Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Myers.
Hi Kelly, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
In June 2010, with a whopping six months of professional experience in pet sitting and dog walking, I bootstrapped my own sitting business the “Cat Lady of Frederick.” With very little reputation and advertising to lean on, the calls started rolling in, except they weren’t what I was hoping for. I was expecting “Please feed my cat while I’m on vacation,” or “My dog needs walking three times a week.” Instead I got:
“My cat needs a new home. He won’t use the litter box.”
“Do you know anyone who will take a sweet tabby? My daughter moved in and my cat is bullying her cat.”
I even got one that said, “I need to get rid of my cat. He won’t stop waking me up at 5 am and I’ve had it!”
I would calmly explain to these callers that I was a pet sitter, not a cat rescue, and would give them tips on how to improve their cats’ behavior issues. I pleaded with them not to resort to rehoming or declawing, citing the massive cat overpopulation in our area with very few no-kill shelter options.
Over the next nine years, my business reputation grew. Not only was The Cat Lady recognized as the sitting and walking business I had envisioned, but we also earned notoriety such as the Frederick News Post “Best of the Best” reader’s choice award. However, those pesky calls for rehoming still trickled in occasionally, troubling my heart and my mind.
Meanwhile, I was growing out of my identity as a pet sitter. Even on days when I was administering life-saving subcutaneous fluid to an animal with kidney issues or when a client reported their dog walked “SO much better!” after spending time with me, I had this nagging feeling that I have much more talent and ability to offer my community.
In the spring of 2018, I went to Jackson Galaxy’s Cat Camp in New York City and there it dawned on me: I was born to be an animal behaviorist! I saw presentations by Beth Adelman and Dr. Mikel Delgado that resonated with me both intellectually and emotionally, and it felt like stepping stones were falling into place in front of me to guide me to my new career goal.
I enrolled in the University of Washington’s Certificate in Applied Animal Behavior beginning the fall of 2018. The gap over the summer between my decision to study animal behavior and the first day of school at UW felt tediously long to my overflowing enthusiasm. To get a head start on my studies, I read every behavior book I could get my hands on, became a Dognostics Collaborative Care Partner, joined the Pet Professional Guild and binge-watched their webinars. I nearly doubled my pet setting staff so I could reassign sits and walks to them, making my primary focus running the office with time allowed for school and behavior work.
I completed the UW-AAB certificate in nine months and became a Fear Free Certified trainer. The certificate refreshed my research skills in peer-reviewed literature, originally imprinted by my BA in psychology and my MS in strategic leadership. I began offering pro bono and discounted behavior consultations to rescues and clients, respectively, improving animal introductions, relationships, and home environments.
I partnered with the Frederick Friends of our County Animal Shelter and Tip Me Frederick to provide free consultations to adopters who discovered behavior problems in their newly adopted companion animals. A new K.A.T. (kitties, adoptions, treats) café featuring 15 adoptable cats from Frederick County Animal Control at a time opened in New Market. The café owner, Diane Foland, booked me to train her staff and teach classes to patrons. Additionally, I composed a detailed introduction plan for the first 15 cats transitioning from the shelter to the café and any new cats thereafter.
Finally, I have been trained as a missing cat consultant by Mission Reunite and the Missing Animal Response Network. I have applied and will be interviewed for an exciting new opportunity through the Unitarian Universalist Church as an animal chaplain. This volunteer position provides support for animal guardians through milestones, palliative care, and the grieving process.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
In a word, no.
March 24, 2020 was my 39th birthday. Unbeknownst to me, that was one of the last days my companion animal care business, Cat Lady of Frederick would be operating. By March 30, I wrote letters of authorization for my sitters and dog walkers to be out as essential workers. By April 1, we had canceled the entirety of what would have been the most profitable spring in Cat Lady history.
The first week in April was incredibly frustrating for everyone in world and for me as my Type A business owner personality looked for something to manage. Deep cleaning for spring? Check. Gourmet vegan meals from scratch? Every night. Working out? Like a machine.
By week 2, I had relaxed a bit. Government help was on the way. I allowed myself to sleep until 7:30 am and stopped changing out of my pajamas in the morning. I watched as other sitting companies struggled to stay afloat, offering any service they could including grocery pickup.
In week 3, I had to come clean with a very big secret: My business had been listed for sale since 2019. With the onset of the pandemic, a profitable sale was not going to happen. Not only was I grieving for my monthly income, but also for my big payday that was supposed to come after ten years of small business grit.
Then I logged in to Facebook and saw it. My dog groomer was permanently closing her doors. I called right away to check on her and her chipper voice said, “Everything is great!” Huh? She realized she wasn’t happy with the daily grind of running her dog salon and took advantage of the opportunity to close.
Then the postcard came. My realtor was handing down her role to her assistant. She loved us all, but her heart was really in her investment properties. I recognized her struggle as she kindly explained how competent her assistant was and to please redirect interest in buying and selling to her.
By June, I knew there was no way I could go back to running the Cat Lady. Like my realtor and groomer, I was just too happy and de-stressed without it. Professional women just like us were stepping into our power and closing the doors to our home offices. Saying no to any potential business prospects is nearly impossible for entrepreneurs. And this was one giant, final “No.”
Did you know that the words “reaction” and “creation” have the same letters? It’s the same moment, the same energy, but your choice can shift the power from external motivations back to you.
I established my feline humane education business, Best Behavior. I envisioned my future and summoned it from the embers of the Cat Lady. My vision board had a picture of a phoenix rising front and center. I felt energized, terrified, and imaginative all at once. Then I recognized this was the same entrepreneurial spirit that gave birth to the Cat Lady a decade ago. Tapping into this new beginning, I know what struggles the future has in store for Best Behavior and that there will be many surprises I can’t predict.
Yes, it feels amazing to step into your power and take control of your future. But reality dictates that it won’t be easy. I am privileged to have the opportunity to create a new business, but that doesn’t pay the rent. I took a second job while Best Behavior grows, much like I did when I first started the Cat Lady. Success doesn’t come overnight. It comes with the determination to fulfill your passion. It comes from seven days work week. It comes from believing in your dream when no one else does. It comes from driving clear across the county because that’s where you finally landed a client.
As we all take advantage of the sacred pauses in life, I hope we can discover and take those tiny steps that take us down our intentionally set paths. Let’s go get the future of our own creation.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Best Behavior offers missing cat recovery, humane education, and behavior sessions for cat guardians and rescues. I am known for my emphasis on Fear Free behavior solutions, exhausting positive reinforcement strategies before all others. I follow the principles of LIMA: Least Intrusive Minimally Aversive training.
In-home or Online Behavior Sessions for Cat Guardians:
Litter box aversion
Addressing a single behavior (e.g., waking you up too early, bolting, counter surfing)
Prevention of unwanted behaviors
Educational Training for Businesses:
Fear Free practices and certification
How products you already sell can address cat behavior issues
How to make your business more cat friendly
Behavior Assistance for Rescue Organizations
I am happy to offer low/no cost help to 501(c)3 rescue organizations including:
Clicker training adoptable cats to approach and high five adopters
Desensitizing adoptable cats to nail trimming so they can keep their claws
In-home consultations for high maintenance adoptions
Kitten Kindergarten classes at your location
Volunteer training classes
We love surprises, fun facts and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
That I’m introverted! My Myers-Briggs personality type is INFJ, known to be “fake extroverts.” My work involves a lot of time and communication with people, so the assumption is often that I want to spend loads of time out socially. While I enjoy getting to know my people and cat clients, I need my quiet time at home as well.
- Website: www.bestbehaviorcats.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bestbehaviorcats/
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChiOOQq60k_ck0YuGyJwEHg