I ended 2020 by writing that the milestones for my cat consulting business were continuing to accumulate. Before that list becomes too lengthy, I want to share milestones from the past few months, the biggest being my first paying clients. Read on to hear all my exciting news!
Develop New Working Relationships
Back in my days as a book review blogger, I felt honored when authors, publicists, and/or publishers contacted me about a review. It showed that my name and my work were getting recognized. By the same token, I felt honored when Elizabeth Burr of Preferred Pet Partners emailed me for a meeting. When we met, we discussed the possibility of swapping blog posts and also of helping to promote our respective businesses. Elizabeth runs a pet care business, which offers pet sitting and dog walking in the Lincoln and Omaha areas. She also does small business coaching for people interested in starting pet related businesses. (See my interview with Eliza here, and hers with me here.)
I also felt honored when a fellow cat behavior consultant from out of state contacted me regarding a case. She’d been accepting referrals from the Beatrice Humane Society, but the latest was for an aggression case, and she thought it should be handled by someone who could perform a home visit. In addition, BHS itself was interested in developing a working relationship with an in-state cat behavior consultant. I followed up by calling the shelter manager and then paying a visit to BHS. (See my interview with Carlee here.) As a result of that contact, my business info is now being placed in all outgoing adoption packets from BHS!
Add Bookcases to My Upstairs Office
Upon graduating from IAABC’s Animal Behavior Consulting course this past fall, I rewarded myself with a collection of animal behavior books. For several months those books sat unused in a box because my library had no bookcases upon which to shelve them. Thanks to the generosity of my father-in-law, Andy and I were able to recently about to outfit the second floor of our house in December with bookcases, two of which hold an extensive collection of animal books. Now, whenever I’m at my office desk working on a case, I can swivel around in my chair and pick out a cat behavior book for information.
Buy A Cat Vest And Other Cat Supplies
There have been other notable changes to my office, which is outside my library. Hanging on the back of my chair is a cat trainer vest. The vest has numerous pockets for carrying treats, clickers, and other small items. I wear the vest whenever I visit clients or teach cat classes. Atop the bannister are cat figurines, a gift from Andy for Christmas. Next to my desk is a basket filled with sample cat toys and puzzle feeders that I use to show to clients and students. In addition, there is a trunk next to my desk which contains cat supplies that I might want to demo. Slowly but surely the upstairs is being filled with all things cat.
Create New Templates
The way that I handle my cat behavior consults has dramatically changed since the fall, thanks to the feedback from Sarah Smith and Pam Hoffman, to whom I provided free services. I’ve learned not to simply ask questions based on the Intake Questionnaire but to also head into a visit armed with a camera and a checklist. In addition, instead of just offering advice off the top of my head, I also bring a packet of information for the client and treats for the cat(s). When I started, I had no idea how to structure a behavior plan other than to outline the needs and then list ideas of how those needs might be addressed. My current plans summarize behavior data that we’ve collected, suggest strategies for changing the antecedents, provide directions for teaching new cat behaviors, and explain the research-based principles behind my plan. Finally, when I started, I didn’t do any follow-up except to address any concerns through email. In contrast, these days I provide clients with a week-by-week implementation plan outlined in a Google Document, which allows us to track progress and adjust in a timely manner.
Learn New Software
As December drew to an end, I had one goal left for 2019, and that was to learn how to use a financial software package. Based on a recommendation from Ingrid Kirst (Ingrid Kirst Consulting), who is a fellow entrepreneur and a close friend, I decided to try Wave. My first step was to list all my expenses to date, so that I had those ready for taxes. My next step was to create an invoice. It was easy to set up a bill that listed client’s name, their email address, and the service requested. It was tougher to figure out how to charge taxes and how to connect the software to my bank account. With all this done, I was ready just in time for my first clients.
First Paying Clients
2020 started with a splash! I received inquiries from not just one but four cat owners, all who were willing to pay for my services. One lady had recently adopted a new cat and wanted advice on how to create the best indoor environment for him. She hired me by the hour. The other three owners had cats with aggression issues. I’d originally not intended to accept these, due to my being the least experienced with this behavior. Thanks to Sara Smith, I spent a lot of the fall researching aggression issues and now embrace those cases.
Enroll in New Classes
With the onset of 2020, my one immediate goal was to improve my credentials. I’m currently enrolled in two year-long programs. At the end, I’ll be certified in low-stress handing of pets and in clicker-training cats. Interspersed with those studies, I’m also taking webinars on kitten care, cat behavior, and community cat programs. One of those, Feline Behavior Solutions, has resulted in the opportunity to work with a cat at a vet clinic.
Hold Kitten Kindergarten in our Basement
Even before I decided to start my cat behavior consulting business, I’d been interested in bringing Kitten Kindergarten to Lincoln. In January, I set up our basement for my first kitten kindergarten. It ran for three weeks and had a total of six adults and two kittens. You can read more details at Lincoln Pet Culture and (if in Nebraska) sign up for the next class at Eventbrite.
Meet New People and Visit New Places
Since starting my business, I’ve met a lot of new people and visited a lot of new places. I’m far less timid now about driving in Lincoln. I just pull out my GPS and drive. One consult even took me out of town, and so maybe one day I’ll also have more confidence around driving around the state too. I’m also far less timid about talking to strangers. A benefit of talking to strangers is that sometimes I’ll learn something new. One lady recently introduced me to cat tents, which seems like a very economical way to provide safe outdoor time for cats. Being a cat behavior consultant has helped me (in the same way blogging did) to become part of Lincoln.
As I have all along, I’ll continue to write about my experiences at Lincoln Pet Culture. How I will juggle everything I don’t yet know, and there may be weeks that I have to skip posting articles. For the moment, my current plan is to post one article, one interview, and one pet book review per week. The latter will be recycled from a former blog of mine. The article will in all likelihood, about my cat studies, and (to keep things balanced) the interview will be about the dog world. As always, thank you for following my journey!