Pet Age spoke with Certified Feline Master Groomer Lynn Paolillo, owner of Cat Naps Cattery, to learn what sets her business apart from other groom and board facilities.
Q What inspired you to open Cat Naps Cattery? How would you describe your pet grooming experience?
A Although I’ve been a cat owner for my entire life, I was mostly a dog groomer for the first few years of my grooming career. Eventually I started looking at my own cats and thinking, why can’t I make them look just as beautiful, reduce shedding, get them clean and smelling fresh? My passion for cat grooming really took off from there. I trained and became a Certified Feline Master Groomer in 2011. The following year, I was offered a position as an instructor with the National Cat Groomers Institute. Since then, I’ve helped other groomers improve their cat grooming skills and build these amazing cat-centric businesses. I knew I needed to create my own. There are so many options for dogs in and around my area [of Hamilton, New Jersey], but almost nothing for just cats! I knew there was a need and I could not only fill it, but also bring something new to the table.
Q What have been your biggest obstacles?
A We struggled at first to get approval for opening as a home-based business. While we had a lot of support, there was also a lot of confusion: “But cats groom themselves! What do you mean you just board cats? Maybe you should expand to dogs, too! What do you even do with them?” It can be a challenge to stand firm in your belief that you are doing the right thing, even when going up against many misconceptions and old wives’ tales. Contrary to popular belief, cats DO benefit from bathing and regular grooming, and they definitely deserve much more than just leaving food out while being left alone for days at a time. The phrase “if you build it, they will come” has absolutely been true for us. We get a lot of inquiries specifically because we are cat-exclusive and offer these specialized services.
Q What services set you apart from other grooming and boarding facilities?
A Being cat-exclusive usually gets people’s attention. But more than that, it is a different approach to caring for cats. Cat Naps Cattery brings together my training, education and 15 years of experience to improve the lives of cats in a larger and more long-term way. My grooming services as a Certified Feline Master Groomer focus especially on building a trusting relationship and setting up preventative maintenance schedules based on each cat’s coat type, texture, color, breed and grooming needs. Our boarding suites and layout were designed to create a custom experience for each cat staying with us; quiet relaxation for older or more snuggly cats, but also plenty of play and activities available for younger or energetic guests. Cleanliness and safety are our top concerns. Being a home-based business means we are on-site overnight, which also sets us apart from other facilities.
Q How do you keep cats calm during the grooming process?
A This is not an easy question to answer! If there was one magic technique or hold, then everyone would be successful at cat grooming. There is so much to take into consideration when working with each cat. I ask a lot of questions about their background, environment at home, age, health status, breed and even the color of their coat. I take all of this information—a bit like being a detective—and use it to help me predict how the cat will react to each stage of the groom. Then during the appointment, I have to interpret their behavior and adapt along the way. Knowing what technique, tool or product to use depends on a lot of factors; that is why education and training are so important in this field. Cats can become stressed very easily and aren’t easily talked down once that happens. So, it is my job to adjust each groom to prevent any escalating behaviors. This also affects the recommendations I make for grooming schedules; not every service fits every cat.
Q What are your favorite brands when it comes to grooming products?
A Wahl clippers and blades are the best on cat hair—hands down. I could not live without my Bravuras when it comes to any shaving. The Soft Paws nail caps are a popular add-on service for me from Smart Practice; I also like their Air Muzzle and E-Collar for feistier kitties. For shampoo, I mainly use Chubbs Bars and my favorite is the Creamy Nutmeg scent. Cats can be sensitive to a lot of products and fragrances, so I usually keep things fairly simple in that department. Finally, as a Certifier and Instructor with the National Cat Groomers Institute, I was part of the team that designed a lot of the educational brochures, posters and other hand-outs for cat owners. I use them a lot in my salon to help provide my clients with more education on grooming needs and services.
Q Do you have plans to sell cat products?
A Possibly down the road. If we did go that route, I’d most likely see what my clients are interested in. I get a lot of inquiries about how I keep my house (and business) smelling so fresh and clean, since we have lots of cats and litter boxes around (Thornell Cat Odor-Off is my secret!), so I might start carrying some of those products for retail. I tend to recommend some grooming tools like combs, rubber curry brushes and nail trimmers a lot as well. We have also looked into sourcing a specific toy with our branding since it is very popular with our kitty boarders.
Q What’s in store for the future of Cat Naps Cattery?
A Nothing is set in stone yet! My husband and I are enjoying the growth of Cat Naps and have some flexibility in our schedule so that I can continue to speak and teach cat grooming with the National Cat Groomers and work with students around the globe. I think we would eventually like to expand the number of boarding suites we have, and offer more workshops and training opportunities for cat groomers.