What is Holistic Cat Grooming?
The word holistic comes from the Greek word holos, meaning ‘entire’ or ‘all’. In terms of cat grooming it means taking into consideration and supporting the cats’ physical, emotional, and behavioural needs. It means recognising that cats are living, feeling, sentient beings, of learning how to relate to the many different personalities of cats, of understanding feline behaviour and incorporating this understanding into the grooming process.
While it should be obvious to groomers that cats are living, sentient beings with feelings that should be taken into consideration during the whole grooming process, this isn’t always the case. In many grooming salons the main focus is on dog grooming and few of those employed as dog groomers have any experience or training working with cats.
Grooming a cat surrounded by tables of dogs is always going to be a highly stressful and frightening experience for the cat. While domestic cats are not aggressive by nature, all cats when frightened, can become defensive as a means of self preservation. If the groomer has no training or understanding of feline behaviour they are more likely to resort to control methods in an attempt to finish the groom.
These ‘control’ methods may include taping the cat's legs, dunking bags, scruffing, and muzzles. Such techniques only serve to further traumatise the cat psychologically and can even result in physical harm. I have heard from many cat owners who have returned from having their cat ‘professionally’ groomed to state that their cat hid for days afterwards.
Holistic cat grooming is about more than giving a good haircut. It is about building a bond of trust so that the cat is a willing participant in the grooming process. Holistic grooming also involves the cat’s owner and the environment in which the cat lives. It is always about what is best for the cat, from the type of hair cut, to the surroundings during the groom, to the time spent developing a level of trust. Holistic cat grooming is all about using knowledge of feline behaviour to make your cat’s grooming experience positive.
Elizabeth Llewellyn is a feline welfare and behaviour specialist with 30 years experience working with cats in a variety of settings including rescue, breeding, boarding, grooming and veterinary. She lives in Chittenden County Vermont with her three cats.