Feline Pedicures, a must for every cat!

When was the last time you inspected your cat’s claws?  If you’re like most people, the answer is never, or rarely at best.  With busy schedules, it’s really not something that most people think about and even for myself, it’s easy to forget.  In my years of experience in the rescue, boarding and grooming world, this is one of the most important overlooked aspects to your cat’s health.  Embedded claws are frequently missed at vet appointments and the more discomfort a cat feels, litterbox issues can be a result.  
On a regular basis we will have clients bring their cat for boarding or grooming and say that their cat has trouble walking.  Whenever I hear this, the very first thing I do is inspect the claws of the cat in question. If your cat is urinating outside the litterbox or has trouble walking, go ahead and schedule your vet appointment……and then inspect your cat’s claws. Place your cat’s paw in your hand and gently push down the center of the paw with your thumb and do the same on all remaining paws.  This will expose the claws so that they are easily visible.  If your cat’s claws are grown into the paw pads, you will need to get this resolved immediately.  The longer you delay, you could potentially end up with expensive vet bills if the claw needs to be surgically removed.  Claws embedded in the paw pads are extremely painful and of course, the pain your cat is experiencing will result in your cat walking awkwardly, or even limping.  The pain your cat is feeling could result in him finding another place (like the blankets on your bed) to do his business.  
You should inspect your cat’s claws once a month.  Setting a recurring monthly reminder on your phone will make it easy for you to remember.  Regular nail trims are a critical preventative measure and should be done every 4 – 8 weeks, depending on how quickly they grow.  The great news is that nail trimming is a fairly easy task to do at home for most cats!  If you have tried and were unsuccessful, feel free to give us a call and we’ll provide you with some guidance to try to get the job done at home.  If nail trimming doesn’t work out at home, we offer a flexible schedule for you to stop in at The Cat Chalet. 


With Gratitude This Thanksgiving Day

As I sit here on Thanksgiving Eve, on the floor with my laptop and a resort full of beautiful cats surrounding me, I can’t help but reflect on the amazing things that have happened so far this year and all that I’m thankful for.  In February of this year, I closed escrow on the purchase of this building that is now home to The Cat Chalet.  Buying this large commercial property as a solo project was no small feat for me.  I have spent the last 27 years as an unmarried woman so molding my financial freedom has been the result of decisions of my own making.  Many, many years of hard work as a single mother, saving money and creating avenues of various income streams has put me here today.  

I’m thankful to be an American and it’s not lost on me that all that I have today is entirely due to my mom’s ability to come to America.  My mom immigrated to America as a young mother in her early 30’s, unable to speak more than a few words of English but ready to work hard for a new life.  It is my mom’s strong German work ethic and her ability to adapt to any given situation that has made me the woman I am today.  Unlike all the kids we went to school with, my siblings and I grew up with a long household chore list as well as projects that would allow us to generate income to pay for groceries and whatever else needed to be paid for.  While growing up there were many times I hated it, but now, as an adult, I realize that it was those moments throughout all those years that gave me the ability to thrive during all of my life’s challenges.

As I reflect on those days, my favorite memories are of spending countless evenings making the most beautiful Christmas ornaments out of satin balls and sequins.  My mom, my siblings and I would sit at the kitchen table, each with our own assigned tasks and little work stations, and we would craft away into the evening with the aroma of a pot of beans in the kitchen and the record player spinning to the tune of Engelbert Humperdinck in the background (every German woman’s dream!).  I was six years old then, but I remember the details of our little assembly line and how my siblings and I would walk through the neighborhoods, knocking on doors and proudly displaying our tray of ornaments as we peddled our wares from house to house.  Still to this day, I unpack these treasured and now vintage ornaments each year when I decorate my home for Christmas.  When I have guests in my home during the holidays and I share my ornament story, many are in awe that small children could create something so unique and timeless.  But that was our life back then and all of that brings me to this moment now.  

When escrow closed, the real work was about to unfold.  For four months, a small handful of my family members worked day in and day out, to transform an ugly office building into the resort we have today.  Everyone was sworn to secrecy, as we didn’t want the word to get out until we were ready.  Believe me when I say that a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into creating this resort (as well as a lot of F-bombs, ha!).  When we were ready to make the announcement, we had no idea what to expect.  Stefanie, Gary and I had spent many hours planning the build-out aspect but we didn’t have a clue how long it would take to get the word out or how long it would take to fill the resort.  As it turned out, it only took two months to have our first fully booked weekend.  

So, as I’m about to leave for the evening and return early in the morning for a busy Thanksgiving day with our feline guests, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude for all of you, our former clients and new clients, alike.  I’ll happily spend Thanksgiving day in pajamas with a ready made vegan Thanksgiving dinner (thanks, Whole Foods!) and all of your special kitties all day long (yes, we really do go to work in pajamas on Thanksgiving and Christmas day!).  When Stefanie comes in, we’ll be decorating the resort for Christmas so if your cat is spending the holiday with us, you’ll return to see our resort beautifully decorated with a very unusual Christmas tree and our beautiful cat themed decor!  Thank you for joining The Cat Chalet culture, we are grateful you are here.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Why Can’t I Pet The Kitty?

If you’re reading this, more than likely you’re a cat lover and quite possibly searching for a place to leave your cat while you travel.  As cat lovers, we certainly understand the desire to want to visit with any cat that crosses your path.  We are quite guilty of this ourselves when we visit shelter settings or visit friends who are owned by cats!  

As we go about our lives, it’s very easy to think about our own needs when interacting with any animal we see, especially if it’s an unexpected encounter.  After all, animals can’t talk so often in our own happiness of being around animals, we forget that they have needs as well.  Those needs may very well be the opposite of what we are feeling at any given moment.  Because it’s so natural for humans to want to love animals, most of the time we don’t even realize we are doing it.  

While acceptable in a variety of other settings, at The Cat Chalet we have a very strict policy that prohibits anyone other than staff from interacting with our boarding guests.  Every day is different at The Cat Chalet, just as every cat is different.  On any given day at our resort, we will have many first time guests as well as many cats who have stayed with us a number of times.  Each cat in our care is in a different stage of socializing with staff.  While many first timers will settle in right away, there are some who need more time and when that happens, we use our years of feline expertise to help them transition from any insecurities to feeling safe and comfortable in our care.  We have many ways of doing this, but one of the ways is to create a routine and eliminate any unnecessary noise or activity that could hinder our cats from moving on to the next step of socialization.  Any person who comes to our resort is a stranger to every cat here.  Imagine how confusing it would be to a cat to have multiple people coming up to them each day wanting attention.  This type of activity is very disruptive to a cat who may have just arrived or who is learning a new routine with us and wants to feel safe.

When loading up multiple grocery carts with cat litter, not a shopping trip goes by that a stranger in line will want to know how many cats we have.  We love the look on their faces when we respond “It depends on the day”.   We really do consider all the cats entrusted to our care to be “ours” even though it’s only temporary. As a family owned business, even our youngest family members have learned the different stages of transition for each cat and we proceed only when cats show signs of being ready to move to the next step.
So, whether you are visiting us for a tour or checking your cat in/out, we encourage you to speak softly and not approach any cat at our resort. We thank you for understanding and respecting the privacy needs of our feline guests.  Just remember, they are on vacation, too!

Photo: When “Oreo” arrived, his family was concerned that he would not do well with boarding. After earning his trust, he ended up having a great vacation with us!

Cats Around The World: Gweru

Whenever I travel, I always seek out animal shelters once I arrive at my destination.  Whether I’m traveling a state away or on a different continent, I make it a point to stop in to see the cats and make a donation.  In the United States, it’s common to see shelters with varying accommodations and resources.  Usually when I leave a shelter, I will feel really good about stopping in to visit with the cats and I always leave a monetary donation to help them further their work.  

There is one shelter, however, that will stick in my mind forever.  
The days were long, yet very rewarding, in the African bush.  I had been wanting to stop at the shelter for awhile but needed to wait for a break from lion research to hop on the transport to a small town nearby for supplies.  When I arrived, I went to the market to pick up supplies for myself, as well as some cat food for the village cats who slept with me at night in the village.  I also wanted to take some cat food with me to the shelter so I loaded up as much as I could carry.  Shopping for cat food in Africa isn’t quite the same as shopping for cat food in the United States.  The selection is very limited, as well as the supply.  It was also very expensive compared to what I was used to paying back home in Nevada so just imagine living in Zimbabwe with barely enough to pay for your own food.  Gweru is a small town with very limited resources, like many other small towns throughout Zimbabwe and throughout Africa in general.  I hopped back on the transport for the short distance to the shelter, the Gweru SPCA.
After many years in the cat world, I have seen quite a few animal shelters and nothing had prepared me for the amazing experience I was about to have.  At first glance upon stepping down from the transport, I felt a sense of solemnness.  The structures were not what I was used to seeing and as I walked closer, I saw a pet cemetery off to one side with a large collection of hand made and hand painted grave markers.  I was greeted by a very welcoming and enthusiastic volunteer who was very happy to have visitors and excited to show this shelter that was like none I had ever seen.  Upon being greeted, my gloominess quickly disappeared as I eagerly followed the volunteer to the cat structure.
Never in my life have I seen shelter volunteers work so hard with resources so minimal.  The feeling of love and compassion were overwhelmingly abundant from all the volunteers I encountered.  They took pride in their shelter and the work they were doing.  Building supplies were scarce and what was available, was quite costly.  I was amazed by the creativity and resourcefulness of the volunteers. Mix matched fencing, paneling, wood, tree branches and whatever was available was put together in the most mindful way to create structures that would house cats and other animals to protect them from rain and the hot African sun.  As I made my way throughout the cat structure, I was greeted time after time by the most wonderful and loving cats who had a sense of calmness about them, as if they knew they hit the jackpot by being in the care of such loving volunteers.  I agreed with the cats, they were definitely lucky!  There were some shy cats, too, semi-ferals who tucked themselves into any available private space.  With limited veterinary care, the volunteers did everything they could to keep all the animals as healthy and as happy as they could be.  
After visiting with the cats, I went to see the dogs and then made my way to the other animals.  There were pigs, a mama donkey with her baby, roosters and goats.  All living in a safe haven and free from the threat of being used for food.  Lastly, I strolled through the pet cemetery and I must say I have never been so touched as I was in this moment.  “Puppy broken leg, you will never be forgotten, love you 6/2/15” read one marker, another said “5 SPCA puppies, u were all special”.  The rows of markers with sentiments written by volunteers were testament to how much these animals were loved and cared for by people who surely would have done more had they more to give.  I felt really grateful for these generous caretakers who gave so much of themselves for these homeless animals. I wanted to stay longer, even spend a day there helping in any way I could. Unfortunately, transportation isn’t always available so my time was limited, knowing that I would need to take the only available transportation back to the village.
As I climbed onto the transport to head back to the lions, my mind drifted to a place of wondering what kind of world we could create if everyone gave as much of themselves as the volunteers of the Gweru SPCA. It is said that if being rich and wealthy were a result of hard work, every African woman would be a millionaire. There’s no way I would ever doubt that. I hope to go back some day. Surely, there’ll be new faces, both human and furry, alike. But, one thing’s for sure….. the homeless cats of Gweru are living their best life at the Gweru SPCA.

Story: The Top Cat, For Sure

It happens all the time, I often think back to the cats I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years throughout my life.  It’s always completely random.  I’ll be working on a project, doing chores, grocery shopping or whatever.  Then all of a sudden I’ll have a memory of a certain cat and I will recall the moments our paths crossed.  Sometimes the memory will be from a brief encounter, other times from our lives being intertwined in some way over time.  Sometimes it will be a memory from a few years or decades past or even from my childhood.  In this case, my memory was from a decade past.   “TC”, was definitely the Top Cat.  He knew it and he made sure everyone else knew it.  He came to us as a boarding guest and the most dramatic one, at that.  It’s extremely rare for a cat to carry on with an academy award winning performance in the manner that “TC” did.  In fact, “TC” was the only cat who ever acted this way in our care.  Everything was overdramatized.    Getting out of his carrier was a big deal.  Cleaning his litter box was a big deal.  Even giving him treats was a big deal that ended up with him hissing, growling and lunging towards us as if he wanted to rip our eyes out.
I first met “TC” and his human companion, Linda, around the same time as I earned my master cat groomer certification.  “TC” was dirty, greasy and slightly matted.  Linda dropped him off one day for boarding and jokingly asked if I would give him a bath to help solve the dilemma of his grooming needs.  I laughed.  She laughed.  Then we both looked at “TC”, still in his carrier.  He’s the only one who didn’t think it was funny.
“TC” was only with us for a few days on that visit.  I would walk by him constantly, telling him that I was going to give him a bath.  He wasn’t amused.  I was hesitant and even forewarned Linda that he would probably look the same when she returned.  While I had a wealth of experience handling aggressive cats during years of cat rescue work, this was different.  I was newly certified as a Feline Master Groomer, after all, and “TC” was the type of cat that made even the best cat handling veterinarians cringe when he arrived for checkups.  
I tested the water.  Warmed up to just the right temperature that cats like during baths.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to trim his nails right away but that it would be okay.  Moving quickly before he even knew it, “TC” was on my hip with one hand on his neck and the other hand under his body with my fingers around his arm, his neck too thick for any sort of scruffing.  This is my usual stance for carrying any cat in the safest manner possible.   I walked with purpose to the grooming room.  Visions of shredded limbs going through my head.  Through his head, too, I’m sure.  Straight in the tub he went.  Water bubbling off his back and down his sides, he sat there.  We looked into each others eyes and at that moment, we each learned something that day.  One lather of degreaser and rinse, then over again.  A lather of hypo shampoo, then rinse again.  You never would have imagined he was the same cat from moments ago.  Out of the tub and onto a towel he went.  Wrapped up and patted down, then wrapped in another dry towel. The whole time never breaking contact from my hands on his body.  While I remained cautious, never once did I feel he wanted to bite me. After the blow dry, then for the nail trim.  Deshed treatment and comb out, who ever would have thought.  Looking back, one of my favorite moments with “TC” was after the groom, when I would clean his cheeks and whiskers with a cotton ball as a reward for his good behavior.  He loved those moments, too.  
The dreaded walk back to “TC’s” sleeping quarters was likened to being a pirate walking the plank with a musket ball tied to my foot.  Like the pirate, we both knew the outcome but doing so was a must.  No sooner than “TC’s” paws landed in his cabin, he would flip around and lunge towards me, with only the door between us now to keep my skin from being shredded.  Now and then someone will ask me where I got trained to groom cats.  The truth is, it was “TC” who really trained me, and all of the other aggressive cats who came after him.  It was “TC” who taught me to go out on a limb, so to speak.  To take risks and to try something even if you think you might fail.  
Many groomings with “TC” would follow and a few years flew by.  Each grooming was just like Ground Hog’s Day, just a replay of the first time he was ever groomed.  The last time I saw “TC”, there was something different about him.  I just couldn’t put my finger on it, but it was just a feeling that something was off.  When Linda returned to pick him up, I told her that something was different and since he was due for a vet check, it might be worth looking in to.  A few weeks later Linda called to tell me “TC” had crossed The Rainbow Bridge.  I was heartbroken, as I loved the special bond I had with “TC”, even if it was just for a short time while I was grooming him.  Not long after “TC’s” passing, Linda adopted another cat, “TC2” was her name.  Wouldn’t you know it, she was just like “TC” before her.  A feisty little pistol that I grew to love.  A couple of years ago I had another moment of thinking about “TC” and wondered how Linda was doing.  She was battling cancer and I knew that chemo treatments were difficult for her.  I looked her up and found her obituary, she died just a few weeks prior.  I’m sure “TC” was there to greet her at The Rainbow Bridge.  “TC’s” memory will always be with me and I often wonder what became of “TC2”.  Hopefully she’s living with a relative or someone who loves her. 
Thanks, “TC”, for teaching me a valuable lesson……a life without risk is a life without reward.

PHOTO: “TC” enjoying the day on his patio at home.

Post Travel Tips For Your Cat

Whether you travel frequently or just now and then, we all spend a lot of time preparing for our trips.  Most people with cats often have a checklist to prepare their cat for their trip to our boarding resort, but did you know that post travel plans are important as well?  With a little planning, your cat will easily transition from home to boarding and then back home again!
At our feline exclusive resort, we have a process to help your cat settle in quickly and the same is needed after your trip.  When you arrive home, place the carrier on the floor and open the door.  Allow your cat to have a few minutes to take in the surroundings from inside the carrier.  Go about your routine and let your cat come out of the carrier at their own pace.  Be sure to keep the environment calm and quiet for a few hours, as your cat will be used to the relaxing sounds and calm environment of The Cat Chalet.  Your cat may hide after leaving the carrier and that is very normal for a day or two as they adjust to being home again.  Once your cat becomes accustomed to their travels to The Cat Chalet, they will transition back home right away and oftentimes they will need no time at all to go back to their home routine.  
Additionally, it’s important to clean your cat’s bowls before their first meal home.  Throw out any stale food remaining in food bowls and put them in the dishwasher or wash with dish soap and water.  It is best to use glass or stainless steel for food and water bowls.  Plastic bowls, or other porous materials, can easily harbor bacteria. 

KITTY DAY CARE – Is it a thing?

If you have dogs, you most certainly have had the need to send them to doggie day care at one time or another, dropping them off in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon.  Many dogs love this regular field trip to interact with other dogs and let’s face it, most dogs love going places.  Cats and dogs are as different as night and day, and a day care environment for just a few hours is definitely where their needs couldn’t be more contrary.  
Visit any walking trail and you are sure to see dogs greet each other, generally with friendly encounters.  Cats….um, not so much.  I would never recommend introducing your cat to a cat from another household for a casual encounter such as a day care environment.  In fact, we have a strict policy at my feline exclusive boarding resort that protects your cat from any physical contact with any cats not living in their own household.  Of course, your cat will see other cats and even if they can’t see them, they’ll instinctually know there are other cats around.  
While dogs tend to settle in to new spaces fairly quickly, cats often need several hours, or even over night, to settle in to a new environment.  For boarding guests who come to us for the first time, our process is to give them time to settle in over night before we let them explore outside of their Chalet.  Return guests, however, settle in rather quickly and are ready to enjoy socializing with staff immediately and want to leave their Chalet to walk around their Village.  
Getting to know as many cats as I have over the years, professionally as well as personally, I do not recommend cats be put in a day care type environment where you leave them for only a few hours.  Although over the course of the years, we have welcomed many cats to join us for the day when there is some unusual activity going on at home, such as carpets being cleaned, home repairs, the moving process, etc.  Your cat will certainly much rather be in our calm resort environment for the day instead of dealing with unusual activity that will disrupt their relaxation.  During times such as this, it is also extremely risky that your cat might escape through a door left open by a repair or moving person.  So, we welcome your feline family members to visit us at The Cat Chalet for a day visit when the need arises.  If you live outside of the Reno/Sparks area, search for a feline exclusive resort close to you.

(PHOTO: JuJu recently joined us for the day while some home repairs were completed)

On a Wednesday, in a cafe, I watched it begin again…

If you’re a Taylor Swift fan, you know the lyrics from her song, Begin Again. Except for me, it was about cats. It has been an amazing journey with a slight pause in between. Over the last few years, not a week has gone by that I didn’t get at least one phone call, text or Email asking me for advice about cats and wondering when I would be getting back in the cat business. Admittedly, for a short time I resisted, but the honeymoon phase of a so called “retirement” wore off quickly. When Covid hit, it was a time of reflection for many, myself included. I started pondering the idea of starting another cat business. I knew that the only way I could make it work was if I actually purchased a commercial property and started from scratch. I spent over a year looking and just couldn’t find the right location. As it turns out, finding a commercial building that is in a really nice part of town with massive windows for the cats AND zoned for animals proved to be quite a task. As Summer came to a close in 2021, I decided that if I didn’t find a feline suitable location by the holidays, I would give up on the idea. It was important to me to actually own the building, as we all know, leasing a building can be quite unpredictable and I knew I would want to put a lot of money into it to make it the best possible environment for the cats. Then shortly before Thanksgiving, it happened. The stars aligned……kismet! The escrow process went smoothly and then the real work began. So many challenges from the moment I got the key. While each challenge was daunting, doors opened quickly with solutions. Sitting here, the evening before the official announcement, I look around at all the tasks yet to be completed. I think of all the blood, sweat and tears that has gone in to each and every detail to bring all of the thoughts in my imagination to reality. My team has worked tirelessly to bring it all to fruition. Soon, the tools will all be gone, the phone will begin to ring and the sounds of purrs will fill the air. Whether you already know me or are about to, I hope you’ll join me on this journey……as I watch it begin again. ~Susan 6/9/22