7 min read

A Day in the Life of a Cat Groomer


Written by Emily Bayne

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 09/28/2022, edited: 09/28/2022


Professional cat grooming is an appealing career path for pet lovers for many reasons. You get to meet cute animals, help pets feel and look better, and set your own schedule. But being a cat groomer isn't all sunshine and rainbows — it's hard work and comes with unique challenges.

To get some insight into the world of pet grooming, we interviewed 2 professional cat (and dog!) groomers, Amanda Bingham and Victoria Leonard, who have 3 decades of grooming experience between them. They told us the good, the bad, and the ugly about this career path and gave us tips for grooming hopefuls on their career journey.

Let's dive into everything you need to know about an average day for groomers, the certification process, and frequently asked questions, like how much cat groomers make — but first, a formal introduction! 

Meet Victoria Leonard

Victoria Leonard, Pet Groomer

Victoria Leonard is a Fear Free Certified Professional Groomer currently working out of a veterinary clinic in Orland Park, Illinois. She learned through apprenticeship and has been grooming since 2008.

Victoria has a special interest in studying animal behavior and evolution and applying that knowledge to enhance the grooming experience for her four-legged clientele. Victoria’s continuing education includes behavior seminars from Wolf Park and remotely attending past SPARCS conferences.

Meet Amanda Bingham

Amanda Bingham, Pet Groomer

Amanda Bingham started grooming the family dogs under the supervision of their mother, a breeder, in 1996 and became a professional groomer in 2008. Amanda opened their own dog grooming and training facility in 2022. They own and enjoy showing Coonhounds, Chow Chows, and Poodles.

A day in the life of a professional cat groomer

Groomers work in a wide variety of establishments, from grooming mobiles to vet offices, and their work environment greatly influences what an average day looks like.

A groomer's day also depends on where they are located. Some groomers who live in a larger area with too few professionals to meet the demand may work with 12 to 14 pets a day or more, according to Amanda Bingham, a 16-year grooming veteran and salon owner from North Carolina.

Amanda explains, "I work with a bather and a receptionist/assistant. I come in around 11 and start finishing dogs. I don't have to do any prep work most days."

But still, groomers in Amanda's area can barely keep up with the demand. "If someone doesn't groom these animals, they don't get groomed. All 5 remaining groomers (in my area) are drowning."

"If a pet is simply too scared, aggressive, or unruly to handle, I will send the pet away rather than risk my safety or theirs to complete the service."

— Amanda Bingham

Victoria Leonard, who has been in the grooming business for 14 years and has worked in several types of facilities, explains that every facility is different. She says some shops prefer to have set drop-off and pick-up times where the pets arrive and leave around the same time. Other shops operate more like a human salon, working on one pet from start to finish before the next one arrives.

"Some places have staggered drop-off times, but there's overlap in when they get done, so a groomer could be working on one pet while another is washed by a bather, and then by the time they finish the first one, the next one is ready to go. That's how it is in theory, anyway — it rarely works out so smoothly!" Victoria jests.  

Victoria currently works in a clinical setting and recalls that it's much different than her time in the salon. Groomers in vet offices are often charged with taking care of the pets that other salons can't handle, like animals with significant behavioral or medical problems or geriatric pets. "We are also more likely to do animals that need anxiety medication or full-on sedation for grooming."

"Anything where it makes you more comfortable to have a doctor in the next room, that's what we get," explains Victoria. "Of course, we love still being able to do the fun, froofy grooms! But that is secondary to the needs of the animals — more so in our setting than in a salon."

An inside look at the daily responsibilities of a cat groomer

So, what sorts of things can you expect to be doing as a cat groomer? Well, that also depends on the establishment and whether or not you have assistants, says Victoria.

"Different shops have different responsibilities for bathers. Some, like where I learned, only did bathing and drying. Others will be expected to do nails or even light clipper work. The industry as a whole has basically zero consistency. It all depends on what works for you and how you function best," she says.

Here's how professional cat groomers (and their teams) spend their day:

  • Scheduling appointments   
  • Taking calls     
  • Arranging pick-up and drop-off times
  • Online marketing/advertising
  • Baths 
  • Ear cleaning  
  • Nail clipping
  • Blow-dry/cage drying
  • Cutting out mats
  • Comb cuts     
  • Sanitary cuts
  • Flea baths    
  • Boarding pets

"[Cats are] more dangerous, and that risk makes many groomers just pass on doing them entirely. You really need a passion for it."

— Victoria Leonard

The basics of becoming a cat groomer

If you ask 5 groomers what the path to becoming a professional cat groomer is, you'll get 5 different answers. That's because the US has very few standards for the grooming industry. Here's what the groomers we spoke to had to say about getting into the grooming business.

"There's no federal law that says groomers need to be licensed, so it's up to the states if they require it, and most don't. Because of that, the way people learn is all over the place," Victoria explains.

She states that she learned the ropes from a local shop owner, who felt the local grooming programs were substandard. Victoria's instructor would teach apprentices the basics like sanitary cuts, ear cleaning, and nail clipping, then work up to clipper and scissor work and then full grooms.

On the other hand, Amanda learned the trade from their mother, a professional groomer in the '70s and '80s. "She started teaching me how to groom our dogs when I was 9. I got my first professional grooming job when I was 20 and was able to build on my existing foundation. I've maintained my skills through continuing education as often as possible ever since."

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have experienced teachers to train them, but there are plenty of training programs and certification courses to help groomers get started.

The Pet Grooming Credential program through the World Pet Association is one of the most prestigious grooming certifications you can get. But aspiring groomers need months of relevant education, hands-on training, or experience in the field even to apply for the exam. Plus, professional cat grooming classes often cost upwards of $1,000.

cat groomer trimming an orange cat with shears

What is the biggest challenge or concern with cat grooming?

Amanda's biggest concern when grooming cats is the risk of Bartonella if they get bitten or scratched. Cats are common carriers of Bartonella henselae, the bacteria that causes cat scratch fever, an infection that causes body aches, swelling of the lymph nodes, fever, and rash.

While the condition usually resolves on its own, people with weakened immune systems can develop complications like Parinaud's oculoglandular syndrome and bacillary angiomatosis.

What is the main difference between dog grooming and cat grooming?

Grooming cats is very different than grooming dogs — and many pet groomers downright refuse to groom feline clients, Victoria explains. "It's absolutely possible to learn how to read them, work with them, and train them (they are incredibly smart!) but they're seriously next level." 

She says kitties "learn just as quickly what they don't like as much as what they do, and they're much quicker to scratch and bite. They're just plain more dangerous, and that risk makes many groomers just pass on doing them entirely. You really need a passion for it." 

How much do cat groomers make?

The average annual salary for a professional cat groomer is between $29,000 and $45,000. The exact salary a cat groomer makes depends on:

  • The demand for grooming services in their area
  • The cost of living in their area
  • Services offered
  • Skill level
  • Workplace (whether they work in a salon, clinic, or mobile facility)
  • Whether they work for a company or if they own their own salon (some groomers are able to set their own rates)

How do groomers handle cats who don't like to be groomed?

Amanda's tips for handling cats who don't like grooming are simple — keep yourself safe by staying current on the best handling and temperament evaluation techniques. They also advise groomers to make the experience as pleasant as possible and do their best to prevent the cat from getting too tired or uncomfortable. 

"Lastly, if a pet is simply too scared, aggressive, or unruly to handle, I will send the pet away rather than risk my safety or theirs to complete the service," Amanda says.

Orange cat having their nails trimmed

What skills and traits do cat groomers need?

Being able to do popular cuts and grooming styles is a small part of what it takes to be a good groomer. To become a successful groomer, you'll need to:

  • Have patience with cats of all temperaments and personalities
  • Be knowledgeable about coat types, color patterns, and grooming styles
  • Know how to handle cats safely, regardless of temperament
  • Be able to spot health conditions that may require veterinary treatment
  • Know how to keep cats calm in stressful situations  

What are the pros and cons of becoming a cat groomer?

Becoming a professional cat groomer has a lot of pros — it's an in-demand business, you get to meet humans and pets, and there are plenty of jobs to go around. Best of all, owning a grooming business offers a lot of freedom — you can set your own schedule and rates, and even bring your pets to work.

Victoria says the best part of being a groomer is working with animals in a dynamic environment. "We need behavior and medical knowledge on top of being able to do the artistic work. It's a great mix of a hands-on craft and problem solving — then there's the added bonus of working with animals all day!"    

There are definite downsides when it comes to cat grooming too. There's always the risk of on-the-job injuries since you're working with sharp equipment and animals that can be unpredictable. Grooming can also take a toll on the body since groomers must be on their feet for hours.

A word of advice to aspiring groomers

When asked what advice Amanda would give aspiring groomers, they said, "Get started at a big-box store with a standardized training curriculum, workman's comp, benefits, safety rules, and a legal employment classification."  

Their second piece of advice is, "Don't get hurt. Don't work on pets that are going to hurt you, whether it's a bite risk, a pet that's thrashing, or one that can't or won't stand up. Acute and repetitive stress injuries are almost always avoidable with sensible best practice guidelines and firm boundaries on what constitutes safe versus unsafe behavior from a pet." 

Victoria's advice to groomers? "Never stop learning, and think critically about your information sources. There are so many ways of doing things, you really need to get experience from many angles so you can decide the best way." Her last word of wisdom to grooming newbies: "Know you're going to get EXTREMELY dirty!"

We'd like to thank Amanda and Victoria for taking time out of their busy schedules to offer insight into the pet grooming industry.

Are you a cat groomer? We'd love to hear about your funny, sweet, or crazy grooming stories in the comments below!

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