I knew that when I moved to America I would be privy to all sorts of things that had previously existed in fiction . I’d heard of creative grooming for dogs, but creative cat styling, a.k.a feline fantasy competitions were a whole new arena.
It’s not easy turning a cat into a flowerbed. Or a devil. Or the pink panther. But for extreme cat groomers — a growing community of pet stylists who compete on a national circuit — the transformation of felines with clippers and dye is worth the long hours of painstaking effort.
In the past twenty years, extreme pet styling has gained some acceptance in the dog grooming world, encompassing seven large scale competitions in the U.S. The cat world however, is new to this phenomenon and stylists are struggling for acceptance. Two organisations- the National Association of Professional Creative Groomers and the National Cat Groomers Institute of America- offer education and training in how to apply creative color. They try and counter PETA’s claims of cruelty with information, but can this battle be won?
These images were taken at Intergroom 2013, an annual animal grooming exhibition in Meadowlands, New Jersey. The cat groomers follow strict rules to make sure that the cats are safe. These include using, “Non-toxic, cat safe color and glues,” and making sure the cats are already groomed before the show. This means that the cats come fully designed, and only touch ups are allowed, potentially so the cats don’t get uncomfotable by all the noise – and all the dogs around.
Christine de Felippo, producer of Intergroom said that these “feline fantasy” competitions have been happening since 2003. “It was our pleasure to introduce the very first Cat Grooming Competition at INTERGROOM 2003. It was met with great interest, several brave groomers, an enthusiastic Sponsor in Kim Laube, and a perfect Judge in Shirlee Kalstone,” she wrote on Intergroom’s website. The competition went on gold for a few years but then started up again, and 2014 saw more entries than the year before.
The designs were very striking and I was amazed by the creative vision of the artists. This is definitely still a small field, a sub-subculture of a subculture, and though it is animal friendly inasmuch as the dyes are safe and the cats are cared for, it’s still hard to know whether the cats enjoy it.
SIDE NOTE: I’m starting to think I should have a ‘animal’ section of this website, as in the past few months it seems that a lot of these types of stories are coming up. What do you think?
All images: Copyright Zara Stone