City Kitty owner John Schwartz trims Andy the cat at the salon, City Kitty, in the Firdale Village Shopping Plaza. He purchased the salon last December. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Fur flies: Salon for cats in Edmonds is a big hairy deal

It’s not every day you hear about a cat getting a blueberry facial and a shave.

So my ears perked up when Herald multimedia sales consultant Tara Raimey was talking about a $100 beauty treatment for her cat, a long-haired 26-pounder named Lil’ Baby.

“Lil’ Baby felt better. And he smelled better,” Raimey said. “He looked like a beached sea otter.”

A beauty shop for cats. What’s up with that?

She takes Lil’ Baby to City Kitty, a cat salon in a quaint, suburban Edmonds shopping plaza.

The day I went, I witnessed the shaving of a gray-and-white matted fuzzball named Andy.

The cat’s vet-prescribed tranquilizer was no match for the buzz of electric clippers. Andy raised a hissy fit as the drug slowly kicked in.

“This one’s a bit of a firecracker,” said John Schwartz, the man wearing armored gloves and doing the barbering.

Fur flew. It wasn’t pretty, not before or during. The after was cute, though. Andy had a sleek body and a mane, for a style called a lion cut.

Andy wasn’t the first feisty feline City Kitty has seen, though most cats don’t need a tranquilize and after a few visits enjoy the pampering as much as Lil’ Baby does.

Schwartz purchased the cats-only salon last December from Adrienne Kawamura, who started City Kitty 17 years ago after working in the cat show world.

She stayed around to train him as a cat groomer. Schwartz’s background is in cars, not cats.

“I came from the collision industry. I sold automotive paint and painted cars. I was an insurance adjuster most recently,” said Schwartz, 31, of Woodinville.

“My wife, Sara, and I were looking for a business to buy. It was really across the board — ice cream shop, fence company. This came up. I was kind of unsure at first … cat grooming? Even now when I tell people what we do they are like, ‘Don’t cats lick themselves?’”

Yep, but some require suds and blades.

“It’s a much-needed service,” he said.

The office in Firdale Village Shopping Plaza is lined with files of cat clients that Schwartz is learning to care for under Kawamura’s guidance. The salon has stations for washing, drying and clipping. You know, like any salon.

Firdale Village is a unique plaza. In addition to eateries, shops, a community theater and the usual services, there’s a dog wash, cat cafe, pet sitter, canine aquatic therapy center and a diner where dogs sit at tables to eat off plates.

When Kawamura first opened the salon, she didn’t have as much furry company.

“I started out with a $12 blow dryer and a plastic lawn chair because people thought I was crazy,” she said. “This was the first cat grooming business in the nation dedicated exclusively to cats. There are more cats in households now than dogs. Most people can’t handle grooming their cats. They say, ‘Well, I tried to do it at home.’ I go, ‘That’s why I don’t work on my car.’ The grooming part is not that hard, it’s the handling of the cat.”

And the way cats respond with claws.

“Cats have four weapons of mass destruction,” Kawamura said. “With dogs, if you can control their mouth, you are pretty much safe.”

Even though she sold City Kitty, Kawamura is not retiring. She wants to sell franchises of City Kitty nationwide and help train new owners.

On a recent day, nine cats got a beauty makeover at City Kitty.

“We are a full service salon,” Schwartz said. “We don’t do any a la carte services. The basic package is a bath and groom. We do a quick toothbrushing, clean their ears, trim their claws. Check them over. Get them into the bath and do at least two full shampoo baths and express their anal glands. Then blow-dry them out and do a conditioning spray. That starts at $70 for a short-hair bath and groom. The lion cut starts at $95.”

Is this at all like cars?

“Yes and no,” he said.

“I come from a real production-oriented environment where you are always trying to get things done and through on a schedule. The way we have our work stations set up, some of the concepts of that transfer over.

“Much is repeat business. We get people on a schedule. Get rid of the fur. Or maybe they have allergies or just like the cat clean and not shedding as much.”

The past four months have left their mark.

“I’ve been bitten. I’ve been scratched. I’ve started wearing BiteBuster gloves to protect my arms,” he said. “You get peed on. It’s not a job for the faint of heart.”

It’s good training for their next big addition.

He and Sara are expecting their first child on Labor Day.

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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