A Purrfect Feline Retreat

By Jan Schmidt
Wednesday - June 07, 2006
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The Cozy Cat Lodge family (from left) manager, Nani Busch, and Jan and Bill Schmidt spend time with their feline clients
The Cozy Cat Lodge family (from left) manager, Nani Busch,
and Jan and Bill Schmidt spend time with their feline clients

The Cozy Cat Lodge is a family-owned business that we have operated out of our Olomana home since 2000. We share our home with many of Oahu’s felines while their owners travel, tent their homes or entertain out-of-town guests. Along with my husband, Bill, and daughter, Leinani, we are committed to providing the highest quality experience for each of our cat guests.

While we charge for boarding, we approach our mission more as a community service. We designed the Cozy Cat Lodge to provide a safe, clean, nurturing and comfortable environment for each guest that approximates their home experience as closely as we can. At the same time, we are committed to providing convenience, value and peace of mind for our clients’ faithful owners while they are away from their loved ones.

In the summer of 2000 my husband and I were planning a three-week vacation but worried about the well-being of our four cats. We looked at different options, but were not totally comfortable with the kennels we visited. Our cats were all healthy, spoiled and part of the family. Placing them in a small metal cage for three weeks or having someone come by for a short period once or twice a day to provide food and water did not seem like a good solution for such a long period of time. Fortunately, our neighbors and daughter, Nani, took turns caring for our feline family.

When we returned from our trip, we realized other people may be faced with this same dilemma. With children grown and gone, we had an empty 1,000-square-foot covered lanai and we decided to use a small portion of it to babysit a few cats.

To begin with, my husband built a four-floor cat condo. The wait was short before we had our first client. A women needed to board her cat for a couple of weeks and then a friend of a friend wanted to board his cats. Pretty soon, word of mouth brought more clients than we could handle.

At this point we realized that we were in business. We expanded our research to better define the service we wanted to provide, established goals, set up a Limited Liability Company, obtained a business license and expanded the facility. I ran the day-to-day activities and Bill handled construction, maintenance and helped with the important task of “litter patrol.”

This became a full-time job for me and so I needed to take a hiatus from my counseling practice. As we grew very quickly, Nani soon joined in to help with chores and the never-ending effort to dole out cuddles and love.

In the early days we were totally focused on setting up the Lodge with an eye toward good business practices and providing high-quality care. We were new at starting a business, and made our fair share of mistakes, but we found that good intentions, hard work and staying focused on these goals always carried the day.

Over time we learned that it was important to balance our personal lives and the business a little better so we could maintain quality in both. We took steps to reduce the time spent on the lodge by reducing business hours (not for our cat guests), streamlining daily maintenance activity and eventually reducing the number of cats we board at one time. This proved to be an important series of steps that permitted us to provide the high-quality service we envisioned and preserve quality time for our personal endeavors.

What makes us unique? We are one of a kind and were voted “Best Cat Kennel” in Honolulu magazine for 2005. Some of the free services we provide are: e-mail updates and phone calls of daily activities, 24-hours environmental music, grooming, snacks (if allowed), nutritious dry food, no-charge first day reservation, medication services, special needs care, feeding schedule like home, open-air tropical view, 24-hour pampered care and hugs, petting, singing and playtime with humans. I also offer personal pet bereavement counseling and pet memorial services for those clients in need.

As we consider all of our cat guests “little souls with big wisdom” we connect with them, learn their likes and dislikes so they may enjoy their stay with us. Some actually are quite hesitant to return home, as they know this is their “home away from home.”

Next Week: Sister Agnelle Ching, CEO of St. Francis Healthcare System

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