Cate’s journey to becoming a Pet Aesthetician & Animal Intuitive
Certified pet aesthetician and animal intuitive Cate Garcia has been communicating with animals for as long as she can remember. What started as merely a childhood passion turned into a lucrative 30-year career as a luxury pet groomer, providing top of the line care and pampering to thousands of pooches throughout Southern California.
Since an early age, Cate has explored her gift of being able to understand the pets she grooms and takes care of, and helps them maintain healthy coats using the broad range of pet skincare products she works with and makes widely available. Her abilities in conjunction with the stellar products she uses have helped animals everywhere maximize the health and beauty of their skin, coat, and overall quality of life.
Join us as we talk about her wild journey that’s taken her from punk rock, rebellious high school years to international trade shows in Italy, all the way to working behind the scenes in Hollywood getting canines camera ready on HBO Max‘s competition series Haute Dog, and helping Jason and his wife, Bridget, understand their dog, Archie, a little better.
Please follow along below and hit the play button at the top of the page. Thank you for tuning in to today’s refreshing episode.
In this Episode
[01:02] Along with today’s featured guest, Cate Garcia, Jason introduces a couple family members joining us for today’s episode: his wife, Bridget Hennessey, and their doggy, Archie Hennessey.
[01:33] Cate gives us some background about her time as a professional pet groomer for more than 30 years, her big immediate family, and being raised at her father’s small animal hospital.
[04:38] Jason is curious if Cate’s family had pets while she was growing up. Cate explains that their family pets were the misfits who were surrendered at her dad’s animal hospital when owners couldn’t afford the procedures. She’s had pets ranging from dogs, cats, birds and rats. She’s recently petsat a kangaroo.
[06:04] Bridget asks Cate if she prefers a cat or a dog. Cate answers that she’s always had dogs, but at this point, she finds that caring for a cat would suit her busy lifestyle best.
[07:10] Cate goes into detail about how her ADD and dyslexia didn’t allow her to finish high school. Instead, she’d assist her dad by grooming pets in preparation for surgeries, and talking to the aggressive animals to help clear up any misunderstandings that trigger their anger.
[11:20] Jason brings up Cate’s experience as a pet aesthetician and Bridget would like to know more about it too. Cate expounds on how she discovered Iv San Bernard products from Italy and how she brings a healthy balance back to a dog’s skin.
[15:52] Jason is interested to know the workflow of a grooming salon. Cate walks us through the typical business model of a pet stylist, the average customer’s needs, and some tips to help make everyone’s grooming experience better.
[19:20] Jason and Bridget bring up the anxiousness that their dogs, Archie and Chole, feel whenever it’s time to cut their fur. Cate runs through her extended grooming and nurturing process and how she likes to build relationships with the dogs she styles.
[21:56] Jason brings up Cate’s experience on HBO Max’s Haute Dog. Cate recalls how her friend and show judge, Jess Rona, first met working at PetSmart, and how Jess brought her on the show as the in-house mobile groomer.
[24:14] Jason wants the scoop on whether any doggy moms were on the HBO show resembled stage moms. Cate reveals that there were interesting energies from the canines, and also meeting Whitney and Jenna, producers for Haute Dog and The Jason Hennessey Podcast, and Whitney’s dogs.
[27:59] Cate and Jason talk about the day when Cate and her mobile pet grooming van made a house call to Jason’s family home. Cate runs down some of the vibes she felt while bathing and styling Archie, and also goes through her process of how she connects with a pet.
[33:12] Cate presents more energies she felt while she was grooming Archie. Jason and Bridget confirm her intuitions. They also tell us more about Archie’s personality and the purpose of Cate’s speciality visit.
[38:58] Cate notes that Archie has issues with nausea. Bridget explains that Archie takes medication for seizures and their oldest son had seizures in the past. Cate passess Bridget and Jason recommendations for Archie about things she notices he likes and can help calm his anxiety.
[48:49] Jason and Bridget ask Cate if she has any favorite breeds she likes to work with. She gives a quick run down of the different breeds she’s beautified and the easiest breed to groom.
[49:45] Jason and Cate transition into our signature segment, “Hennessey Heart-to-Heart.” Cate shares her best childhood memory, the world problem she’d fix, her best characteristic, philosophy on life, and more.
[57:28] Jason invites Cate to let us know how we can keep in touch with her. Cate gives us her website, studiogrooming.com, along with the pet products and services she offers, and also tells a quick story relating to an ideal-client question from Jason.
[59:55] Cate, Bridget, and Jason end today’s conversation. Jason sets up another grooming appointment with Cate for their other doggy, Chloe Hennessey.
Jason Hennessey: Cate Garcia, thank you so much for coming to the studio.
Cate Garcia: Well, thank you for having me. This is very exciting.
Yes. And we have a couple cameos here today. I would get in trouble if I didn’t introduce my wife first, my wife, Bridget Hennessey.
Bridget Hennessey: Hello, Jason.
Thank you. And then we also have another little four-legged friend running around here. You’ll hear him panting.
Cate: He settled right at my feet.
Little Archie Hennessey as well. Yes. And he got to know you and we’re going to talk a little bit about that.
So, for those that are listening, tell everybody what you do for a living.
So what I do for a living and for a passion and a hobby is I work with animals. Specifically, 99% of my work is with dogs and cats, so as a professional pet groomer. And I’ve been doing that in a professional capacity for close to 30 years. As an amateur, I’d say I started at my dad’s knee, who was a veterinarian and a novice.
And I experimented and played with animals since I was a child. And experimented, I mean, haircut wise, just to be clear. But the medical side of it has always fascinated me too. So, most of my life and my working career has been with pets and children.
Got it. And do you come from a big family? A lot of siblings?
Yeah. I kind of tease that my father, being a veterinarian, had a litter. And I teased that my mom was a good Irish Catholic and had seven kids.
Bridget: Oh, wow.
Cate: So, I am the sixth of seven.
And were you the only one to kind of pursue an interest that was similar to your father with dealing with animals or what?
Yes. So we all did our time, as some would say, my siblings, in my father’s business, having to work for dad or coming to help dad, but I was the only one that took it up as a passion and as a profession.
I see. Got it. So going back to when you were a child, like you said, you probably spent some time at your dad’s, I guess, veterinarian clinic, would it be?
Small animal hospital. Yep.
And did you kind of know that this was your passion early in life or what?
I think my family knew it before I did, to be quite honest. Those around me saw how intrigued I was and how involved I would get with the pets. I don’t remember wanting toys really, ever. Dolls were never my thing, stuffed animals. I never really liked stuffed animals. I thought they were creepy because they were so inanimate where real pets actually talked to you. And I didn’t have to make-believe with them because there was, for me, a genuine conversation happening. I didn’t realize my family thought I was just making up stories that they were saying to me because I was actually telling everybody what they were saying. I didn’t realize there was a disconnect to that degree.
So, when I would go into the animal hospital, it was very interesting. Because you can imagine my introduction to pets were, a lot of them were sick, a lot of them were hurt, and they weren’t in their home. They were displaced so there wasn’t anybody really around them that, quote-unquote, “knew them.” So, it was a natural place for me to go stand by the cage and kind of chat. Say, “Hey, why are your eyes so big? Why are you so scared?” That kind of thing.
So, I would make up reasons not to go to school. I have to go stay with dad at his work.
So I kind of teased that I was raised in a kennel, and I was happy for it.
Now did you have family pets yourself?
Yes. My mom, ironically, was afraid of dogs and all the pets we got were misfits that either were being surrendered at my dad’s hospital, owners couldn’t either afford to fix them, or my dad took pity and would take a dog that was broken and sick, fix it himself and bring it home.
So we always had kind of the off-kilter pets, as my mom would say. He at one point brought home, I guess there was a confiscation of a baby, I think it was an alligator. And so that lived in our tub for about three days.
Is that right?
Bridget: Oh my-
Cate: So, my mom was like, “Seven kids and a crocodile, or an alligator, ain’t going to happen in Manhattan Beach.”
Bridget: Oh my gosh. There’s no way.
Cate: So I don’t know. I know. Can you imagine?
Bridget: [chuckles] No.
Cate: So I love reptiles. I’ve had snakes. I’ve had guinea pigs. I’ve had rabbits. I’ve temporarily had love birds, which is just, I think, an oxymoron of a term for those birds. Because they tend not to like each other after a bit.
Dogs, cats, rats. I did have the pleasure of pet sitting, for a while, a kangaroo. So that was an interesting job.
In the United States?
Yes. Yes, Santa Clarita actually.
Wow. I don’t see them very often.
Bridget: I have to ask you something. Would you choose a cat or a dog? That’s always like a question on Facebook.
Cate: So choose a cat or a dog. See, I’m always about like, for what?
So, right now I personally only have a cat. I just recently had a cat pass away quite suddenly. So it was pretty devastating.
I’ve always had dogs, but as I’ve gotten older, when you get home a dog’s like, “Hey, let’s go out for a walk. Let’s go for a run. Do you want to go hike?”
And so, I find myself what I get at home, I want a cat that goes, “Hey, you want to sit on the couch and have a glass of wine?” So, I have cats right now just because I don’t feel that I can get out there and give a dog quite the-
I like to have an animal in as close to the environment that they would naturally flourish in. And a dog needs, depending on the breed of course, there’s a lot of needs that I don’t feel I can meet, spot on right now, while I’m working a lot.
I did have an older companion dog that would travel with me to groom and was in my shop. So, he did great.
I guess you grew up around this whole world, with your dad, you had animals at home, graduated high school, right?
No, I didn’t. I was enrolled in high school for 3 and a half years. Decided to-
…any of those things, when I was growing up. They just knew that there was something.
I believe when I was younger, I would read from left to right sometimes, or I would do this with the reading, like I would serpentine. And so, they went and had my eyes checked to see if my eye could see correctly and I would do eye exercises. But I just didn’t flourish in school, so it was challenging. And by the time I hit high school, I was pretty much a rebel.
That’s not bad.
No, no. It served me well. I feel like I have hindsight on it when I look back, of course. But back in the day I really could have been challenged, like I needed some kind of adventure, and growing up in Los Angeles, that was Hollywood.
So when did you then actually get it into the business that you’re in now?
Good question. So, being in high school, like I said, I’d go to my dad’s work. I worked for him temporarily and on holidays, or go help out.
And when I was there one summer working with colorful hair and embarrassing my father professionally. He’s like, “You must wear a hat while you’re here with that pink hair.” I’m like, “Okay, Dad.”
You were a rebel. Huh?
Yeah. And so, there was a Collie. I remember specifically the moment, and it was, my dad was going to do a large hip surgery on this Collie. It had- needed hip surgery. A collie is this big, beautiful Lassie dog, full coat, just gorgeous. And when you prep for surgery, you just take all that hair away. And I was mortified that I had to just wreck this beautiful coat on this dog.
And I’m like, “Dad, I can like braid the hair and lift it up and do like a comb over. So at least we’ll shave that part. And I could bring the hair back down over.” And he’s looking at me like, “The dog needs to walk.” He’s like, “Get your-”
So, it was really clear, I loved messing around with hair. And one of our clients happened to be a professional groomer and she would take on students privately. So my dad put two and two together and said, “I’m going to send you to grooming school.”
So, he did that. I spent a year working as an apprentice and then he built a little space in his animal hospital and I started grooming.
Oh, nice. And you had a love for it. You just kind of knew right away that this was your calling, huh?
Yeah. And in the animal hospital, a lot of the pets would come into the animal hospital and show up that would get kicked out of grooming shops.
Grooming salons aren’t- Not all pets are conducive to us invading every square inch of their body in a really rapid way, and understandably so. And I respect that, but we would get the animals that needed to be fully anesthetized to be shaved.
And when I started doing haircuts, it’s really hard to get a balanced haircut on an animal that’s knocked out. Like you can’t get their ears straight. You can’t get the- I started wanting to make the aesthetics nice. So, I started challenging my dad and said, ” Hey, can we not anesthetize him? Just, let’s try to work with this animal. I know he bites.” And I said, “Maybe just sedate him.” And my dad’s answer to that is, like, “Well, sedation doesn’t make them not bite, they just let go slower.” I’m like, “So, fully awake. Let me just try it that way.”
And so, I was able to spend the time and figured out how not to get bit and why they were acting the way they were. And out of a necessity of not getting hurt and not wanting them to have to be knocked out, I figured out how to navigate these miscommunications, is what I call them now. They’re like miscommunications, misunderstandings.
Got it. Yeah. And it seems that you over- How long have you been doing this now?
Professionally, over 30 years.
Yeah. Being paid for it, like as a profession, that I would call myself a groomer after I graduated. Prior to that I was in high school.
But it says here, so you’re not just a groomer, you’re also an aesthetician, a pet aesthetician.
So, the last 11 years I have dedicated to skincare issues with pets. It’s kind of a devastating roller coaster that a lot of pet owners and pets go through, to the degree that a lot of veterinarians are as frustrated with the problems as the owners are. I’ve seen both sides of that because I’ve worked in animal hospitals a lot. And I know that, oh, it’s so frustrating to have these reoccurring allergies and reoccurring skin issues. And a lot of veterinarians’ tool boxes of what they can do is pretty small.
I found a group out of Italy that was- I went to a trade show and they were selling their wares and they were showing the results of their products and their process and I thought, “There’s no way. There was no way.” I’m raised in an animal hospital. My dad was a veterinarian. I have seen the results of skin issues and none of them recover the way these photographs were showing.
So I dove in and bought a bunch of their products and put it to the test. And sure as heck, I was so surprised how a little bit of technique and understanding and process really could change and turn things around. And I was also mortified to know, as a pet groomer, I was actually contributing to some of the problems that we see chronically out there.
So, yes. I bought the products, got involved. A veterinarian in the United States bought the distribution rights and he has created a program. And so, thus, I became a certified pet aesthetician through a program with Dr. Faver, who’s a veterinarian and the product line is Iv San Bernard. It’s an Italian product.
And so, once I had worked with it for several years, we all got together and traveled to Italy, to the academy out in Italy. It was so fun. And I met groomers from Russia and from Spain and from Italy, of course, and from France. It was just a fantastic gathering. It was educational as well as fun, as only the Europeans know how to do.
Bridget: So aesthetician, like, what do you do as, like, for a dog?
Cate: That’s a very good question. That’s a very good question. And you’ll be surprised how similar it is. You’ve gotten a facial before. So I’ve gotten facials too, and you close your eyes and you’re like, what are they doing now?
Bridget: They have the steam on your face.
Cate: Right. There’s steam, but your eyes are closed and now they’re putting goo, and nope, goo on, goo off, goo on, goo off. You’re like, what is happening? I know so much more about my own skin just by learning what they’re doing. And the process is very similar. I have clays. I have masks and steam. I use an ozone therapy machine.
Yeah. I have a machine that creates O3. And it’s got a tube and it pushes it through a specialized mat that infuses the water in a tub. So it’s kind of like a jacuzzi for them. They stand on this mat and it bubbles through. It’s really fun. And ozone is a natural antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic. It’s a very soothing, natural way to kind of get at yeast and bacteria that are usually the culprits. An imbalance of yeast and bacteria is usually the culprit of most of these things that go sideways.
Why they go sideways is a whole ‘nother thing, whether it’s autoimmune disease, whether it’s allergies, whether it’s a parasite.
Bridget: So that’s what the stuff helps with on their face?
Cate: It’s everywhere, their entire body. So I will do a mask on their entire body. I will wrap them in a cellophane and a warm towel and let it sit for 20 minutes, pull it up. Then I exfoliate, rinse that off. And then you exfoliate with a proper appointed shampoo, whether it’s something for fungus and bacteria, whether it’s something for just a light allergy, an itchy skin. If they have oozy sores, then it’s a whole nother route we take.
The whole goal is to get them back to balance. That’s the whole goal with any of this. So I then do a shampoo and then I will rinse that and then I will come back on with another conditioner or moisturizer.