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New Mill Valley Business Offers a Day at the Spa—For Your Cat

Mill Valley resident Irene Leija and Texas transplant Stacey Ward plan to open The Cat's Meow in mid-January. The grooming spa and boutique is designed specifically for the needs of your feline.

The experience begins with relaxing music and soft lighting inside a soundproof room, is followed by a gentle haircut and a warm soak in a copper tub, and finishes up with a heated towel wrap after the soothing massage bath.

It sounds like a great few hours at the spa. For your cat, that is.

“This will be a place where they’re getting that special attention they deserve,” said Assistant Spa Director Stacey Ward. She recently moved here from Texas to join Mill Valley resident and Spa Director Irene Leija in a joint business venture to open The Cat’s Meow Grooming Spa and Boutique on 85 E. Blithedale Ave.

The shop is currently under construction, and set to open in mid-January. The boutique side will feature items unique to the needs of cats and their owners.

“Our focus is on carrying things you’re not going to find at other pet stores,” Ward said.

That includes high-end pet food, grooming supplies, litter boxes, unique toys and modern cat furniture.

“Not just trees covered in carpet,” Ward said.

The service side is also specifically designed for felines. Ward has been grooming primarily cats for the past 12 years and while it’s a small percentage of the industry, it’s clear cats and dogs have very different needs.

“There’s so few people to take care of cats that I wanted to dedicate all my time to that,” Ward said. “I love all animals, but I know these cats really need it.”

The environment Ward and Leija are creating is designed to be a one-of-a-kind, low stress, relaxing experience built around the psychology of your feline.

“When you handle them with confidence and kindness, they respond to that,” Ward said. Obviously if a cat can’t handle the process they’ll stop or scale back, but Ward said those cases are few and far between.

“I’ve had so many clients over the years who’ve said you’re not going to be to groom my cat,” she said. “And low and behold.” 

The process

Ward begins by gently taking the cat out of the carrier and giving it a few minutes to acclimate to the new environment. Then she’ll work her hands through the coat looking for lumps, knotting, injuries, fleas, mouth or ear problems, and other concerns.

The next step is to trim the claws, and perform coat-grooming services that range from a comb-out to a full body shave. Next, Ward gently places the feline in a cat-sized copper sink filled with warm water, and washes it with a choice of two different shampoos depending on what best fits the cat’s needs.

Wait, water? Don’t they hate water?

“A cat is not typically going to freak out,” Ward said. “They really tolerate a lot. It’s about being respectful.” 

And often it comes down to how the cat is introduced to water. Building up to a soothing bath is very different than, for instance, when an animal accidently falls into a tub or toilet, or is squirted for being bad.

Ward is also conscious of signs like ear and whisker twitching that indicate the cat may be nervous.

After the bath, the cat is given a heated towel to snuggle up to, followed by a hand blow dry, touch up clipping, a comb through and an anti-static spray for sheen and softness. 

“Quite honestly, the blow dryer is much harder for them than the bath is,” Ward said.

The whole process takes about 1 ½ hours. Ward recommends grooming every four to six weeks. While there’ a wide variety of services, prices range from $120 to $150 for a full groom. 

Once Cat’s Meow is up and running, Ward and Leija also hope to become an educational facility, offering options like grooming workshops or classes such as ‘Kitten 101’ or ‘Taking Care of Your Geriatric Cat.’

“We’re so excited,” Ward said, “to be able to offer this to Mill Valley residents.”

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sarah haynes December 19, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Welcome! Kitty Charm School is excited to have a cats-only groomer in the area, since we only do Boarding. We wish you the best! If any of our clients need grooming, we can taxi their kitties over while they are boarding with us. We look forward to hearing and seeing your first reviews! Sounds like a great place. Best, KCS
Jeff Brown December 19, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Is it April 1st already?
Rebecca Chapman December 20, 2012 at 04:02 AM
wow!

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