Cat Vet Dr Kim Kendall and her 8 cats run a cat cafe, find out who’s the boss?

Cat Vet Dr Kim at her multi-cat cafe

Dr Kim and Sasha at the Chatswood Cat Palace Purrfection cafe

Move over dog lovers, it is all about the feline species for Dr Kim Kendall, also known as ‘Cat Vet’.  Dr Kim graduated as a veterinary scientist from Sydney University last century. She travelled the world for many years until a passion for cat medicine took hold. After further studies, Kim established her first cat clinic on Sydney’s North Shore in 1994.  Dr Kim is a world expert in feline friendly care, one of only two cat-only vets in Sydney and the only cat vet in Australia qualified in cat behaviour.

Dr Kim opened the Chatswood Cat Palace vet clinic and the Purrfection Cat Café over a year ago.  The café’s residents are Ralph, Sasha, Patch, Boyo, Fifi, Ben, Smoky, Snowy and Madge.  We reveal who’s the boss and Dr Kim shares her top tips on how to keep cats happy in a multi-cat household.

Who’s the boss? What is it about cats you love?

Dr Kim: I have a deep and abiding respect for all animals, I even find fish interesting. What I like about cats is they are compact, proper urban dwellers and they do well in the city.  As long as you follow their rules then you can have a very happy life with a cat. They purr and they’re furry.  I have that human tendency to be with an animal that is furry.  And, well they just are!

Who’s the boss? What pets did you have growing up, did you have a favourite?

Dr Kim: I had a cat, dog (Corgi), horse and some fish growing up.  We lived in the outer suburbs so my mother also had chickens.  My horse was the biggest commitment and probably was my favourite.  The cat was just there, which was typical of the attitude towards cats at the time.  He only lived to about 9 years old. I got a kitten but it didn’t work out well with our cat, so I learned the hard way what not to do with cats.

I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was 7 years old. I used to bring home stray animals including cats and rabbits.  My parents were very accommodating with my strays.  I think they were key to my love and learning about other species.

Who’s the boss? How many cats do you have at the Cat Café? What are their stories?

Dr Kim: The cats at the Purrfection cat café are from various places, pet rescue websites, a couple are from Animal Welfare League (AWL) and three are from a friend in Mudgee, NSW who trains cats for TV. We decided to have six but we ended up with eight cats who regularly ‘work’ in the Café.

Cat Vet cat Fifi playing at the multi-cat cafe

Two year old Fifi loves to play at the Purrfection Cat Cafe

We got Ralph the Ragdoll because his 94 year owner went into a retirement home.  He is high maintenance but most Ragdolls are.  We got Sasha from a pet rescue website. She had been fostered by a man who didn’t know much about cats. Her fur was in poor condition and she had lots of fleas.  Patch has Feline Aids so he has to be kept indoors.  Boyo was found in a building site, we tried to contact the owner through his microchip details but the owner never answered back.  Fifi was rescued from being potentially drowned by a neighbour in Mudgee.  Ben is 12 year old with arthritis. He was the face of Friskies when he was young.  Smoky is a very pleasant 9 year old who had spent a few years in shelters.  Snowy was being fostered by AWL and she joined the café after looking after several sets of kittens.  Madge is a recent addition also from AWL.  Madge is cheerful but we won’t let her out in the café until she gets used to the smell of the other cats.

They all get on well in the cat café environment.  The secret is to have a cat that is to be calm and happy around people, and not worried about other cats.  We have a strict routine so they know what’s happening on a day to day basis.

If you are thinking of getting a cat, I recommend adult cats because what you see is what you get.  Cat Vet Dr Kim Kendall

Kittens, while more malleable, are also much busier, and can default to a feral temperament (there is a genetic component to cat ‘purr-sonalities’) or can be accidently trained to be vicious, especially if kept without a feline companion in a unit.  Also, adults already know about litter trays and scratching posts!

Who’s the boss? The saying goes ‘Dogs have masters and cats have staff’, is this true?  Who’s the boss in the Purrfection cat café?

Dr Kim: Cats were once worshipped as gods and cats have never forgotten that! That is pretty much their attitude.  Cats only have enough brain power to understand that they are centre of the universe, like toddlers.  What that means is that cats think that everybody else knows what they are thinking.  If they think people are worthwhile enough, they will manipulate them to get what they want.  Cats have the reputation of being aloof but there are selfless cats. There are stories where cats have helped saved human lives.  I know of a young cat that woke up his owners when they were asleep upstairs, while downstairs house was on fire. The cat went into the baby’s room, sat there and cried so the firemen could find the baby. Unbelievable!

So, who’s the boss at the cat café, it would have to be Sasha. Known as ‘The Princess’, she sits around and supervises everybody. She doesn’t get ruffled by stuff and she whinges to get what she wants.  There is no hierarchy but Sasha is the one we attend to first, just because of the noise!

Who’s the boss? What is your tip for multi-cat households?

Dr Kim: It is optimal to have two kittens and a scratching post and they will do very well.  They will provide enough psycho-social stimulation for each other.  Problems occur when people get one cat then another cat then another cat and so forth. The cats tend not to be related and different ages, which leads to disruption.

I define multi-cat households as three or more cats and this is when you start to get inter-cat problems.  Cats that were once friendly with each other can fall out.  In a household with three or more cats, often one or two cats will not like each other.

My big tip for multi-cat household is that each cat has its own resting place, toilet and food so they are not competing for resources. Cat Vet Dr Kim Kendall

Create get away zones for the cats.  I recommend getting Jackson Galaxy’s book Catification.  His concept is to create different routes to access different resources so one cat can take the high route and the other the low route. Then they don’t have to interact with each other and therefore minimise stress and potential behavioural problems.

My final tip is if you have behavioural problem in your multi-cat household, don’t hope it will go away, it will get worse.  Deal with it early!


Cathy Beer