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Controlled Grooming or Cat Wrestling 101

| December 26, 2011
Controlled Grooming or Cat Wrestling 101

Always keep in mind that, the art of grooming a cat is in ‘the eyes of the beholder‘.. What may work for you, may not work for others!! Everyone, and every culture, will handle animals with different techniques. The idea is, to have a beautiful, well adjusted, and manageable cat.


In this article I will not be giving instruction, on how to make a coat whiter or, on how to clean eyes. I will not teach you how to do face sculpting, or face maintenance. I will just pass on my observations about grooming manners… A ‘sort of’…’ Cat Grooming for the Soul’ if you like!

Always keep in mind that, the art of grooming a cat is in ‘the eyes of the beholder‘.. What may work for you, may not work for others!! Everyone, and every culture, will handle animals with different techniques. The idea is, to have a beautiful, well adjusted, and manageable cat.

Generally, if you start grooming a cat as a very young kitten , you will develop an easy to groom adult.

Ah.. But life is not that easy!!

What if kitty came from a cattery, where the handling of kittens was not a priority? As breeders, we have all had to deal with this.

Kitty arrives, all ‘fresh and groomed’, accompanied with, a grooming instruction sheet, a mile long!.

One week later, we place little ’Cedric’ into a bath tub, and he turns into the Tasmanian Devil !!! Poor little guy! The grooming session goes less than ideal, and you come away, an aggravated ego.

Show conditioning is not, so much about gorgeous cats, as it is about intelligent grooming!

To develop wonderful grooming manners and habits, there are three concepts, which I feel become paramount, when approaching the grooming of, a Himalayan cat…

1) Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!!!

Have your equipment (including fun stuff) cleaned and ready BEFORE you start. Searching out a comb, or finding shampoo, will cause you to stop, just long enough, for the kitty to find his way out of being groomed!!

2) Never become flustered.

In the moment that you feel challenged, the cat will pick upon your mood…They will then react. It is the secret weapon they use, to help them win control of the situation


This is a bonding time for you and your kitty. A few minutes of silliness and play, can make the difference, between a ‘great show cat attitude’, and a sullen boring, or nasty kitty! The concepts of, negative and positive reinforcement therapy, and reward inspiration, are basic to ’sports psychology’. Sometimes we forget that, cat showing is a competative event, and, we are working with elite athletes! Always remember. You are the Coach!

All of the ‘artistic breeding’, sculpting and shaping, will fall to the wayside, if your kitty decides to have a meltdown. I have always looked at the ‘selective breeding’ of cats, as the ‘art of purebred cats’. I look at ‘grooming and showing’, like it is the competitative sides of the ‘art’.

I believe that, the true ‘cat artists’, are not necessarily found at the cat shows. I feel, they are the people, who orchestrate these wonderful pedigrees.

That said… there is an ‘art’, to great show grooming. But remember, you may try to apply all of the great artistic grooming tricks in the world to a cat, and it will still not achieve success. Even a ‘living art-form’ may have grooming tantrums!

Always end your grooming session, with a very ‘upbeat and fun’, (even silly) attitude. Take out a toy and play with the kitty! ( Have you ever experienced a ‘high five’? Cats respond the same way an athlete does when they are admired for success.)

The whole event should be relaxing. Good grooming techniques always work, to help to develop, great temperament in the show cat, or pet…They also help you, to maintain your sanity!!

You should always look forward, to your grooming time, spent with your cat.

We have two different grooming regimes at our house. The ‘everyday’, maintenance and bathing, for all of our cats, and the intensive, ‘show cat’- educational grooming, for all of our aspiring athletes and stars!

Both methods are very similar, and are aimed at developing easily groomed, and manageable cats.

Lets Get Started…..

First.. and this sounds very silly.. I want you to practice your voice!!

Inflection in your voice, is the barometer which a cat uses, to see if you are really serious about your request, or not! This is the ’timber’, of your voice. How you ‘sound’ to the cat.

Cats will not respond to a wimpy, whiny or pleading command, nor, will they respond to a booming or screeching , shrill command!

Practice your obedience voice.

Make your commands firm, and to the point!

Now practice your ’silly and playful’ voice.

Both voices should be extremely different, and easy for the cat to understand.

Make commands short and to the point.

DO NOT ‘ASK’ THE CAT TO DO SOMETHING…A GROOMING COMMAND IS NOT NEGOTIABLE!!! Pleading with a cat is a useless endeavor at best.

Cats should understand, that each action they take, elicits a different voice response from you.

Good, bad, or comforting, I use the same voice techniques with my cats, that I use on my dogs.

This is a ‘tried and true’ idea. Dog breeders and trainers have been getting positive results from this method for years! Just look at Barbara Woodhouse and her ‘Lets Go Walkies’ idea.. IT WORKS!

The second grooming concept all cat groomers need to learn is, how to manage a chronic wiggler.

Do not give in to play.. If you do, this will become a very bad habit to break.

The kitty thinks,… ’So this is how I get out of this horrible bath!…By looking ’oh so cute!’.

Don’t be tempted to play !!! Place the kitty in the position that you requested, and repeat firmly.. “NO!..I said NO”. I try to keep ‘one hand on the cat’ for the duration of the grooming. The feel of your hand against the cats skin, can calm him down.

Continue where you left off ..WHILE, KEEPING SILENT! Let me make this clearer. A wiggler does not need to be instigated to play.

A relaxed, easy to groom, cat can be chatted with, and cooed too. NOT THE WIGGLE WORM!

The key point here, is to ‘not interact with verbal response, while the cat is behaving well! Give the cat a ‘love and cuddle’ only, if he lets you finish the area you might be working on. The ‘love and cuddle’ will become the reward for a job well done.

Example. You have just finished combing the cats front legs and he is behaving well.. stop then, and ‘lovie’ the cat. Give the cat some gentle stroking and, in your silliest voice, say..

“What a Good Cat!”!

(Right about now I can visualise Barbara Woodhouse and her ‘catch all phrase’…OKAY!! LET”S GO WALKIES”!!

That is the correct the tone. SILLY SILLY SILLY!!!)

Then. become silent again, and, move on with your grooming.

Remember….you are grooming a chronic wiggler.

Play and silliness are for AFTER grooming!

If the cat becomes aggravated about having a specific area groomed ( perhaps around his/her private parts, or having his nails trimmed, or ears cleaned), change locations. By this I mean, you do not have to stay focused on a specific area. You can always come back to those areas, later.


If they can ‘spit and growl’ loud enough to stop you from grooming, then they have won the battle!

All cats ‘talk’! Its a fact of cat life. Some cats can be the biggest complainers, or some may just want to chat. Learn to differentiate between, the tone of the cats voice, when he is truly angry and upset, and, when he is just kidding.

Also..SOME CATS ARE JUST PLAIN VOCAL! If you have a kitty who seems to vocalize during grooming, try to not take, these comments as insults!!

If the cat starts to fidget, try to do less grooming, of specific area at a time.

NEVER control a cat by shaking, slapping, or being rough!!


If you have become so unnerved, by the grooming session, that you would shake a kitty …TAKE A BREAK!


Always remember, never end your grooming session on a negative point.


If the grooming has gotten completely ‘out of hand’… and… if ‘Cedric’ has tried to ‘eat you for diner‘.. STOP.. TAKE A BREATH…

Go back immediately, and do something he enjoyed. Perhaps a soft brushing down his back. Then tell him he has done well, and finish! Remember, you can always try again later.

Now, even if things went a little rough ..GO AND PLAY!!


The final thought I would like to convey is. always listen to your cat.

Listen to his voice, and study his body language. Learn from his habits and requests.

If a cat is having a problem, it will be easier pick up on it, if you know what the cats ‘normal behaviour’ is. Grooming time, is an opportune time, to see what is really going on with kitty.

It is wonderful to have a great looking cat but, remember.. if the cat won’t let you groom him, your cat’s ‘show career’ could be doomed!!!

Take the time to, ‘psychologically handle’ your kitty while you are grooming him. DON’T JUST GROOM FOR GOOD LOOKS!


Copyright & Credit: Sue Williams, 2005 Scaatycats, Victoria BC Canada

Photo copyright and courtesy: Michael

Category: Feline Articles, Feline Health and Care, Feline Resources

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