Cat boarding and why the largest size might not be best. 

We love our cats and want them to be comfortable away from home. Boarding our cat can be stressful for both kitty and owner. Pet sitting in home isn't always an option, so boarding becomes necessary. We gravitate towards, large, open spaces, full of light to house our kitties. Suites like our Executive suites are highly appealing to the owner. But from a cat behavior perspective, sometimes bigger isn't always better. Sure, some cats are highly social outside of the home, but that is not the norm. Many cats are scared and fearful in new environments. What do our cats do when scared or fearful at home? Do the stay in the most open, well lit area? No, they hide in the smallest and darkest quiet place they can get into. As a prey animal, cats are wired to seek safety when unsure. 

While we are always hopeful that a cat arrives at boarding and is their friendly, outgoing, and loving self, often this is not case. Putting them in an area that is very exposed with no hiding places increases stress to an exponential level. Jennifer, the owner, has attended many lectures by vet and behaviorists in how to reduce stress in a kennel environment. We designed our own suites becuase there are not many commercially  available suites that meet cat behavior needs to reduce stress.  How do our suites at Cat's Meow combat boarding stress?

  • We use high sided plastic beds with orthopedic bedding for hiding. Feeling hidden meets a instinctual need of safety and happiness for cats.
  • We ask owners to bring small bedding to fit in these beds/ or to sit in their own bed. This envelopes them in their own scent and also deters them from sitting in litter boxes which are heavy with their own scent over time.
  • Most of our suites have 3 solid, opaque walls. This meets a behavioral need of safety, there are no places for strange people or animals to approach, and they can face outwards, observing the only entrance. Knowing where “dangers” might appear reduces stress.
  • Most of our suites have solid glass fronts with ventilation on top. Cats are smart enough to understand the concept of the glass being solid and providing safety.
  • Our suites with wire fronts have reduced vertical bars. Studies have shown that reducing vertical bars in front of cats reduces stress. 
  • We never mix cats of different families, ever. Cats do not want to make new friends, it is highly stressful for a territorial animal to meet strange cats.
  • Our suites have no soft surfaces, such as carpet. Carpet holds odors from strange cats, as well as being highly unsanitary and hard to disinfect
  • We use Rescue brand accelarated hydrogen peroxide to clean our suites. This is a “fear free” program accepted disinfectant that is safer for cats and our staff. No noxious fumes or toxins, but can kill ringworm and other cat diseases
  • Regular TLC and observation from staff, and a regular feeding routine of their own food and treats. 
  • Interaction with staff and coming out on their terms for playroom time for exercise and stimulation. Forcing cats to change environments when they feel safe is not kind. We only do playroom time for cat that feel safe leaving their suite. Otherwise we can use toys and catnip inside their suite for interactions. 
  • Cats can stay with their own family members and feel soothed and calmed by the sight and scent of their companion

Our goal is happy cats returning home with minimal stress after a vacation, and owners who feel at ease bringing their cats to our environment. Please call to schedule a tour or ask for info anytime. 

Why top opening cat carriers are the better choice for your cat. 

We all have experienced it, a cat who is hard to get in or out of their carrier. Maybe they come out easily at home, but hide in the back at the vet or groomer. For many years, it was simply get the cat in any box or carrier, and get the visit over with. Nowadays, cat owners are looking for gentler, kinder, and less stressful experiences for their cats. One of the easiest ways to reduce stress from vet and groomer visits is to have an easily opened top loading carrier! This may mean replacing that dusty crate that sits in the garage with the rusty screw in bolts or zip ties in the sides from 4 cats ago. At The Cat's Meow, your cat having a positive experience matters to us. 

Why replace a crate that you can still carry a cat in?

*Loading  and unloading cats into strange environments poses a bite or swat risk to your cats' caregivers, and that risk increases by many times if that caregiver has to reach through a small door. Even cats who walk out of small doors in one environment, may not in another.

* Caregivers or owners may need to scruff their cat to remove it. This is a hostile act in the cat's mind, can be painful, and takes away their autonomy. Cats sometimes react violently to being scruffed. 

*Being grabbed, dragged, dumped, or pulled out of a small front door or opening is a predatory move in your cats' mind; and it starts off the visit on the wrong note. Starting out with a negative experience increases stress in your cat. Cats have a hard time letting go of stress.

* Being grabbed, dragged, dumped, or pulled out a front door poses a risk for breaking legs or toes that get stuck in doors, frames, and hinges.

* Putting your cat into a large top opening at home reduces stress and decreases the chance your cat will hide or become aggressive. Cats remember bad experiences with crates and will often see the crate and hide. Pushing a cat through a small front door with all its legs out is not fun for owner or pet, and could be dangerous for both. Missed vet, grooming, and boarding appointments often have cancellation fees. 

* When boarding, a cat who arrives and is agitated can have the top removed from their carrier and slid into the suite, leaving the crate bottom at their own pace. A cat arriving in a front opener sometimes has to be forcibly removed.

*Cats can be examined by vets and groomers inside the bottom of an opened top load crate. They have full access to the body, while the cat is still inside a space that smells like home. Groomers can clip nails easily without removing your cat if necessary. This can lead to a positive experience for your cat. If the cat becomes fractious, the caregiver can simply replace the top, vs trying to force an angry cat into a small opening. 

So what crate should I get?

A hard or soft carrier with a zippered top opening, a door on top, or EASILY removed clips on the sides. Pins and screws in the sides can take up to 10 minutes to remove, or rust shut easily. An anxious cat becomes more anxious when removing a crate top takes a long time. Modern crates come in many price points and styles. 

Size: Cats like to hide and feel safe. Often, our cats will prefer a smaller crate to a larger one because of this instinctual need. Owners often are concerned that their cat might need a large area in their crate but this more of a human feeling. In a car, it is recommended that the animal be touching at least 2 sides of the crate at all times to reduce injuries during an accident.

We sell multiple appropriate crate styles in our cat boutique. Or here are some great choices on amazon!



What about cats that fear or run from their carrier? More on that in our next blog! Thanks! Jennifer at The Cat's Meow


Snowpaw- from terror to teddy bear. 

Snow paw is a 15 year old domestic longhair mackeral tabby. He has had 3 homes prior to his current owners, and has been with them for about 3 or 4 years. He is declawed in front. Snowpaw has been a client since August 2015.

Snowpaw's first visit was a doozy. For all of us. He came with large pelts (heavy, thick, tight sheets of mats) on his back and rear. He does not allow his owners to comb him. To take off these mats and shave him into a lion cut, it took two people. Snowpaw became instantly aggressive and combative as soon as we began clipping off the mats. When we rolled him to his belly to take off the mats and hair, he would scream and hiss and try to slash us with his claws. When we worked around his front half, he tried to grab our hands and pull them into his mouth to bite. He had to wear a muzzle throughout, and he was very stressed. He was doable without having to be sedated by a vet, but he was close to that line. Snowpaw was so agitated he wasn't able to get a bath, we just cut his hair and sent him home. We were all stressed, and he was very difficult to complete and for us to stay safe. His owners listened when we asked them to bring him in in 8 weeks to see if we could stay ahead of the matting and prevent this from happening again.
Snowpaw's second visit was in 8 weeks. Our notes read: "complete turnaround, no drama today" He still wore the muzzle and did try to bite for combing his groin. Everyone was happy! We were happy to see that our gentle techniques made it a better experience for him, and no mats and clipping helped big time!
The third visit was 16 weeks later. Snowpaw didn't act like his first groom, but he sure wanted to bite us, especially combing the mats out of his legs and belly. We had to wrap him in a towel and hold him to get him completed for his bath, dry, and combout.
Snowpaw's fourth visit was 5 months later....... His grooming got away from his owners for whatever reason. He was covered in mats and need a shavedown all over. It went better than that first shave, but it was very difficult. He was getting older too, and stress isn't safe for a geriatric cat.  I had a frank discussion with his owners about sticking to the schedule, since we had begun to make so much progress in the beginning, but it seemed like we were backtracking. They agreed.

Now Snowpaw and his owners stick to his 8 week schedule, and he is a totally different cat when he visits us. No more snarling, hissing, or biting, no slashing claws. He gets a bath and combout with a sanitary clip. He stays totally mat free between visits and his owners still can't comb him at all at home. He sits up quietly in the bath, enjoying the warm water on his aged joints. The blow dryer doesn't phase him, and we can roll him to his belly without him reaching out to grab or kick our hands. Even combing takes just 5 minutes and he only gets mad if I comb near his declawed front legs, where he has arthritis. One person can easily complete his entire groom in less than 45 minutes.  We have reached a place of trust, and these types of grooms make me the most proud that I chose to be a cat exclusive groomer. I groomed him today and he allowed me to hold and pet him after the grooming, settled right into his carrier with a treat, and looked around proudly. We took about 5 years off how he looked (and I wish I had taken a photo). I was inspired to write this today because I am so happy with his owners and their commitment to their cat. 
If Snowpaw can go from a terror to a teddy bear, your cat can too. We always recommend cats see us no less than 4 times a year, and ideally, every 6 to 8 weeks. See our blog below for an indepth look at why we know regular grooming is the most loving choice for cats. Owners allowing us to have a relationship of trust with their cats is a unique privilege, and we are glad you found The Cat's Meow. 

Why frequent grooming is better for you and your cat. 

Many cat owners feel that bringing their cat to the groomer once a year is appropriate and is better for their cat. They feel this way because the get a bad report from the groomer, the cat was stressed, anxious, combative, even downright aggressive. So they space out appointments, thinking that will be less stressful for them and their cat. They love their animals and would never want to harm them. I want these types of clients to know I understand why they do this, and I know it is from a place of love. But now I'm going to tell them why they are doing more harm than good, for themselves and their cats.

Note: I am generalizing, based on the 30- 60 cats per week we groom here, there are always exceptions.
The once a year cat (usually  a long haired type) is the most difficult cat for the groomer. They are often matted  in a portion or all over their bodies, they smell, have feces matted into their genitals, and are starting to act funny at home because the mats are uncomfortable. These cats see the groomer one time every year of their life and generally get a not so great report back from the groomer. They may hop from groomer to groomer because the owner has been shamed or shocked by the price of the grooming. If the groomer is charging the going rate, the bill can be between $80 and $200. The cats came home shaved to the skin, could have scars and bruising from the mats, is a little shocked, and may hide for days. Both cat and owner see little value in grooming because of these reasons.

Here's what may have happened at your cats' once a year groom. He was in an environment he rarely sees; that has sights, sounds, smells he doesn't understand. He was covered in inch thick mats that pulled at the skin constantly. Dandruff is everywhere, as well as clumps of shedding hair. The groomer has to cut those long nails and then start shaving. That buzzing clipper stimulates the senses, causing kitty to begin to be on edge. The clipper slows down as it tries to cut through the mats and the skin must be pulled tight to prevent cuts to the skin. This is uncomfortable for the cat and pulls his skin, despite our best efforts. He begins to get agitated from the sensory overload and pain and lashes out with claws or teeth. The groomer may have to apply safety equipment and hold him in order to keep herself safe. He doesn't like to be held, especially by a stranger, so he acts out more, trying to just get away. If the groomer can finish the cut, they are both stressed by the end. Sounds terrible right? It's ALL preventable.

Here's how we can prevent a bad experience at the groomer. Bring the cat in more often! Minimum 4 times a year, and every 6 to 8 weeks for siberians, ragdolls, persian,maine coons, etc. Cats can be bathed or groomed every week if the groomer is using quality products. 

It all boils down to this. In a cats mind: Unexpected experiences= danger and fear.  Expected experiences= safety and relative calm.

If a cat is used to the environment of the groomer, we reduce stranger danger, stress and agitation. Cats need repetition to become used to things, and they rarely leave their homes, so new environments pose a huge challenge. Visiting the groomer every other month means those sights, smells, and sounds are expected. We all don't like the dentist right? We don't go very often! But most of us like the hairdresser, because we visit every other month since we were tiny children! In our salon, every groom is performed in the exact same order. The cats get used to the repetition and know what comes next. This calms them. Cats like the expected.
Cats that visit more often don't become matted. Mats HURT! A regular professional bath performed 4 to 6 times a year will completely eliminate matting on most cats. That's right, without shaving! Look for our blog about baths for more info. Mats also cost you more in the pocketbook! A shave down with a bath is about $78 in our salon. A once a year shavedown can sometimes be $90 - $150 and the cats are usually too stressed to be bathed! Those dematting fees add up!

As a cat gets groomed more often by a gentle groomer, he finds the clipper isn't a scary monster, but just an annoying thing to put up with. Water is no big deal, it didn't hurt or scare him the time before, so he may as well enjoy the massage and warm water. And that blow dryer is noisy, but he can sit where he wants in the dryer, his ears are covered, and the groomer never puts the air in his face. Combing, even on that belly, is now just a quick flip of the comb through the coat, taking no more than 5 minutes, as the blow drying blew out all the loose hair already. A quick shave on the sanitary area and kitty is back in his carrier with catnip or a treat in under an hour in come cases. This is a relaxed cat who isn't crying or huddling in the back of his cage. He's proud, fluffy, clean and soft. This is typical of the cats that see us regularly. 

Now you may be thinking this is just a sales pitch. But I can tell you that I love cats. And I don't like to put a cat through the once a year groom. (I'll do it, and I won't shame you for it, but I will try to get you to come in more often if I can). I like to see cats relaxed, accepting, and as happy as possible. I love when cats who were wearing muzzles,matted, and anxious come in in 8 weeks time and the next groom goes better, and the next, and the next, and then we don't need the muzzle anymore. I like when grooms are ez and I don't need to use all my tricks to try to calm them, I'd rather they just be calm. Even our most dangerous, aggressive cats can reach a place where they have lower stress. Check out the blog post about Snowpaw for an example. When a cat has reached a level of trust with us, it's very special. We treat all cats with respect and dignity, and it's easier to provide a lower stress groom on a cat who knows whats expected of him and what he can expect from his groomer. 

We want what is best for cats, and you want the best for your cat. I'm so glad you found our salon, and I'm looking forward to building a relationship of trust with you and your cats.
- Jennifer

Why I became a cat exclusive groomer 

Before I started The Cat's Meow, I was a running a very successful mobile grooming business. I was grooming mostly dogs, but some cats too. I really enjoyed the cats, and had a reputation for great cat grooming. But I was tiring of dog grooming after almost 2 decades of doing it. Cat grooming was an intellectual challenge, that required a quiet energy, ninja moves, and a constant learning curve. It was as exciting as when I first started my Master Groomer testing, something I looked forward to. I got constant calls from outside my service area for cats, the need was there.  But mobile poses a real challenge in Minnesota, with parking, snow, and freezing temps. I could add a second $90,000 mobile van, but would the cat clients pay the premium price needed for that specialized service? I decided mobile just wouldn't work, and full time housecall would be too hard on my back. A salon would be ideal: lower pricing, lower overhead for me, and the ability to serve more cats daily. 
The Twin Cities needed a cat exclusive groomer, there were plenty of dog groomers doing cats, but its simply not the ideal environment. I know, because I groomed cats for years among dogs. They were terrified, and needed to be started right away, and finished as quickly as possible, because the barking was causing extreme stress. Stress= aggressive cat. Not good for anyone involved. Also, because few grooming schools teach cats, most local groomers learn from other groomers. So skill level varies wildly. I had attended seminars, bought tons of books and videos, and attended hands on cat grooming training. I knew once I groomed their cat, they wouldn't call anyone else again. 
Having owned and managed several salons, and worked in multiple boarding kennels, I knew the business. I decided to go for it. I made plans to work less days in the mobile and have my wonderful employee take over my mobile days. I picked out a salon space, got the needed permits (harder than you'd think!), and we started building out the space, planning to open in 3 weeks from getting the keys. Everyone thought I was CRAZY for trying it, but I believed in my vision! After we opened I worked 6 days a week, and my boyfriend worked with me on Saturdays, when the tough kitties came in. 
I applied what I knew of cat grooming from the start, and learned more along the way. I try to keep a holistic view of cat grooming. Cats need calmness and friendliness from the beginning. They need the noise managed. Reading body language is key to tell you what the cat is feeling. Most cats do well with hands off, and gentle slow motions, no scruffing the neck and never being tied up. Some react quickly and negatively, and to stay safe we need to know when to apply safety equipment, holding techniques, and a second hand to help. Some can't be groomed at all. Staying honest and professional with owners, being kind to cats, being careful, setting limits, and always paying attention to detail and quality is what helped the business grow and be a success.
I was hooked after the first year, and the second year I injured my shoulder. This forced me to step away from dog grooming and focus solely on cats. I haven't regretted it! It's still a great challenge every day. Cats have to be  figured out, what makes them react, what makes them happy. What to do to soothe reactive cats, how to get owners to understand why they need grooming, what products give the best results. It's all fun, and almost new territory. Cats have been the second class citizen of the grooming salon forever. They deserve more than the outdated techniques I and many others learned 10 or 20 years ago. I love making them number one, and developing techniques that benefit them and make my job easier. Safety is huge for me too, I cringe at what I see posted online, and what owners tell me happened to their cats at other salons.  Happy cat= very happy cat groomer. 
I'm so happy to serve the underserved kitty population, to see happy owners who are thankful for our services, and to provide a calm holistic environment for the cats, myself, and my employees. Ill post more next week about why cats need grooming, and how more frequent grooming almost always means a lower stress grooming experience for your cat. - Jennifer