Alex Perry has gone from hammering nails to trimming them.
The Seattle, Washington, resident used to be a housing contractor in the early 2000s. The work was grueling but it was also plentiful and paid well. Then the housing bubble burst in 2008, and the jobs started to disappear.
According NPR, Perry him found himself taking whatever contract work he could get at rapidly decreasing prices.
“I felt like I was working to make about $12 an hour for work that I used to get $50-60 an hour to do. It was very demoralizing,” Perry told NPR.
In 2011, Perry and his business partner called it quits and sold the assets left from their contracting business. After enjoying a few weeks free from work, Perry started to worry about what he would do next.
Cat grooming ended up being his next unexpected destination. He was led to this startling career shift by his own feline, Gizmo the Himalayan.
“One day, my neighbor was changing his motor oil and she decided to take a nap in the used motor oil pan. She was a mess, so I quickly had to find myself a cat groomer. So, I found one, took her in there. They got her all scrubbed up. I watched the process and I was fascinated by it,” Perry said.
When Gizmo passed away shortly after Perry sold his company, the ex-construction working cat lover decided to start volunteering at a local shelter, Seattle Persian and Himalayan Rescue, where he started to learn the basics of grooming.
Perry picked up cat pampering quickly, took on a job as an entry level cat groomer and was soon combing out and washing up to 18 cats a day.
Even with the occasional bite or scratch, Perry loved his new line of work and became the co-owner of Cozy Cat Boarding and Grooming in 2015.
“I’ve probably groomed over 40,000 cats now … It’s a lot,” Perry said. “You know, a lot of them are the same cats. I wouldn’t say that’s 40,000 individual cats.”
Like construction, Perry said the work can be hard, but he gets through long days with the same passion that helped him finish construction projects.
“I just feel very relaxed around cats, you know. I’m not a hippy-dippy type person, but I definitely believe cats feed off of your energy and if you have a positive, quiet energy, I think the cat senses that and it will just make everybody’s life much easier.”
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While Perry gets to spend a lot of time around affectionate cats, they aren’t always overjoyed about getting groomed. To avoid too many hissy fits, Perry focuses on doing his work quickly and efficiently, ending each bath with a “purrito.”
“I like to wrap them in a little microfiber cloth and then we roll them in the beach towel,” Perry said on how he keeps felines calm post-bath.