Most pet groomers won’t even think about grooming a cat. Those that do often resort to a combination of force and restraints to subdue a cat—some also don Kevlar sleeves and even face masks as protection. They speak wearily of cat bites and other injuries. It is a tough business.
Enter Anitra Frazier. 30 years ago, she was working for a veterinarian who sent her out to make cat grooming house calls, armed with nothing more than a comb and a pair of dissecting shears. She knew nothing about scruffing cats or any other methods of restraint. She had never groomed dogs, so she didn’t apply dog grooming methods to her cat grooming. She proceeded to develop a completely unique and very gentle method of cat grooming, that incorporates the cat’s guardian as a soothing assistant and focuses on keeping the cat relaxed and comfortable.
Her famous bestselling book “The Natural Cat” is about to be released in its third edition. In the book she describes the techniques she uses. But most of the book is dedicated to feline nutrition, because as a groomer she discovered that the true key to a great coat is nutrition.
Anitra invited me to spend a couple of days observing her, so that I could gain a deeper understanding of her techniques. It is one thing to read about gentle cat grooming—and another thing entirely to witness her in action.
For two days I chased after her as we traversed Manhattan from top to bottom and even detoured in Brooklyn. She is a wonder. At seventy years old, she is fast and fit, and definitely a challenge to keep up with.
She doesn’t use electric clippers or any other methods of shaving a cat. “I never do a lion clip. The poor cats look ridiculous. Its embarrassing for them. Plus the shaving is terrifying for them—and often painful. No, my job is to show the cat that grooming is a pleasure. I will never hurt them. I speak to them, offering positive mental pictures.” She cooes her examples. “Now my dear, this is going to feel so good and you are going to look so beautiful. Isn’t it lovely to be clean? I’m going to take out this uncomfortable little matte—there you go, now doesn’t that feel better? Now I am going to do the same thing on the other side, and won’t that feel good?” Her specialty for long-haired cats is the very attractive Teddy Clip, their fur cut down to about ½ inch long with scissors.
She breaks every common rule of grooming, holding the cat close to her body, helping it feel safe and secure. She uses as little restraint as possible, often seeming not to control the cat at all, but cutting fur and combing whatever part of the body that the cat presents to her. Yet she is managing the cat, “Don’t ever let the cat escape, it is important that they learn that the groomer will let them go when the session is done.” Sometimes the session is done before the cat’s coat is finished. “I can always come back another time. This is why I charge by the hour rather than the job. It isn’t worth stressing the cat to finish the coat. Sometimes we get it all done. Sometimes just one half.”
As the cat tires of the grooming session, Anitra calls on the cat’s guardian and trusted companion to distract the cat with love talk and stroking to the head. This is incredibly effective and I watched as one cat after another responded to this calming contact, closing their eyes and acquiescing to more grooming.
“With some of these cats it took them a long time to understand how wonderful it is to be groomed. They had had a bad experience with another groomer—or some other trauma and it took a lot of time to develop trust. But then they learn the routine and some of them start to enjoy it.”
Anitra also provides holistic nursing for geriatric cats. We visited one cat that is suffering from kidney failure. Anitra visits three times a week to administer sub-cutaneous fluids. “I think that sub-cutaneous fluids are terribly underused. I offer fluids anytime a cat is going off its food, or its coat seems dry. Sometimes that little pick me up can really make a huge difference for the cat. It doesn’t have to be a lot of fluids just 100 cc’s can make all the difference sometimes. It is so easy for cats to become dehydrated. Especially on these dry food diets that everyone is so fond of.” She tsks. “I tell all my clients to get their cats on a raw food diet—ground organic beef, with calcium added and some shredded vegetables—that will make a huge difference in how much grooming they need—as well as their overall health. I also like to garnish the raw meat with a little bit of PetGuard wet food—for palatability. With cats its all about Taste, Texture and temperature. If they don’t like something, try warming it or adjusting what vegetables you ad. Some cats like the sweeter vegetables like a good baked squash—while I have known other cats that would kill for a bit of chopped asparagus in their dinner.”
This diet has an amazing effect on her client's coats. The Persians' fur was as light as air, silky puffs of fluff, making the groomer's job much easier.
Preview of Coming Attractions
Over the next several months, I will be traveling across the country in search of cat stories, visiting innovative cat rescues and shelters, interviewing eccentric cat lovers, leading vets and behaviorists and so much more. To view my travel schedule and learn more about my Cat Behaviorist business, please visit http://www.thecatbehaviorist.com/ . If I will be in your area and you feel you have some interesting cat stories to share, please don't hesistate to contact me via my website.