Every small business owner has had a moment when she thinks, uh-oh, this is a slow stretch.
For Sarah and Josh Brunner of Hamburg, that time was in October.
"We had five days in October and we didn't have any cats in here," Sarah Brunner said.
And when you're running a feline hotel, you want it filled with cats.
Luckily for them, that was a temporary blip, and the Cat's Pajamas Feline Hotel – with its peach and yellow walls and murals, four large "luxury" rooms and other separate enclosures – has been busy since then.
Josh Brunner spent his high school and college years working at his father's restaurant, Brunner's Eatery in North Boston, so he knows the ups and downs that come with a small business and the hard work that is needed to make it. He met his wife when both were working at Evans Bank, and they celebrated their first wedding anniversary New Year's Eve.
He now works in risk assurance at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Western New York and is also on the board of Western New York Adaptive Water Sports. He and his wife help organize events for the group that provides waterfront access to those with disabilities and special needs. He said he's been involved with the group since he was in rehab after contracting mononucleosis, which left him paraplegic.
There are several other feline-only boarding facilities in Erie County. The Brunners bought their feline hotel from a woman who was retiring. They were looking for a house to buy and came across the business in a two-story frame building set back from South Buffalo Street in the Village of Hamburg. They took ownership in May, and live about a mile away.
Josh Brunner, 29, takes care of most of the administrative work, and Sarah, 30, who has had a passion for animals her entire life, takes care of the cats. He said the motto of their business is "When you're away, your cat should play."
They've had people boarding cats just for a day, while an apartment was being fumigated or new windows were being installed in a home, or the owner was having surgery. They've also had cats staying up to three months.
And that makes it hard when the cats leave. Sarah Brunner, who grew up in Sunset Bay, gets attached to her charges.
"The second hardest thing is being attached to them and them going home and not knowing if they're going to board again," she said.
The hardest thing, she said, was getting to know one cat that had recently been diagnosed as diabetic, and who got insulin shots twice a day.
"He was wonderful, the family was wonderful, and just shortly ago, a couple months ago, they had to put him down. It was like losing one of my own," she said.
Sarah Brunner said Sunset Bay used to be a "dumping ground" for cats, and her family used to take the cats in and raise them.
"My mom taught me how to bottle feed," she said.
She also worked in a pet store and was a house sitter for pets. Then she started rescuing cats herself, adopting out about a dozen kittens. She learned how to administer diabetic shots and fluids, in addition to any oral and topical medications the cats may need.
While older, the building is bright, quiet and does not smell like cats or cat litter. Each cat gets individual exercise and attention time.
"This is a much better setting for a cat, because they don't hear dogs, they don't smell dogs, they're not around dogs. They're a lot more calm and happy," she said.
Being good at handling cats requires reading the body language.
"I've gotten really good at reading the body language of the cat. What are the ears doing, what are the eyes doing, what is the body doing, what's the tail doing," she said. "I call it their love language. If you respond to their love language and you show them affection and love the way they want it, not the way that you want to give it, they tend to be a lot happier and a lot more comfortable."