Is it Dangerous for Me to Groom My Cat at Home?

Maybe a little, but no more than it is to cook at home, learn to ride a bike, or drive a car. So BUCK UP BUTTERCUP!

We’ve taken a somewhat controversial stance on this topic for a number of reasons; while we do enjoy stirring the proverbial pot from time to time, this ISN’T one of those instances. We’ve seen both the negative effects from a home-groom gone wrong (think painful bites and antibiotics), and also the neglectful effects from failure to attempt a home-groom at all. We’ve also seen everything in between. In the overwhelming majority of cases, when a cat owner is armed with both the appropriate instructions and grooming tools (and maybe a helper for moral support and an extra set of hands), successful at-home grooming is completely achievable. For the people who absolutely cannot touch their cat with a comb (we know more than a couple cats like this), or for the people who just prefer to keep their relationship with their pet strictly in the cuddles zone- we totally get you! And professional cat groomers will always be around to help you out. For those of you that would like to stretch your time in-between professional grooms out a tad, or even better, for those of you that are hardcore diy-ers, we understand where you’re coming from too! Is it a little scary at first? Sure. But did your parent’s let their fear of you crashing your bike stop them from teaching you how to ride? NO! They strapped a helmet on you to protect that melon of yours and sent you on your way. We’re about to do the same.

What’s the number one reason people are scared of their own cats? One word, claws. There’s no doubt that those claws can do loads of damage. So what is the first rule of grooming your cat at home? Trim their nails. Short. ALL OF THEM. Have someone help hold them if need be, but get it done. If you can’t complete this task, you shouldn’t attempt to groom your cat at home. I could go on and on about how many injuries could be saved just with this one tip, but do I really need to? Not to mention the fact that if you ever have to medicate your cat (and you almost most certainly will), you’ll be way more successful in that endeavor with murder mittens removed. Get it?

Okay, nails complete, so what’s the second reason people are scared of their cats. Teeth. Everyone has heard horror stories of someone getting bitten by a cat and ending up in the hospital with a raging infection, right? ‘They nearly died!!!’ I certainly have. But truth is, I’ve never met a veterinarian or veterinary technician that this has happened to, and they get bitten more than anyone else. Want to know why? Because we’ve all heard so many of these damn stories that we are scared to death! So on the rare occasion that we get bitten, we immediately wash the wound, flush it with saline, and take a photo of it. If we see the slightest bit of swelling or red streaks we immediately ask our doctor for antibiotics. PERIOD. Don’t mess around with cat bites. Simple but useful advice right there, kids. “But that sounds a little too dangerous for me…” you might be saying to yourself. Haven’t you ever cut yourself while chopping veggies, or burned the crap out of yourself when using the oven? I have. I nearly chopped the whole tip of my ring finger off on my left hand a few years ago. Did I stop cooking? Noooooo. Am I more careful these days? Also a no. But do as I say, not as I do. Getting bitten once isn’t any reason to call off the whole endeavor. Pull your big-girl/gal pants on and try again. This time with bitebuster sleeves and a plastic e-collar.

What about for your cat? Is it dangerous for them? No, it is no more dangerous than taking your cat to the vet, or kennel, or groomer. Stress can exacerbate problems in cats with pre-existing physical conditions. This can happen in almost any situation where the cat perceives stress. Take your cat to the vet annually to make sure there isn’t anything going on with their heart or lungs that would be contra-indicated to grooming, and ask for annual bloodwork if your cat is seven or older. If your cat begins to pant or breathe with their mouth open, then they may be too stressed out for a groom on that day. You can try again, after discussing a plan of action with your veterinarian. Pharmaceuticals may need to play a role in the new plan (for the cat, not you).

She’ll tell you what to do next!

Bottom line is this… accidents will always happen, but for the most part, we don’t let that fact deter us from doing the things we need to do. We drive cars (and even motorcycles) for fun and for transportation, and because we need to get from one place to another. We don’t dwell on how many car accidents occur from year to year. We use sharp knives and hot pans in our kitchens, because we need to feed and nourish our families. We don’t worry about whether we might cut ourselves. We even do a lot of dangerous things strictly for the love of them, abandoning all notions of fear or pain. We hurl ourselves out of airplanes at ten thousand feet, gallop 30mph on the backs of horses, and dive hundreds of feet deep in the ocean to swim with sharks. So what are you waiting for? That ten pound cat of yours is a lot less dangerous than any of these other things that we humans tackle on a daily basis.

Maybe I’ll take that last part back 😬🤣

Shannon & Whitney


*We did a step by step tutorial on how to bathe your cat at home with minimal stress for both of you- it’s our most popular post to date, and we are including it below because we want you to be armed with the best instructions possible. And speaking of arms, we will also inlclude a link to the Bitebuster gloves that we wear while grooming, and all of the other tools we use to make our lives easier. Here is the link…

The bath is THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP of an animal groom and should never be skipped! The whole groom will be pointless without clean fur, so beware of any groomer who is willing to do a trim without a bath. Let me begin by saying there are a few things that may be necessary prior to the bath, like any shaving that is to be done. We can address shaving and trimming in another post, as there is too much to cover for that alone. START BY TRIMMING THE NAILS. I REPEAT TRIM EVERY NAIL. Don’t leave a few… those will be the ones to get you half-way through this whole ordeal. A good comb-out before-hand is a good idea to make sure there is no matting. Once the fur is wet, it’s even more prone to matting (just like when your hair is wet), so go ahead and get out all the loose, dead hair that you can with a good butter comb or poodle comb. Now you’re officially ready! Get lots of towels ready, and a blow-dryer if your cat has long hair!

I always warm the water up before placing the cat in the tub. I use an elevated tub/sink and I strongly recommend you do the same. This isn’t the kind of project you want to be kneeling on the ground for people. You need to be the one in control, so a deep kitchen sink or laundry sink will work best. You also need a spray nozzle attachment. It’s not impossible to bathe without it, but yikes it’s close! Fold a towel down and place it in the bottom of the sink so Kitty has something soft and non-slippery to stand on. Get a firm grip on their scruff to begin with (you will probably be able to let go at some point, but unless you want to chase them around the house soaking wet) I don’t recommend you let go in the beginning. Sometimes a happy hoodie or a plastic e-collar placed on their head is enough of a distraction to keep them in place. It’s about 50/50 at the salon. Some cats calm completely down with an e-collar, and some immediately begin trying to paw it off. Still- it’s only $10 so if this is something you plan on doing regularly, it’s not a bad idea to try one.

So now your cat is completely lathered and is still in the tub. Congratulations! It’s time to rinse. Cats can take a long time to rinse so please be thorough here. Keep going until you are 100% sure there’s no soap left, then rinse a little more. Wrap kitty in a towel (purrito), and proceed to the drying stage! Use a happy hoodie or modify your own tube sock to create ear protection for the blow-dryer. You want it to fit snugly over their ears. Again, I want you to begin by holding Kitty firmly by the scruff while you turn the dryer on low, making sure it’s pointing away from the cat. If you aren’t bleeding yet, slowly turn the dryer towards your little buddy and cross your fingers. Some cats actually like it (probably not yours though). If everything is still going well and you haven’t hit crisis mode yet, you can actually comb the cat as you blow-dry it. When I’m grooming alone, I sometimes dry them in my lap while I’m sitting down on something. Most of them seem to tolerate this better than standing up on a table or counter while drying. Maybe you have a kind spouse that will volunteer holding kitty on his/her side on the counter while you dry and comb. The most likely places to mat at this point are underarms and the belly, so make sure to thoroughly dry and comb these areas. The back is easier, and way less likely to cause you problems now that it’s clean. If you have a short-haired or medium-haired cat then you can usually get away with towel-drying them and then combing.

The cat is in the tub and all hell hasn’t broken out yet, so proceed to the shampoo! I use Chubbs Bars. They are all natural, smell great, and are safe for cats 10 weeks and older. I think it’s much easier to hold a bar in one hand and move it all over the cat rather than squeeze liquid out repeatedly. Plus, nothing works better, so again, they are worth the investment, but if you just can’t stomach spending $10 then you can use Dawn Dish soap. We used it at the vet I worked at for years with no adverse effects. Whatever you use, really get them soaking wet first using the water sprayer, avoiding their face completely. Next, is the fun part- the lathering! Lather the cat completely from top of head to toe beans (again- avoid the face completely). Scrub, scrub, scrub! You know how your hair-stylist does it? Well I want you to do it like that but with more vigor, and don’t forget the booty-hole (hopefully your stylist does NOT do that part with you) This is likely one of the reasons your cat needs a bath to begin with so don’t neglect the rear end. This is probably where things go awry most often. The cat becomes SUPER slippery at this point, and if they are struggling at all, you may need help. Keep towels close by so you can toss one over kitty’s head if you see she’s about to make a run for it. Then just re-group and start over!


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