Thursday, February 28, 2013

Being Flexible

Recently my Tuesday grooming days have been slow. So when I called bright and early to hear the dreaded "only one cat, it's a new client", I was apprehensive. Now, most of my new clients do come in (on time!) for their first appointments, which fills me with happiness. When I first started at Advanced, that was definitely NOT the case. But still...I didn't really want to drive all the way to Reisterstown for a no show.

By the time I got in, this little cutie had snuck in and was already waiting for me. I was delighted with her. Look at that cute little face! So shy and sweet. The notes said "can shave if necessary", which to me means, "owner really doesn't want the cat shaved, but acknowledges said cat is matted and probably needs to be shaved".

Oh my. That's a mess. And many groomers would choose to shave this cat. Very few would attempt to remove the mats. Fewer would be able to do it without stressing or causing some discomfort. And few would be able to finish with a good looking cat - most likely, Zoey would end up looking like she had a run in with a weed whacker! So yes, clipping her down would be the best choice for many a groomer.

On the other paw, I'm a Certified Feline Master Groomer (among other things) and I have the training, equipment and experience to turn this scary little Ragdoll into a sleek, stylish feline. No pain, no stress, no weed whacking!

Being shy, Zoey brought some friends with her for moral support

Zoey handled her pregrooming exam well. I petted her, ruffled through her coat, trimmed her nails and generally got her used to me touching her and talking to her. When cats are shy or scared, like Zoey, I like to take some extra time to help them get used to me.

I put her in the tub and started getting her nice and lathered up. Brushing dirty hair is a fantastic way to damage the hair and invite further matting. Dirt is abrasive! Damaged hair will snag against other damaged hair (or itself, I imagine) and tangle that much faster. I can hear the screaming now "BUT GETTING MATS WET WILL MAKE THEM WORSE!!!!!" Yes. Yes it can. But with the correct tools and techniques, it doesn't have to. With the right know how, it makes it easier to remove mats.

Do not try this at home!

Incorrect bathing and drying and incorrect product usage will leave you with a huge pelted mess. Definitely one of those things to leave to the experts. I happen to be one of those!

So, back to Zoey. Having done very well with her bath, it was now time to dry her. Here's where my luck ran out. Zoey wanted no part in being dried. The HV dryer scared her. The Catty Shack Vac scared her. Sitting on my lap with my little dryer on the lowest setting scared her. My ability to demat this cat easily and gently hinged on being able to dry her correctly. And that scared the pants off of her! And not the 'curl into a ball and look super sad' scared, but the panicked 'fling myself about until I hurt myself' scared. Cage drying would be unacceptable and take forever. But what could I do? Traditional cat dryer options were too scary for little Zoey.

One of the more important things groomers learn is to be flexible. Flexible with our bodies, flexible with our thinking.

Kevin Beck of The Cat and the Fiddle, our favorite Canadian CFMG
shows the art of body and mind flexibility 
because sometimes you really just need an extra hand, but all you have is a foot

Now, awesome foot techniques weren't going to help me, although I've used my feet to groom a good many times. Zoey was afraid, and holding her down wasn't the answer. Instead, I borrowed the fluff dryer from the dog groomer. It was less powerful than my high velocity dryer, but it wouldn't blow so hard or so concentrated. I wrapped her up in a towel, turned it on and hoped for the best.

You can barely see her! We started by uncovering just a tiny bit of her butt. By gently sliding the towel, I exposed different areas, keeping her well covered until she felt comfortable enough to be completely unwrapped. And yes, by the time she was dry from her midsection back, she felt safe enough to poke her head out and look around! All on her own. So brave!

This picture shows WHY scissors should never be used on cats! No matter how careful, the cat always seems to end up cut. These little marks are caused by the tip of the scissors while cutting out a mat. The uneven choppiness of the hair tell me that some attempts at home were made to cut out those mats. Luckily, these are just little cuts that should heal up with no problem. Cat skin is very, very different from human or dog skin. It often does not bleed at first when cut. I doubt the person doing it even knew.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: No scissors in cat grooming!

Anyway, back to grooming! It took longer than my HV dryer and Catty Shack Vac. It was waaaay messier. I was covered in hair, my room was covered in hair. But my cat was dry! All those mats were removed. And most importantly, Zoey was pretty relaxed. I know it wasn't her favorite thing, but she was able to be dried without freaking her out or stressing her. That's what matters.

Zoey did have some areas where most of the hair was gone, or was very thin. She did have the chopped area behind each elbow, from her home haircut. So if you were to go over her carefully, it would be easy to tell she'd had matting removed. But look at this picture and tell me if you can tell!

How pretty is she now! And yes, every bit as soft as she looks. I left a voicemail with her owner, alerting them to the tiny cuts I found, my decision to leave her in full coat (because the coat could easily be saved) and recommending that she be groomed every 6 weeks to prevent this from happening again. I was sad I wasn't able to meet her people. I would have loved to see their face when I presented their sweet little cat to them. I haven't heard anything, but they did leave me a nice tip, so I'm hoping they're as pleased with her as I am!

Just as nice on the other side!

I'm not a "save the coat at any cost" person. I feel that if the pet is badly matted, they should be shaved. If they're likely to continue to be matted, whether because of poor health, lifestyle or poor owner upkeep, they should be shaved. If the owner is unable or unwilling to bring the pet in on an appropriately regular basis, they should be shaved. I never find it acceptable for a pet to be in discomfort because a person 'likes it fluffy'. I knew I had the skills and ability to safely and easily remove her mats, and I expect that her owners will follow my recommendations to prevent her from becoming matted in the future. Next time I see her, hopefully in just a few weeks, I'll be sure to have that stand dryer ready to go!

can I go home now, please?

Thanks to Kevin Beck for his guest appearance! You can visit the Cat and the Fiddle at:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

...Will You?

Since today is February 14th, 
I want to ask you an important question...

Will you be my Valentiger?

I hope you're excited as I am! Do you need a hint as to why you should be soooo excited about this magazine cover? No problem, let me show you!

I love how he's watching me apply the XOXO
It's like he knows it's not going to look right

That's right! That gorgeous groom on the cover was done by me!
I used my good friend and fellow groomers cat, Tiger. 
The contest was to create a seasonally appropriate FELINE groom for the February/March edition of Creative Groomer Quarterly, a magazine for the members of the National Association of Professional Creative Groomers. Yes! Finally, another contest just for cats! 

smudging: the biggest downside of chalk

I was so excited when I first saw the contest announcement. I immediately started brainstorming ideas. While I really wanted to do "seasonally appropriate", the only thing that came to mind was hearts...for Valentine's Day. Kinda predictable and boring. But we axed (haha!) a President's Day theme. Too late for snow themes...too early for spring ideas...I don't like cupids. Yup. Let's do hearts. Luckily, my dad came up with the ValenTiger. A good name makes everything better. Names are important.

I invited (ok, asked)(ok, fine, begged) my dad to come take pictures for me. I always have a blast doing creative grooms with an audience, and my dad loves helping me. We're a weird family, I know! I'm really pleased with both versions of this groom. The yellow and blue background pictures were my first attempt. Also, the first time using this pet chalk. I had purchased it awhile back and when I got it, I looked at it and went 'I spent how much on this?!", tossed it in my grooming bag and ignored it. I broke it out for this groom and was so happy I did, turns out, I love it! 

Action Tiger!

A pretty easy creative groom, the tail took the longest to do! Tiger got a Lion Clip. I left the hair longer for the hearts. About 3/8" long. I wanted them to really pop, so I did that narrow boarder around them slightly shorter than the Lion Clipped area. The spiral tail...was a pain. I love them. I love how they look, but I haven't quite figured out how to do it. Were it not for the tail, clipping in this groom would only take about 10 minutes longer than a regular Lion Clip groom. We won't talk about how long that tail took!

good sports!

I really liked how my kissy lips turned out! Unfortunately, they didn't work out for the second groom. Towards the end of the color application, I looked over at my dad and said
"did you ever think you'd be helping color a cat
like this, and then take pictures of it?"

He responded with

"Of course! I've done this before."

I think I offended him. Sorry, Dad!

While my groom turned out well and I was happy with it, the pictures we took didn't quite work. My thought was 'there's a blank yellow wall. I'll set him on a solid blanket in front of the solid wall 
and everything will be fine."

It didn't work. I had a friend and professional graphic artist photoshop the background for me, hoped for the best and submitted the pictures. I got an email back suggesting I re-shoot the pictures. 


Apparently I still haven't learned that lesson! (Although I'm having flashbacks to marching band. Sigh.)

Since I used temporary color, I would have to rebathe, reclip and recolor Tiger. The thing about Tigers, though, is they LOVE attention. And creative grooming requires extra time, extra effort, and extra attention. Which means Tiger loves his creative grooms! He just soaks up that extra effort it takes. Actually, it's only when the picture taking starts that he gets bored! 

No one is petting me. This sucks.

So I gathered up some light beige sheets (yes, purchased  just for this occasion!), my colors, my dad and just in case, my husband, and redid the groom. Intense grooming two weeks in a row??? Tiger was in kitty heaven! We hung the sheets, got all the lighting we could and basically rearranged my friend's salon. She's a good sport. Thanks, Andie!

We got some great pictures and had a great time doing it. I resubmitted my photos and waited. After what seemed like forever, but was only a week,  I got some great news - The Valentiger won! 

We all had lots of fun with this contest. I continued to learn more about creative grooming, clipping and color application. Tiger got leaps of attention. And cat grooming got a well deserved spotlight. I think I can say we all won. 

And just because it's so good looking, the cover one more time:

Photograph by Charles Cornell
Layout by Liz Boles

I cannot wait until I get my copy!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Abstract Practice With Lexus

So, this post is way overdue! Remember waaaay back in August (August! I'm such a slacker!) when I decided to do the Abstract Creative Runway competition with Sara? Obviously, we didn't win, but we did have a good time! Well, I've got a huge back log of fun creative stuff, but it's no fun to jump into new news without wrapping up the old.

In addition to practicing with Tiger, I also got to practice with a client's cat, Lexus. I hadn't expected to get a second practice cat, but I'm really happy I did! I happened to be chatting with her owner and told her about the upcoming competition and she instantly offered Lexus for practice. Since she was due for a groom it worked out perfectly. Purr-fectly, I mean.

I still wanted to do something swirly, but decided to try a more vine like pattern. I really love the result! At the time, I thought I would have to groom in the competition ring, so my practice included using my cordless clippers to clip down her coat. I haven't had much luck using my cordless to do comb clips, especially on Lexus. I suppose I could have smoothed it out afterwards with my corded clippers...hindsight!

Lexus is such a sweet cat, it's always a pleasure to work with her. She also has a HUGE booming purr, and she purrs all the time! Her naturally large, round, round eyes sometimes make her look extra surprised or angry, but don't let it fool you. She's a big softy and loves being groomed.

She's not amused by picture taking. She thinks I should be either grooming her or petting her. Walking around, pointing flashing boxes, and making funny noises are neither grooming nor petting, and therefore unacceptable.

Her design is completely free hand. I'm extra pleased with how even and consistent the lines were. Since I wasn't using the full width of the blade, it's easy to vary widths.

She's clearly asking if I'm done yet!

I'm very thankful to Lexus and her owner! It's wonderful to have great cats to practice on. Even better, freely given and unexpected offers! I was reminded by Danelle, President of the NCGIA, what a lucky groomer I was. "After all, not just anyone gets to practice with a Lexus!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Kitten!!!!! Revisited

Do you remember a cute little ball of fluff?

oh hai, I'm ADORABLE 

Well little Abby is growing up! I've gotten to groom her several times since then (way back in the fall of 2011! Wow, she really has grown up.) She's just as cute as can be. Very sweet. In fact, my only difficulty grooming her is that she loves to roll around and turn somersaults. Yep, it's super cute. I told her owner I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to clip her, and she just laughed and told me they love her as is and have no plans to have her clipped. Win-win, because she's got a lovely coat and never has a tangle.

Oh hai, I'm beautiful 

It's so much fun to watch kittens grow up! Abby is such a lovely little cat and I love when she comes to visit me. She seems to have a good time, too! Love it when the kitties enjoy their grooming. She can do all the somersaults she wants to as long as she keeps purring and snuggling up against me. That's one of the best parts of grooming, after all. Getting snuggles!