There is not much in the grooming process a cat enjoys.
Not the bathing, with real water. Not the blow-drying. Not the electric razor, which buzzes. Not the nail trimming, which requires touching of the sacred feet.
And because a cat can show its displeasure by exhibiting speed and ferocity — to say nothing of claws and teeth — a lot of pet groomers stick with dogs.
“My partner Laurie is scarred for life after a cat turned her arms into hamburger,” said Jan Lewis-Condo, who owns Grooming Angel Pet Salon in Puyallup.
“I’ve been bitten through the thumbnail and used IVs to prevent infection,” she said. “I pulled a cat off the face of another worker, and now he needs a goatee to hide the scars …”
So, the obvious question: Why would anyone do this?
“I love cats, and the money is amazing, because no one wants to do this,” Jan said. “We charge $75 for a cat. People complain about the cost — until they try to do the same thing at home.”
Her business began eight years ago when she and partner Laurie Lewis-Condo started grooming animals out of their two-car garage. Mostly, they did dogs. Last year, they moved into their own shop.
And now they’re expanding.
“The unit next door to ours came open and it made sense to take it and make it a cat salon,” Jan said. “We do dogs six days a week, and cats only on Sundays – it’s just too hard on a cat to come in and be groomed with dogs on the other tables.
“The demand for cat grooming is so intense we’re booked for a few months out on Sundays only.”
So starting June 1, they’ll go seven days a week with one grooming salon for dogs, another for cats.
They’re separate but unequal.
“Dogs are usually fear-biters,” groomer Lacee LaPierre said. “Cats can go on full attack mode at any time. They can fool you. You can have a cat purring on the table one moment, then deciding, ‘I’m going to kill you’ the next.”
Last Sunday, Squishy and Andy were among the two dozen cats brought into the shop in the morning and picked up later in the day.
They were not all that enthused to be there.
Both got the full treatment — nail trims, a pair of shampoos, anal glands expressed, ears and eyes cleaned, facial skin folds cleaned, a brush and comb out, foot pads shaved, cologne, bandana and a bow for about $75.
The cost can vary depending on the cat and its condition.
“A long-haired cat with a lot of matting can take quite awhile,” LaPierre said.
Squishy was clearly put out but cooperative — except for his bath, which he seemed to deeply and vocally resent.
Andy sounded like a cat in an exorcism. He growled ferociously from start to finish of his lion cut.
“Andy gets his aggressions out by making a lot of noise, but he has never attacked,” LaPierre said. “A lot of dealing with cats is reading them, keeping them calm, letting them tell you what’s going on.”
Jan has spent the past 15 years figuring cats out while spending most of her time grooming dogs. She and Laurie have both dogs and cats at home — along with adopted son Patrick, who is 13.
“I learned while working in a vet’s office, then apprenticing with a groomer,” Jan said. “Most groomers don’t want to do cats. If a vet trains you, it’s basically ‘Here’s a welder’s mask and gloves. Good luck.’
“There are grooming courses online, but you watch people work with cats in those videos and the usual response is, ‘Oh, hell no!’ ”
She’s only partly kidding.
When working with cats at the shop, groomers and their assistants are advised to wear heavy gloves. That’s often not enough protection.
“Even sweet kitties are out for blood when the water hits them,” Jan said. “If cats get worked up enough, they’ll spray.
“My dad calls us Siegfried and Roy because we work with cats. He was watching us once and a cat jumped and almost got him. That was it — he went out and sat in his car after that.”