cat grooming. The Whippet Media
cat grooming. The Whippet Media

Basic Cat Grooming

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Cat grooming is a subject that can be just as in-depth as dog grooming.

While there aren’t options to handstrip or hand scissor a cat the way you can a dog, there are still a huge variety of techniques and styles to learn. 

Cats can be longhaired, semi-longhaired and shorthaired. (There are also the Rex breeds.

Without getting too complex, cats are double or triple coated. cat grooming

And just like double coated dogs the coat can be left natural without clipping and will only grow to a certain length. However the majority of cats you will see have been booked in because the owner wants them shaved. 

Brush Out

This is what most of my shorthaired cats are booked in for. Cats are heavy shedders, and unlike dogs they get most of their coat out by self-cleaning. This is what contributes towards hairballs in cats.

A thorough brushing out of dead coat helps minimise the risk of hairballs, keeping the cat much more comfortable.

Dead coat can be removed with a soft cat-specific slicker brush and comb for large clumps. A Furminator or similar de-shedding tool can be used for the more stubborn coat. A rubber glove can also be used, but it is important to brush in the direction the coat grows. Remember the coat on the chest and belly is often softer and a normal slicker will work better in this area.

Lion Cut

There are a few different styles of lion cut. The main one, which most of my clients choose, is to shave with a 10 blade from the back of the neck to the base of the tail. Leaving the legs from the elbow and hock joints natural.

Some clients opt for a shaved tail with fluffy tip, but most choose to have a natural tail.

The legs, tail and head are all brushed out to remove dead coat, and the fluffy paws are skimmed with a 40 blade to neaten up.

Some of my customers prefer to have a small mane left, and for this I shave from the withers back. Depending on the cat I will shave the front of the shoulders to accentuate the mane dropping down from the chest. Of course this mane then also needs brushing out along with the legs and head.

And finally, there are a lot of cats who can no longer reach to their backend as they get older. And so while they can keep their coat in immaculate condition around the front their back legs tend to get matted.

For these, I shave from either the last rib or the point of hip back, depending on the owner’s request.

These partial lion cuts are not my favourite, but for an owner they are an ideal way to keep the majority of the coat while removing the coat they can no longer maintain. I do all clipping on cats with a set of Arcos or other similar small trimmers that have multiple blade settings. They are quieter and vibrate less than a normal set of clippers, and most cats tolerate them far better than clippers.


Although a lot of people joke about cats hating water, I actually quite enjoy bathing cats. Make sure the water is warm, the shower is already running before you put the cat in the bath otherwise the cat may spook at the noise when you turn it on. The cat is placed on a slippery surface or if necessary have a cat bag ready. Personally I don’t like cat bags as they have no give if a cat panics and needs removing from a situation. They are a good option for a lone groomer to keep the cat safely restrained, but where possible I prefer to have a second person holding the cat.

When bathing cats, never use a shampoo with tea tree or eucalyptus oil in it. cat grooming

Wash the cat from the neck backwards. I never wash the cat’s head or face, I instead use a nice smelling dry shampoo or brushing powder. I like to do two washes. It depends on the cat’s temperament and how they are coping with the situation. 

When washed, wrap the cat securely in a towel. There is a knack for this that can’t be put into words. When the cats are wrapped up, I like to refer to them as Kits in Blankets. Because they resemble little sausages wriggling around.

There are differing opinions on drying cats. I was initially taught by someone who was fully qualified. But strongly believed you should never use a blaster on a cat. She dried cats entirely with a stand dryer, and often left the legs damp. When I went on my own course, I discovered that it is safe to dry cats with a blaster. You need to take the same precautions you would with a small dog. eg. turn the blaster down and don’t blast the face.

I always start from the backend and work my way forwards. Keeping the cat safely wrapped up in the towel and just moving the towel up as I go along.

This keeps the cat secure while I dry. It means if it begins to panic I still have the cat safely restrained and can turn the blaster off quickly. 


A nice way of tidying a cat without trimming is to pluck the dead coat. Particularly around the face and mane. Similar to handstripping a dog, the coat is noticeably dead and comes out easily when plucked gently with finger and thumb.

The only difference between handstripping and plucking is that in dogs the dead coat still sits in the follicle and needs removing to clear the follicle. While in cats it has already left the follicle but still sits in the densely packed coat.

If you’ve ever seen a Persian cat with little wispy hairs sticking out from its cheeks, this is the coat that would be plucked! It leaves a clean, smooth finish behind and really finishes off a groom. However if a cat is particularly aggressive I would recommend not getting your fingers too close to its face.

There are a lot of huge differences between cat and dog grooming. You are dealing with two completely different species.

Although this is a basic overview I highly recommend anyone interested in cat grooming go on a course. The Competence in Cat Grooming qualification has hands on experience and is invaluable.

I have actually learned to groom cats from three separate groomers who held three separate qualifications. Each separate groomer had a different way of grooming cats. Thanks to this I was able to learn a variety of techniques.

Grooming cats can be a hugely rewarding experience. You never forget the first time a Maine Coon falls asleep with its head in your hand. On top of that, cat grooming is just so quiet and peaceful! Yes some cats are vocal, but you will never get a headache from one like you would a Husky.

Have you seen our naked charity calendar? Check it out in our SHOP.

To find out more about cat grooming check out Danelle Germans podcast and buy a ticket for Groomers Unlocked international.

Check out The Dog And Cat Grooming Manual for more information on cat grooming

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