Before I started The Cat's Meow, I was a running a very successful mobile grooming business. I was grooming mostly dogs, but some cats too. I really enjoyed the cats, and had a reputation for great cat grooming. But I was tiring of dog grooming after almost 2 decades of doing it. Cat grooming was an intellectual challenge, that required a quiet energy, ninja moves, and a constant learning curve. It was as exciting as when I first started my Master Groomer testing, something I looked forward to. I got constant calls from outside my service area for cats, the need was there. But mobile poses a real challenge in Minnesota, with parking, snow, and freezing temps. I could add a second $90,000 mobile van, but would the cat clients pay the premium price needed for that specialized service? I decided mobile just wouldn't work, and full time housecall would be too hard on my back. A salon would be ideal: lower pricing, lower overhead for me, and the ability to serve more cats daily.
The Twin Cities needed a cat exclusive groomer, there were plenty of dog groomers doing cats, but its simply not the ideal environment. I know, because I groomed cats for years among dogs. They were terrified, and needed to be started right away, and finished as quickly as possible, because the barking was causing extreme stress. Stress= aggressive cat. Not good for anyone involved. Also, because few grooming schools teach cats, most local groomers learn from other groomers. So skill level varies wildly. I had attended seminars, bought tons of books and videos, and attended hands on cat grooming training. I knew once I groomed their cat, they wouldn't call anyone else again.
Having owned and managed several salons, and worked in multiple boarding kennels, I knew the business. I decided to go for it. I made plans to work less days in the mobile and have my wonderful employee take over my mobile days. I picked out a salon space, got the needed permits (harder than you'd think!), and we started building out the space, planning to open in 3 weeks from getting the keys. Everyone thought I was CRAZY for trying it, but I believed in my vision! After we opened I worked 6 days a week, and my boyfriend worked with me on Saturdays, when the tough kitties came in.
I applied what I knew of cat grooming from the start, and learned more along the way. I try to keep a holistic view of cat grooming. Cats need calmness and friendliness from the beginning. They need the noise managed. Reading body language is key to tell you what the cat is feeling. Most cats do well with hands off, and gentle slow motions, no scruffing the neck and never being tied up. Some react quickly and negatively, and to stay safe we need to know when to apply safety equipment, holding techniques, and a second hand to help. Some can't be groomed at all. Staying honest and professional with owners, being kind to cats, being careful, setting limits, and always paying attention to detail and quality is what helped the business grow and be a success.
I was hooked after the first year, and the second year I injured my shoulder. This forced me to step away from dog grooming and focus solely on cats. I haven't regretted it! It's still a great challenge every day. Cats have to be figured out, what makes them react, what makes them happy. What to do to soothe reactive cats, how to get owners to understand why they need grooming, what products give the best results. It's all fun, and almost new territory. Cats have been the second class citizen of the grooming salon forever. They deserve more than the outdated techniques I and many others learned 10 or 20 years ago. I love making them number one, and developing techniques that benefit them and make my job easier. Safety is huge for me too, I cringe at what I see posted online, and what owners tell me happened to their cats at other salons. Happy cat= very happy cat groomer.
I'm so happy to serve the underserved kitty population, to see happy owners who are thankful for our services, and to provide a calm holistic environment for the cats, myself, and my employees. Ill post more next week about why cats need grooming, and how more frequent grooming almost always means a lower stress grooming experience for your cat. - Jennifer