Archive for the ‘cats and innkeeping’ Category

Innkeepers’ Cats – an Update

May 9th, 2015 by camdenmotel

By Katja

How are those cats doing? Some of you have been wondering – and indeed it’s been a while since we last checked in with our innkeepers’ cats on this blog.  A few weeks ago, we celebrated  our 1 1/2 year anniversary of innkeeping, and are about to start another summer, so this would be a good time to report how the feline 2/3 of our household (made up of two humans and twice as many cats) have been doing,  two winters and one busy summer season under their belts.

Oscar and Tibby - on a retired Towne Motel towel

Oscar and Tibby – on a retired Towne Motel towel

Well, before we got busy last spring, Oscar, Harri and Tibby had adjusted somewhat to innkeeping life. Harri was probably the most successful, taking one day at a time, which worked out well for her once the season began. It also helped that she is the lowest maintenance cat we have, and that she can be happy in the sun just being by herself, or sleeping for hours on her yellow blanket on top of the couch. She likes to be in the middle of things (but not as the center of attention, like Tibby), even if she just rests or sleeps.  She loved our new deck in the backyard, and the tree perches we had built for her in the spring. If she happens to be somewhere where noises and people get a little too crazy, she does the same as when a vet visit is imminent: hide behind or under the couch, and come back out when the coast is clear.

Lady Harriet, scaling the pear tree

Lady Harriet, scaling the pear tree

Tibby, on the other hand, realized last spring that things were going to go a little out of (his) control, so he made a plan to get lots of attention before it was too late. Within a matter of weeks, he had  ramped up the volume and frequency of his demands, and successfully increased the number of daily brushings  from one or two to four or more. He made sure to have a new standard firmly in place before the season was in full swing, and this standard is still the norm today: at least two brushings per person per day. (It used to not matter so much who gave the brushings, but now he’s keeping track.)

Mr. Oscar  No Vacancy Nubble has not changed his mind in all these months: he would still rather live without the constant threat of phone calls, door bells, and random people walking into his territory without his permission. But instead of hiding from voices he hears from the dining room in the morning, which is what he did in the beginning, he learned how to relax back on the bed after his morning outings, safe in the assumption that none of these voices would make it up the stairs other than in sound form. I predict he’ll be shocked to see it all start up again, but at least he derives one big benefit from the change of seasons: he can be outside again, and he won’t need a door (wo)man to let him in and out. If it ever gets warm enough to turn off the heat this year, he’ll be going through the cat flap at least 25 times a day.

Little Maggie Mae, dancing in her sleep

Little Maggie Mae, dancing in her sleep

But I mentioned four feline members of the household before. Who is the fourth? Well, she’s the new kid – and the only one who actually has not lived through all these innkeeping seasons. She adopted us towards the end of October, when she was only 8 weeks old – so she hasn’t yet had a Towne Motel summer. She’s never experienced Lobsterfest, Bluesfest, or the Fourth of July – and during Windjammer Festival last year, she probably still had her eyes closed and didn’t roam far from her mother. Only during Toboggan championship weekend and the Camden Conference, our two busy February weekends, did she get a taste of the busy season. And we got a taste of the kind of innkeeper she’d make  – in case we collapse in the middle of the season and the fuzzy foursome are left in charge.

About a year ago we wrote about the other cats’ innkeeping styles: Oscar as the No Vacancy host, who would probably put the place up for sale this spring if we let him;  Harri as the live and let live innkeeper, who just wants things to be peaceful, and Tibby as the host of a cat therapy inn, meaning guests will improve their vacation by catering to Tibby, and any non-cat people  better learn how to fake it or risk having to go without breakfast or housekeeping.  (None of our cats have yet understood the concept of tripadvisor).

But I digress. Let’s get back to the new cat, little Maggie Mae, and whether she has what it takes to run this place. We could start with the fact that Maggie Mae is still a kitten, even if a rapidly growing one. Which means that putting her in charge would likely get us in trouble with child labor laws. However, given her smarts, independence, and insistence on ruling the roost, it would probably come naturally to her to take over the whole operation, just as long as she never has to compromise on her life and innkeeping philosophy: Eat, love, play – and sleep.  Ideally, each of them as hard as possible.  It’s the perfect philosophy  for our vacationing guests – most of them probably travel with at least three of these priorities in mind. But does it make sense for innkeepers to have the same philosophy as their guests? Maggie’s doesn’t include the word  “work,” after all. Is innkeeping possible without work?? Well, —read on.

photo 1

Maggie may not have any formal qualifications to be a Maine coast innkeeper, but she does have one big one compared to her siblings and us: she’s a native Mainer, and a local! She is also a Maine Coon cat, for the most part anyway. Two Maine strikes in her favor: that’s a good start. And then there is her boundless energy, essential for innkeepers during the busy season. No, it’s not the “zoom around the room” catnip in some of her toys that accounts for her craziness – she was Miss Energy Bunny from day 1, even on the day she got back from spaying. Instead of readjusting gradually, walking around dazed and confused, she left the other cats confused: who is that kitten that looks and acts like someone we know but smells like the vet and other animals?? Let’s hiss at her, just to be on the safe side.

ipadpainting is hard work!

The ipad artist, brainstorming room makeovers

Maggie is also a great multi tasker, or at least an easy task switcher. If something new catches her attention, she can refocus in an instant– a very useful skill for innkeepers, who might be in the middle of folding towels when a guest asks about the best lobster pound in the area at the same time as a housekeeper calls to check on her schedule. Which doesn’t mean that innkeeping Maggie would be a workaholic, stopping neither for chats nor a little ipad game. Just the opposite: at least 80% of her waking hours are about play. And that’s what she’d do with work: just turn it into play! Swiffering the kitchen floor? Fun!! Loading and unloading the dishwasher! More fun! So much, indeed, that she wouldn’t mind joining the dishes in their tumbling cycles, or the laundry in the dryer (or so she thinks). But she knows there are more important and less time consuming things to do – such as opening boxes full of deliveries (Maggie can be fully left in charge of this task, having never left a box unexamined), or putting phone reservations into the system. Ideally with some supervision for the latter: otherwise she’d be happy to assign room 6 to a guest on the 13th of July when what they wanted was room 16 on the 20th of August. But she’s familiar with keyboards and ipad screens, even if she is likely to fall asleep on them as soon as she is finished.keyboard Maggie

Room deliveries? No problem – with Maggie they’d be faster than ever. She has some of the markings of a cheetah, as well as some of its speed – whether it’s staircases or sprints, corner cuttings, or dashes along straight paths, onto perches, and across obstacles. All while carrying toy mice or fish, of course, and other deliverables to where she thinks they must be. She does expect praise and thank you’s for her deliveries – meaning, room service tips may well become a new reality around here. Not in the form of money, of course: you pay as you play with her instead.

If you’ve stayed with us before, and had to ring the office desk bell before we came in to greet you, know that your wait will be shortened with Maggie in charge: she always loves a good reason to swoop into the office, and check-in will be a breeze. Just a few good whiffs and sniffs, and maybe a payment of chase around the office, and she’ll hand over the keys.

Baking for breakfast? She’d be fine with that too: after all, it relates to eating, one of the main ingredients of her life philosophy. As long as she can bake with butter, that is – and she most certainly could. Probably 90% of our recipes boast butter as a major ingredient, and the freezer usually hosts at least 15 pounds of butter waiting to be whipped into batters. Maggie is always up for a taste of soft or melted butter when she’s in the vicinity. Unlike Oscar, though, a big fan of pumpkin, Maggie would never make pumpkin bread, and therefore probably shouldn’t be in charge of breakfast in the fall.

Maggie would even be happy to perform the occasional plumbing job, at least if it involves faucets, sinks, and showers. Dripping faucets wouldn’t be work for her at all: they’re fun! She’d be pleased to explore additional showers and sinks in the building – the ones she already knows have been getting a bit boring lately.

Maggie has some good marketing ideas as well. Not only has she been spotted on facebook, she’s also thought of various ways to get guests to stay or upgrade to a larger room. Just a sample of her ideas:

  • Room with a view upgrade: rent room 11 or 12, and receive guaranteed twice daily sightings of kitten innkeeper up in the pear tree right outside your window!
  • Soccer player discount: rent any room at half price if you spend at least a half hour a day playing soccer with kitten innkeeper. Bonus dinner coupon if soccer time can take place during average American dinner hours, sometime between 6 and 7:30 p.m. Ask for additional discounts for ad hoc soccer availability; sign up at the front desk.
  • Room with a view / play combo discount: rent a room with view to our patio,  and agree to play laser mouse with Maggie once darkness has fallen. Ask for laser mouse at the office desk, or better yet, bring your own. (And leave it behind: there can never be enough laser mice.)

    up the pear tree!

    Courage or craziness? One-upping Harri on the pear tree

The one thing Maggie Mae will have to insist on is a mid day siesta. She wouldn’t be as sleepy as our other cats when it comes to innkeeping duties, but she definitely needs some long breaks, and early to late afternoon is one of them.  Which means:  none of these pesky early check-ins, unless they have been pre-arranged and can be delegated to someone with a random post lunch wake time, such as…, well, it would have to be one of her humans; none of the other cats can be relied upon to greet early arrivals with anything more than a yawn. Likely Maggie would put a “No early check-ins!” policy firmly in place, and violators would be greeted by a sign saying “please nap on the lawn until the office reopens.”

Maggie would prefer late check-ins to early ones, as long as they don’t interrupt the feline family dinner time sometime shortly after 7.  These minutes demand her full attention – and that of her humans, who need to make sure she lets the other cats finish before their leftovers become the next stages of her four course meal. Would Maggie serve our guests a four course breakfast? It’s not impossible – but more likely she would teach them to procure it themselves. Just make sure, she’ll say, to get your hands on the returning trays and dishes during breakfast – some of these have leftovers on them, from muffin crumbs to yogurt remnants, and sometimes even a half piece of coffee cake someone couldn’t finish.  (Maggie doesn’t believe in wasting food) Guests will think of better ways to make breakfast into a four course meal  – maybe by starting with fruit, continuing to granola, followed by a muffin or a slice of banana bread, and finishing with yogurt. That’s fine with her too – it just wouldn’t have occurred to her.

the four course meal

wrapping up her four course breakfast…

What would Maggie want for the future when it comes to Towne Motel innkeeping? She probably wouldn’t want us, or herself, to be quite as busy as we are in the summer. There should always be plenty of time for play. When there is not enough play time before or after dinner, because of check-ins or breakfast prep, she gets a bit upset. She’d also join Oscar in her desire for a bigger outdoor space so she can do her crazy runs from one end to the other, across plants and furniture and up the pear tree. Oscar could easily sell her on the idea of imploding the garage, pet friendly room above it be damned. (They don’t really care about that room – they know pet friendly usually means dogs. And even when it doesn’t, having another cat on their territory isn’t any better – especially since they don’t even get to know  it). Maggie has noticed indoor expansion options as well, knowing there are doors leading to unknown rooms and hallways – such as the one leading to rooms 16 and 17. And that’s where she will likely agree with her siblings: make 16 and 17 off limits for guests, and turn it into more cat space instead!

No Room at the Inn? How our Cats Would Run Towne Motel

January 28th, 2014 by camdenmotel

Mr. Oscar Nubble

Mr. Oscar Nubble

harri stairscratch

Lady Harriet

tib pic for blogpost

Captain Tibby

As regular readers of this blog might remember, we have three cats, two males and one female, all of them 3-4 years old, none of them entirely sure about our new lives as Camden, Maine innkeepers. When we move from one chore to the other right in front of them, they tell us in no uncertain terms that we either need to stop hustling and bustling, or (if there is really no way to take a break) we need to make cat time a regular item on our list of chores. Maybe instead of complaining, we’ve found ourselves saying, they should take over one day and see how it is. How would it be, if they took turns filling in for us as innkeepers for a few weeks? They’ve let us in on some of their ideas.


Mr. Oscar “No Vacancy” Nubble

Oscar can’t tolerate human commotion, and would prefer never to have guests or housekeepers enter the common areas of our property (actually, he would eliminate common areas). Oscar’s plan, if we understood him correctly, is something like the following:

Cancel breakfast in the breakfast room, and deliver scraps of some sort, or some canned breakfast foods, to the rooms instead. Guests have their Keurigs, they don’t need a spread of choices. Why should they eat better than the cat innkeeper? Guests also need to stick to their own room territories instead of invading cat innkeeper territories. Their eyes, if possible, should stay out of these territories too, meaning the garden view windows of rooms 11-14 will be boarded up. The fence of outdoor cat innkeeper territory will disappear, enabling more productive feline exploration. With more such exploration, cat innkeeper mood will improve, and generous breakfasts can be delivered right to guests’ doors: pigeons and seagulls and chickadees, a nicely chewed mouse, or even an insect on days that call for an appetizer. On Sundays, shredded squirrel could top the Specials Menu. Breakfast will be early, as will checkout time, to accommodate cat innkeeper exhaustion after all night breakfast procuring and delivery.

If inn really needs a housekeeper, keep only K, who always keeps a respectful distance. K. has recently lived with kittens, so she knows how to work for a feline boss.

“Inn style” rooms 16 and 17 (which are part of our 1850 house, but with their own entrance) will be closed permanently and become part of cat innkeeper territory. Garage and Room 18 above it will be dismantled and imploded (noiselessly, if possible) to increase cat innkeeper’s outdoor territory.

Once all current guests and guests with reservations have left, put up the No Vacancy sign, and leave it up for good. Get sign fixed, so that no accidental moves from No Vacancy to Vacancy occur. Change voice message tone to Oscar’s signature trill, and the message itself to No Vacancy. Ever.

Lady Harriet

Harri’s innkeeping would be hands off, live and let live. Within reasonable limits, guests are fine, but they need to remain at a distance. She will be around, but never intrude into breakfast consumption or conversation. Breakfast time would be shortened and postponed till late morning, to accommodate morning bird hunts and cat TV programming; ditto with check-ins, which would otherwise cut into afternoon nap time. Each welcome guest would be greeted with stair scratches in the office. (See photo and blogpost “Cats and Innkeeping,” Dec. 16). Housekeepers G. and L. (who are familiar and friendly, giving treats and belly scratches) would be prioritized, and all kitchen vacuuming would cease for good. G. would have to wash hands in catnip before giving out treats to cat innkeeper; L. would not be allowed to trim nails so belly and chest scratches remain pleasurable. Rooms 16 and 17 will be closed permanently and become part of cat innkeeper territory. Staircase up to these rooms will be carpeted and receive daily scratch treatments.


Captain Tibby

With Tibby in charge, Towne Motel would change its focus – from a place that takes care of its guests to a place where guests can come for cat therapy, de-stressing in the process of taking care of cat innkeeper. Assistant cat innkeepers Oscar and Harri would be fired, and replaced by all-human assistant innkeepers. Guests can come in for breakfast, but offerings should either be consumed quickly or fed to cat innkeeper. Once finished, chosen guests will be allowed to hang around, including in living room, to pet, brush, play and lie down with Tibby.

No cat allergies or dog people will be allowed among guests. Guest intercoms will be installed in rooms so cat innkeeper demands can be heard widely and catered to. All housekeepers can stay, but will have to be retrained to focus more fully on Captain T’s needs and desires. Housekeeper A. will likely remain favorite and will be given more hours. Housekeeper L. will not be allowed to declare cat innkeeper spoiled.

Rates will be raised to reflect value of services received, given inncat Tibby’s prestigious Maine Coon heritage. As a result of cat innkeeper heritage, Towne Motel will be featured prominently in Buy Local publications, and therapy sessions might be extended to locals in the off season, on an hourly basis. Guests can ask to be upgraded to a therapy room with overnight Tibby stays, for a nominal fee (fee might be waived at cat innkeeper’s discretion if all nighter is satisfactory). Occasional specials will include Liedowns with Tibby, 30 minutes for $30, purrs extra, tips (in the form of cat treats, cashews,
or feta cheese) expected.

And finally, of course, rooms 16 and 17 will either be closed permanently and become part of cat innkeeper territory, or will be open to Captain Cat’s visits on a 24 hour basis, as needed. If the latter, doors to these rooms will have to remain open at all times.

Cats and Innkeeping in Camden, Maine

December 16th, 2013 by camdenmotel

mat with cat

Ever since we started to think about buying an inn, we wondered how our cats would take to being innkeepers’ pets. What would be in it for them?

Well, for one, they’d have us home and around to cater to their every need (or so we imagined). And instead of rushing out in the morning and leaving them in 8-10 hours of silence, we’d have more stimulation and activity for them during the day. We used to come home after work, traffic, gym and errands ready to collapse, only to be reminded, first by our welcome mat, then by the now rested and restless cats, that “it’s about TIME we got home.” But they had to move quickly to get our full attention:  it didn’t take long (just un- and repacking, showering, microwaving various things – heat pads, hot toddies, tea, coffee, dinner) before we dissolved into hours of quiet again, dozing or grading or sleeping, the only signs of life coming from the Real Housewives of Bravo and whatever violent Showtime movie Siobhan fell asleep to. They had to squeeze in all their demands – to be let in and out, played with, petted and brushed, chased and fed and treated with Party Mix – into the few hours a day we weren’t prone or out of the house, doing whatever it was we did to put Fancy Feast into their bowls. They didn’t care what that was; they just concluded we can’t be very good hunters if it takes us ten hours a day to bring home one bag of Petsmart stuff a week.


Well, they still don’t care what we do to get food into their bowls. But they do care that they have to be a part of it now. What possesses us suddenly to be home all day (if home is the word for it), yet neither pay them sufficient attention nor let them sleep in peace? Why are strange people milling about our dining room in the morning? Why do other strange (if gradually more familiar) people come into the kitchen and drop off towels or talk about dirty rooms, guests, tips, and even their personal lives? Why do they vacuum and swiffer the kitchen? What’s up with all the unbearable door bells and phone calls? And worst of all, why do we walk past them and say things like, “hold on, I’ll be right with you,” or “Not now, Tibby, but I’ll lie down with you just as soon as I… turn on the lights in room 8 / take the banana bread out of the oven / call the plumber about room 2.”


It’s not that our owners quarters aren’t big enough – they’re not squeezed into a basement or two sunless rooms at the back of the inn, nor are they divvied up into odd portions that no cat, much less a human, could figure out how to live in. (And believe us, we’ve seen versions of all three during our inn search). And we didn’t have to rent or buy a separate house, either  – although the cats will probably soon want us to. Or maybe just a separate yard, a bigger and grassier one, with lots of birds and mice and bugs to kill, and a wooden deck to roll on.


The problem is that our house is semi public for part of the day (the breakfast rooms are behind the office, right between the kitchen and the living room), meaning it took a while for our two less anxious cats to make this dire situation work for them. (The third, very anxious cat, is still figuring it out). At first they were all stuck upstairs, hiding in closet corners, behind the long unpacked boxes, or under the bed – or sitting in window sills plotting escape. Eventually they realized that between 7 pm and 7 am, the coast was generally clear: as long as they made it back upstairs before the first breakfasters invaded, they could get in some outdoor birdwatching in the morning; and after 7 or 8 in the evening, the downstairs has gradually felt safer and become theirs. That’s the time for phantom mice hunts, closet  explorations, rug gymnastics, and the many other things cats do at night that we simply have no clue about.


But what about the 12 hours between the beginning of breakfast and the No Vacancy sign?


Well, we have three cats, and they all spend the day differently:

– anxious, IBS cat who would rather live his life outside, although not in this new, cold, not big enough yard, and who runs and hides at the sound of anything louder than a plastic bag or the sight of anything larger than his own body carried or picked up anywhere close to him

– high maintenance lover cat who has no patience for uninterrupted hours of human multitasking, and who holds grudges bigger than his twenty pounds of fur, especially when phones are answered during a cuddle session

– and quiet, sweet, well adjusted cat, whose one stress reliever is to claw carpeted staircases and litter box liners. (We don’t yet have any such staircases, but she did discover the one carpeted stair in the office, which, if left to her devices, would probably be bare by now).


Anxious cat still spends most of the day upstairs, arming himself only occasionally with extra layers of caution if boredom becomes too extreme and he has to venture into the kitchen or yard (other downstairs areas are too scary before evening). Attempts to pet him during such ventures are futile – trust is in short supply during the day, his little head still full of moving/ driving / being stuffed into a carrier trauma months ago.


Big lover cat has adopted a “whatever”attitude towards all these new people, and even occasionally hits them up for admiration and support (the more listening ears for complaints, the better). When lack of attention becomes too excessive, he sits demonstratively in the middle of a room or close to his filled food bowls, either looking up expectantly (if he is still willing to forgive), or with his back to you (if serious resentment has set in). He’s willing to accept new dry food in either case, but might eat with an air of “see what you made me do – turn to food when I really wanted love.”


Carpet clawing cat made a decision weeks ago to live her life around commotion and make it work for her, Buddha style (or similar). She just does her own thing, chasing birds in the yard or chattering at them from the warm cat tree inside. In the absence of carpeting on our main staircase, carpet cat is now limiting upstairs ventures to litter box trips. She is also wondering why she can’t, like she used to, have at least one litter box in the kitchen. In the meantime, she’s working on dismantling office carpeting and moving it into owners quarters, piece by piece if necessary.


In the off season, innkeepers tend to repairs, updates, and other investments.  New innkeepers with pets, or at least with picky pets like ours, probably have to make pet and guest projects equal priorities. Our first project got done quickly: a larger fenced outdoor  area, and a cat fence on top of the regular fence. Our next one will get done next week (knock on (literal) wood): carpeting the staircase and the upstairs landing. Yup, only 50% of this project is not cat related (noise,warmth, and nostalgia for some carpeting), but that’s ok – it’s about time they felt more like home. And further down the road, we envision some kind of spiral staircase from the bedroom window down to the backyard, so that at least anxious cat can avoid the breakfast crowds altogether and descend directly into the outdoors. But as far as grudging lover cat goes, material investments won’t do. As long as we fail to drop everything for a half hour brushing when demanded, he will sit reproachfully on the old rug in the kitchen, with the same look on his face as the cat on the mat…..telling us that even when we’re home, it might still be high TIME for us to get there.

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