newspaper articles and 2 TV spots and a radio piece appeared in the local media, focused on cat grooming and my accreditation. Since then, my business growth has been astronomical. I believe that my revenue has doubled, but I haven’t caught up with the bookkeeping to know that for sure. My referrals before the publicity had mostly come from Google searches and vet referrals (the field I had worked in previously), and some word-of-mouth. Since the publicity, more dog groomers than before are referring cats to me. I suspect that there is a sense of relief amongst the dog groomers that they can refer cats to an accredited cat groomer.”
I’m not making this stuff up. It’s very real and very exciting to watch it unfold. Sally and Leigh Ann are but two of the many cat groomers who have similar stories to tell.
To wrap up this series, I leave you with a quote from Nina in the UK. I can’t say it any better than this. She writes: “Become a cat groomer and rescue as many owners and felines alike, share the miracle that only a professional groom can create. Anyone with an open mind can join in and shed away another layer of limiting belief as long term results speak for themselves.”
Thank you, Nina, and the many who took the time to respond to our surveys and to share their stories. You have inspired me. Keep on saving the world one cat at a time!

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