Though May believes most owners take their pets for grooming sessions because they think they are good for their pets, there are exceptions. “Some people may like to stress how much money they are spending on their pets, which pricey pet-grooming shops they are going to and which famous pet groomers they are using,” May says. “To a certain extent, they just want to show-off.”
She remembered she once read a magazine article in which one of her customers was interviewed. When they were asked where they took their pet for grooming, the owner mentioned a famous Japanese shop, though the dog’s coat was actually cut in May’s shop.
May’s regular customer, Tai, is definitely is not one of the boastful owners. She spends thousands of dollars each month at Pet Fantasy. For Tai, bringing her pet in for grooming is just her responsibility to keep the dog clean and healthy. “I will take it to have spa, Mineral Mud Bath Treatment, and have swimming lessons,” says Tai, listing the treatments.
She also surfs the internet and chats with her friends to collect information about new products or services for her dog. She has gadgets at home that were bought especially for her dog, for example, an air filter. “I kind of treat it like my child,” she says.
While some pet owners are keen on grooming because they think the pets enjoy the treatments, others have different ideas. Venetia Wan Wai -sze, who owns seven dogs, reckons the grooming process is not as pleasant as we might think.
“Pet-grooming makes them clean indeed, but it is like forcing them to do something they do not like,” says Wan. She once took one of her dogs for a hair cut and nail trimming, but she knows her dog did not enjoy it at all and she never tried it again.
Vivian Chiu, the education manager of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) agrees that excessive grooming may not be good for pets. However, she understands that owners may subject their pets to it with the best of intentions.
Chiu says the growing popularity of pet grooming does signify a change of status for pets. “In the past, people kept a pet only for their functional values,” she explains. “They kept a dog to watch the door or a cat to catch mice. But now for the majority, pets have become part of their families.”
She says it is good that people are now more concerned about their pets’ diets because pets of different ages and species need different types of food. However, some grooming practices are unnecessary. “Many people do love their pets, but their love for their pets has simply gone too far,” Chiu says. “Very often, they project the mindsets of humans onto the animals.”
“For instance, pet-owners may take pets to a spa because they think it is relaxing for humans. However, the pets may feel distressed when they are separated from their owners and put in the water,” Chiu explains.
“They humanize the pets and call them their sons or daughters, and regard themselves as parents,” she continues. “However, at the end of the day, they are only animals.”
Chiu thinks that “simple is beautiful” also applies to pets. She says pet-owners should consider the genuine needs of the animals, instead of projecting their own values onto them. Animal welfare, which is the core value of the SPCA, is not about how much money you spend on your pets, says Chiu. It is about how much attention and care you pay to the needs, both physical and psychological, of the animal.
“All they have to do is to spend more time to take care of their pets, know their needs and communicate with them,” says Chiu. “Pets are not something you use to show off after beautifying them, they are a life-long commitment.”