Cat Grooming Tips From an Expert

Danelle German
Danelle and C2 - All American Grooming Show

Whether you plan to trim your cat's hair at home or find a professional to give your kitty a new look, it's a good idea to listen to the advice of a professional cat groomer. Learn when your kitty can handle DIY grooming and when you absolutely need the help of a pro.

Cat Grooming Tips From Danelle German

Professional cat groomer Danelle German shares a thing or two about what makes a cat look his best. Her entire career has centered around cats in one way or another. She ran Bara Cattery from 1999 to 2005. During that time, she bred and showed cats through the CFA and won awards such as Third Best Cat in Premiership. She then opened The Catty Shack, a feline spa and resort. Danelle has written articles about cat grooming and wrote the book The Ultimate Cat Groomer Encyclopedia. She is a renowned speaker on cat grooming topics and has appeared on Animal Planet's Cats 101.

In 2006, Danelle realized there was need for a cat grooming training program. She formed the National Cat Groomers Institute of America (NCGIA) and began holding cat grooming classes and workshops. Danelle took a little time out of her very busy schedule to chat with LoveToKnow about her work with cats and to share her expertise in grooming felines.

National Cat Groomers Institute of America

LoveToKnow (LTK): Danelle, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us about cat grooming. You have an impressive background for this topic. In addition to showing and breeding cats, you've also given talks about cat grooming and founded the National Cat Groomer's Institute of America (NCGIA). Tell us a little about why you formed NCGIA.

Danelle German (DG): There were really two things that prompted me to start the NCGIA back in 2007. During that time, I was busy running a feline-exclusive grooming salon and working with a fairly large clientele base. Two of my regular clients had moved away to different states. Both called me, frustrated that they could not find a cat groomer near their new locations. One was having trouble finding any groomer who was willing to take on a cat. The other client, after much searching, finally found a groomer in her area who was willing but did not do a very good job. In fact, this client called me up and was crying over the poor condition that her cat was in after recently being groomed by the new groomer.

Around that same time, groomers, some of whom I did not even know, were calling or e-mailing me and asking me questions about cat handling techniques and what products and tools were best for working with cats. The combination of the two scenarios had me wondering why it was that professional groomers were not, as a whole, properly educated on how to safely and effectively groom felines. And thus, the idea of the NCGIA came about. At that time there were several dog groomer associations, but there were none for cat groomers. Before I wrote cat grooming standards, none previously existed in the pet grooming industry.

LTK: Tell us a little about your Dirty Hair Project.

DG: The Dirty Hair Project is so cool! Who would have ever guessed that dirty, icky cat hair could be worth so much?!

Basically, groomers who are certified through the NCGIA are able to sell their dirty cat hair to a laboratory in the US that uses it to extract dander for the production of allergy shots. It seems they can't get enough dirty cat hair, so our certified groomers are helping to fill a need. In return, they are paid some money for their trash. Talk about recycling!

Info on Grooming Cats

Danelle German

LTK: You once owned the Catty Shack, which was a feline spa, and you currently offer some salon grooming through the Cat Groomers School. What are some of the most common grooming issues you see?

DG: I sold the Catty Shack in late 2009 so that I could run the new National Cat Groomers School and keep up with the demands of travel and lecturing. In December 2010, the new owner of the Catty Shack was no longer able to work due to some on-going health issues, so I made the decision to offer salon grooming at the school during the down time between classes. This has been a good decision. It has certainly kept me in the day-to-day operations of running a feline grooming salon as well as keeping my grooming skills sharp. I will confess that back when I sold the salon, I considered that I might lose my touch eventually. Getting my hands back on the cats on a daily basis is keeping that from happening.

So which type of grooming issues do I see? Well, the typical issues are matted coats, especially on the long hair breeds. I also see a lot of ingrown nails, flea problems, skin issues and just generally dirty, smelly cats. Most folks don't realize that their cat needs regular, professional grooming. We've all been taught the old adage: cats groom themselves. When you get right down to it, they don't actually groom themselves at all. Cats do lick themselves, which results in a cat covered in saliva. this can also mean the cat is covered in tangles, mats, dandruff and is shedding an awful lot. After the cat ingests the excess of shedding hair, the hair typical re-materializes in the form of a hair ball on the living room floor.

LTK: Tell us about the Catty Vac system that you've created.

DG: The Catty Shack Vac was originally intended to cut down on the amount of cat hair blowing around my grooming salon. After grooming a full-coated Himalayan who hadn't had a bath and blow dry in six years, I'd be covered in cat hair - almost enough to make an entire other cat! I was breathing it, eating it and plucking it out of my eyes for days afterward. Due to this, I asked my husband to help me design something that could suck all that hair into a bag or box of some sort. That eventually evolved into the Catty Shack Vac, as it is known now. As an added bonus, the CS Vac sped up the drying process considerably and made it so much easier and safer to handle the cats, especially the really aggressive ones.

Cat Grooming School

LTK: You also offer classes through the National Cat Groomers School, which is located in Greenville, South Carolina. How long do sessions run, and what is your advice for someone who wants to take grooming classes but lives out of state?

DG: Each class is two weeks long. We cover everything from business management topics to understanding feline temperaments and health issues during those lecture days. Next, we move on to handling and grooming real cats. It's rather intense. We cover a lot of material in two weeks.

Most of our students are from out of state. Some are even from other countries. We have wonderful hotel accommodations nearby where they take great care of our students and provide them with free shuttle and transportation services. Someone can fly in, stay in downtown Greenville (which is lovely) and attend the school without needing a car for those two weeks.

Cat Grooming Tips for Owners

LTK: What are some basic daily grooming tasks that cat owners can do at home to keep their cats in tip-top shape?

DG: If a cat is being professionally groomed by a Certified Feline Master Groomer (CFMG) every six weeks or less, a cat owner doesn't have to do a thing. It's all very easy, and the cat stays in excellent condition. Owners can comb their cats on a daily or weekly basis if they want, but it isn't necessary if the professional grooming is being done on a regular basis by someone who really knows what he or she is doing.

LTK: Are there any grooming situations that are just better left to the professionals?

DG: Most definitely! I've seen all kinds of people come into the salon with fresh scratch or bite marks on their hands and forearms. These are the results of a do-it-yourself, home cat grooming experience. Professionals that know what they are doing will have the best equipment and products to get the job done correctly, and the will be able to do it without harm to the cat or anyone else.

It is important for pet owners to understand that the grooming profession is not licensed. That means anyone can open up a grooming business and try to groom animals. When looking for someone to care for their pet, whether it be a dog or a cat, it is wise to look for someone with certification from a national or international organization. As far as cat grooming goes, there is only one that offers quality training of any kind, and it is the National Cat Groomers Institute of America, Inc. Anyone who has taken our certification exams and passed them will have a title of "CFMG" behind their name. There are some groomers who are mid-way through their testing and have not yet earned that certification, but they are still fairly good at handling and grooming cats. The cat owner should ask about these things before they schedule an appointment.

LTK: What is the best way to trim a cat's nails? This seems to be a challenge for most cat owners.

DG: Small nail trimmers work best. There are a variety of styles to choose from. The nail must be expressed so that it is easily seen. The trimming should be done just beyond the quick of the nail. If the quick is cut, the nail will bleed, and it will be painful for the cat. The quick on all cats is easily seen. It is the pink part of the nail closest to the nail bed.

LTK: What if your cat gets sprayed by a skunk and you have to at least give an initial bath in at home? What is your advice?

DG: The main thing to remember is that the skunk spray is an oil and needs to be removed as soon as possible. Getting the cat wet right off is the biggest mistake people make. A degreaser, applied on the dry coat, is the best way to rid the coat of the oily skunk spray. Once the degreaser shampoo is applied thoroughly, the cat can be bathed. Fortunately for me, skunks aren't much of an issue where I live.

LTK: How important is it to keep your cat's ears clean, and do you have any advice to offer on this important grooming point?

DG: Cats have earwax, some more than others. It certainly helps to make sure the ears stay clean. If a cat is being professionally groomed every six weeks or less, the ears will be taken care of then as well. Otherwise, a cat owner can use an ear cleaning solution that is labeled safe for cats and apply it gently with a cotton ball. It is important to be sure the ear cleaner is not oily or greasy at all because this will only cause the hair around the ears to mat very quickly. Cats are already greasy, so we have to be careful not to exacerbate the problem by using oily products on them.

Final Thoughts on Professional Grooming from Danelle German

LTK: Danelle, thank you for agreeing to this cat grooming tips interview. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

DG: Thank you so much for asking me. I enjoyed being a part of it. One of the things I'd like to add is that so many cat owners are under the impression that their cat cannot or should not be professionally groomed. It is a widely held belief that cats hate water and that they groom themselves. Neither of those are true. The majority of owned cats will tolerate a bath quite well. Many seem to enjoy the process as if they are experiencing a day at the spa. It is good for cats to be bathed on a regular basis. The bath and blow dry, if done correctly, will prevent matting, tangling, skin issues, shedding, etc. It's really in the best interest of the cat to be groomed regularly.

I cannot tell you how many times I've received a phone call from a new customer a day or two after their first visit to the salon. They report to me that their kitty has been strutting around the house, that it seems so happy now after the groom, or that the cat has been staring at itself in the full-length mirror. I can believe this. Cats are narcissistic creatures, and they want to look good. A cat that is matted, greasy and stinky tends to be a bit grumpy. One that is freshly groomed, even though he may not want to admit it, is always a happy cat!

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