Feline Brush-Out: A Profitable Add-on Service
By Deborah Hansen
Photos by Esther Abbe
As a boarding facility, there are many great ways to increase the bottom line when it comes to feline care. One way we can add revenue without incurring a high upfront cost is by offering our cat clients a brush-out on their last boarding day. A brush-out by a staff member is an easy option when your facility does not have a feline groomer on staff.
Two important things to consider before brushing out a cat are temperament and coat condition. If the cat has been growly and hissy during their stay and has taken a few swats at the staff, this cat is obviously more cat than your employees should attempt to brush out. When working with felines, always remember, the benefits need to outweigh the risks. A cat bite to an employee is a serious liability for a boarding business and every step should be taken to avoid any injury from a feline.
In addition, sometimes the coat condition makes a brush-out impossible and those cats need to see a professional feline groomer. When the coat is hard to the touch or there are lumps, the cat is too matted for a brush-out. Usually these conditions are worse on the hips. If you can touch the skin on the hips of a cat without feeling lumps, this cat may be a good candidate for a brush-out. A mat is simply dead coat intertwined in the living coat by a binding agent. Usually that agent is the natural oils formed by the cat’s skin.
When I start a brush-out, I divide the cat’s body into four sections. I start on the back, move to the right side, then the belly and finally the left side. By working in this pattern, I am confident I have covered the entire body of the cat. Then I finish with the feet, head, face and tail.
The key to a successful brush-out is using the correct tool. While “brush-out” sounds like you will be using a brush, I only use combs on cats. A medium comb with a handle will be the most useful tool, followed by a fine comb. Many of you may be thinking of using one of the deshedding tools on the market. In my experience, a simple comb used correctly is far more effective and leaves the cat happier than any of the other available options.
I like to start by holding the cat up in front of me. To do this, I make a “v” with my thumb and forefinger and place my “v” under the front arm pits while supporting the cat’s chest in my palm (Fig. 1). This hold has several benefits. First, it keeps the cat slightly off-balance which helps me maintain control of the cat. More importantly, this hold stretches out the skin. When doing any kind of grooming on a feline, it is important the skin is taut because cats tend to have saggy skin which can either get caught on the comb or prevent you from combing to the base of the coat. Another advantage of this hold is easy access to all areas of the cat.
Starting on the back, I insert my comb into the coat near the base of the neck, rotating the comb to a 45 degree angle, then pulling the comb down the cat’s back to the tail base (Fig. 2). I then repeat several passes down the back of the cat. Make sure to comb the hips when working on the cat’s back. For elderly or special needs cats, have them lie on their belly for as much of the brush-out as possible.
When making this downward combing motion, you should be able to feel the comb “gripping” the coat. If you cannot feel the comb gripping the coat, there are several factors that may need adjusted. First, check the angle of your comb. You may need an angle closer to the cat’s body. Your comb should not be perpendicular to the body. If that does not help, move to a fine comb. Clean cats with thinner coats and fine hair need a fine comb. Do not fall into the trap of thinking short-hair cats need a fine comb. Many short-hair cats have a dense coat and need a medium comb.
When finished with the back, move to the first side. If the owner brushes their cat, many times they miss the sides which results in an accumulation of dead coat in this area. Really focus your efforts on the area between the arm pit and upper hip. Pulling your comb straight down, at an angle will remove a lot of dead coat (Fig. 3).
Moving to the belly, I sometimes lay the cat on their back in my lap. I comb down the belly to the sani area. Remember to comb the arm pits, inside of the back legs and rear of the back legs. Then move to the other side.
After the body has been combed, lay the cat down onto its belly and comb the front of the neck and top of the head. If the feline is still agreeable, comb the feet followed by the tail. When combing the tail, lay the cat on their belly, squeeze the cat firmly between your forearm and your body, keeping the mouth pointed away from your body to prevent being bit or scratched (Fig. 4). Most cats act up when their tail is being combed. Make sure your comb is reaching the skin at an angle. You should get a lot of dead coat out of the tail. Owners are not usually able to brush their cat’s tail, making it a place where dead coat accumulates.
I like to show the owners how much dead coat was removed from their cat. A quick picture with an object for size comparison helps an owner realize the full value of a brush-out. A feline brush-out is an easy and profitable upsell for many feline boarding businesses that do not have a groomer on staff.