The other day I overheard my daughter talking to her friends describing what I do.
“My mummy just looks after cats” she said.
JUST looks after cats!!!
Ok, she is only seven…but still. If only she knew!
This made me think. How many people really know what goes into being the business owner of a luxury cat hotel. It certainly isn’t ‘just looking after cats.’
Almost two years ago I opened my Longcroft Cat Hotel in Winchmore Hill. I knew I was opening a boutique five-star establishment and was embarking upon a dream job looking after my guests and ensuring the highest standards possible.
Little did I know that behind the scenes this would evolve into so many other varied ‘roles’, all incredibly important and essential to owning and running a luxury cat hotel. Skills I never even imagined I would need such as being a chauffeur, veterinarian nurse, cat psychologist, entertainer, grooming expert, animal behaviourist, pet masseur, client therapist and counsellor, travel advisor, chef, cleaner, gardener, DIYer, nutritionist, photographer, blogger, networker and this just involves the cats!!
I offer a local cat collection and drop off service to my clients and occasionally I am asked if I can take their cat to the vet (when routine boosters coincide with their stay.) In addition to the school run and not forgetting to take Ellie to Brownies and collect Martha from Grandma’s house.
I am often required to administer my guest’s medication. From 12 hourly insulin injections to tablets to eye/ear drops to ointments – none of it is a problem. Some clients are most apologetic saying their cat is not easy and doesn’t like taking their tablets or having eye drops…but I have got so used to doing it and like everything …there is always a knack and is often more welcome than coping with a husband with man-flu and kids with chickenpox!
It is important to quickly spot unusual behaviour and determine the cause and make the cat feel comfortable again. It is essential that my guests are happy and have a relaxing enjoyable stay with me and they all do. However occasionally I have had the odd cat that has displayed out of character signs. All these behaviours need to be understood from the cat’s perspective so I can help them. This is why we ask all our guests for a detailed profile so we can get to know them better and recognise what is usual behaviour for them. With such small numbers of guests staying at any one time, means that I have unlimited time to observe and take the time getting to know my guests and making their stay as settling and relaxing as if they were at home. Hence it is important to quickly understand why, for example, a cat is not using its litter tray as cats are very clean creatures so this is usually a sure sign that ‘something is not right.’
Cats are incredibly curious. Whilst they love to spend a lot of their time sleeping, we go to great lengths to enrich their waking hours and keep them entertained during their stay. This obviously involves playing with them and using lots of different methods to not only engage their different personalities but to stimulate all their senses and keep them ‘thinking’ and active! One could say it is considerably easier than trying to keep a 2 year old entertained in the middle of completing the household chores.
All our guests receive daily grooming as they might do at home. However we now also offer an extensive range of full body grooming and massage treatments – the ultimate in feline spa luxury!
Often I get cats coming to stay with me who have never stayed away from home. Others have sometimes had a bad experience at a traditional cattery and so are coming to stay completely out of their comfort zone. It is incredibly important that I have a good understanding of cat behaviour to be able to ‘read’ them. This allows me to know when is best and how to approach a shy cat or aggressive cat and how to interact with our more relaxed guests.
It is a really big deal leaving your cat with someone else, particularly if they have had a bad experience somewhere else or they are a rescue cat. Many of my clients really battle with leaving their cats somewhere new for the first time so it is my job to reassure them and put them and their cats at ease. The relaxing non-judgemental atmosphere here at Winchmore Hill often results in my clients feeling secure enough to share personal troubles and worries with me. It is nice to offer a kind listening ear and understand if anything else might be affecting my guest’s ability to settle.
Understanding my clients travel arrangements helps me to plan tailored drop off and pick up times to suit them. It is not unusual for me to suggest alternative times, days or routes to help them get the most from their stay but still allow them to see their beloved cat at the earliest opportunity.
I have to have a good understanding of each of my guests’ dietary needs as well as general knowledge of the relevant requirements of kittens, senior cats and those on weight management diets, ensuring I always have good quality nutritious food in stock. Which is more than I can say for my fridge when it comes to the children’s supper! 🙂
Regularly preparing home cooked A La Cat feasts for our guests in addition to family mealtimes.
Keeping my hotel clean and sanitised to the highest of standards takes time and a lot of care. We often laugh saying how much cleaner the hotel is compared to the house. With a husband, a 2-year-old and a 7-year-old you can imagine that my efforts of tidying the house are constant and never-ending! 🙂
The garden needs to look its best all year round. There are always jobs to be done. Hanging baskets, borders and pots all need to be kept fresh and colourful, weeding is full on in spring and summer, tidying up leaves is an autumn headache and winter brings its own challenges of ensuring walkway safety in icy and wet conditions as well as adding festive lights and cheer!
There is always so much to do when it comes to general maintenance of the hotel, garden and home from staining fences, to changing lightbulbs and putting up shelves for storage. It’s a pity my husband doesn’t know the difference between a hammer and a screwdriver (so he says!)
Daily photographs are taken so that I can keep my clients regularly updated with our fun postcards as well as sharing on our website and social media sites. (Try holding a camera in your left hand a feather dangler in your right hand waiting for the infamous cat pose.)
I enjoy taking time discovering the latest interesting blogs about the cat world and documenting life at Longcroft Winchmore Hill.
As part of my local marketing drive I make the effort to attend business-networking meetings to promote my luxury cat hotel business in Winchmore Hill. It did take me a little time to understand how they worked and how to get the best out of networking. My family still don’t appreciate me practising my networking skills over our evening meal and nearly always refuse to take my business cards. 🙂
In addition to the above I still have to find time to carry out all my usual daily business tasks including viewings, invoicing, bookkeeping, purchasing, sales, marketing, customer service, social media updates and filing. I do try not to forget I have a family who also require my attention occasionally!
I manage all these activities on my own with the generous support of my husband. I have no employees and no additional help. I thrive on the variety and I enjoy discovering and developing new skills and talents and sharing them with all my guests and clients.
So no wonder my days are filled to the brim and time is so precious.