Kennel & Cattery Management
First published November/December 2019
When a customer makes their first booking, I always suggest that they visit the cattery to ensure they are completely happy. During the tour, I have a well-rehearsed, informative speech which I impart in ‘chatty form’ as we go around.
The final and most important part is discussed when we return to the office. It goes like this: “So from what you’ve told me, ‘Fluffy’ is happy, healthy and has no medical problems that I should be made aware of. There is nothing here that can harm her physically, and I am not going to fuss if she brings up a fur ball or eats her dinner too quickly and delivers it back to me. If, however, I see anything obviously untoward or, if it was one of MY cats and it worried me, then it’s into my car and straight to my vet who is LITERALLY one minute up the road.
If it’s an existing condition then MY vet will liaise with yours, but the most important thing is to get it dealt with as quickly as possible.” Customers then sign my form and that’s that.
So when 16-week-old ‘Teddy’, arrived for a two-week stay in late August, I knew I had covered everything; “Well, bye then and have a lovely holiday,” I said as I saw the owner to the gate, “and don’t worry, I’ll take very great care.” “Actually,” she said, “my neighbour is a veterinary nurse and she doesn’t think your vet has a very good reputation, so she’s suggested that you phone HER if anything happens and she will come and assess the situation. She’s at home for the next two weeks, so you could call her anytime”. Hmmm……..it took me a few seconds to process what I had just heard. “So what you’re saying is, that if Teddy becomes poorly, you want me to call your neighbour who ISN’T a vet, wait 20 minutes for her to get here , then rely on HER opinion because, of course, she ISN’T A VET, then allow her to take him away on a 30-minute journey (in good traffic) to YOUR vet where SHE will relate what she HASN’T seen whilst he’s been in MY care. Is that right?” “Well she seems to know what she’s talking about and she IS a nurse” she said. I was not prepared to prolong the conversation. “Look, I know you feel torn, but really this has nothing to do with your neighbour, despite her good intentions. In nearly 44,000 visits I have only ever had TWO serious emergencies and both had happy endings. Your contract is with me and only me; however, if you feel that Teddy would be better in your neighbour’s care, then I will waive any charge for this stay and you may take him away.” She thought, smiled, agreed and left Teddy with me.
Ridiculously, this bugged me for days and although I don’t know this ‘neighbour’, I felt like telling her to (in words I would never normally use) “Butt out Madam and mind your own business”! Would you have done the same?
A few days later I received an email from ‘Colin’ asking if I could board his two cats for three months. Normally I would jump at the booking, but September and October were already full and I close in November so I gave him some alternative choices. “I can’t afford the £450 plus that it’s going to cost,” he said, “but if I supplied the beds, food and cat litter, do you think that would be ok?” The mist of incredulity that seems to descend on me more and more these days began swirling. ”Firstly, Colin, it’s going to cost you a lot more than £450, and do you think by providing the ‘accessories’ your cats might be boarded free of charge?” ”Well, yes, sort of,” he said. Was this man trying it on, or simply an innocent with unforeseen family problems? I like to err on the positive side, believing that anyone who owns a cat can’t be THAT bad, but I was very glad I had stated my position from the outset. I hope he found somewhere.
However long I remain in this business, customers will always find a way to keep me on my toes but being on your toes and bending over backwards at the same time becomes more difficult as the years go on.
(Angela’s Cat Corner is a regular column in KENNEL AND CATTERY MANAGEMENT.)