The feline boarders at a new Hawke's Bay cattery have really got it made, with their own bedroom.

One of about 16 catteries being used to home cats while their owners are on holiday, Dublin Bay Boutique Accommodation for Cats was opened in September by Lilla Gilbertson who with husband Jeremy converted a spare room in their Havelock North home, where Mrs Gilbertson also provides child care services for a small number of preschoolers.

It's some sort of purr-fect fit, but even the catlover was surprised by the appeal of a boutique cattery in the area, quickly finding the 15 licensed spaces for the pawed lodgers fully-booked for various lengths of stay over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.
"We are full-up," she said just before Christmas as she prepared for the latest guests.
"It's madness."

Yesterday she said the communal living arrangement — three "rooms" (including an enclosed porch) with individual sleeping arrangements — had worked well.

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"We do gauge them so that we can tell," she said. "There have been a few hisses, but, touch wood, there haven't been any fights."

Perhaps learning from the experience of looking after children, she says she runs a tight ship. "We feed them all in the morning, but some like to nibble away. But I do like them all in bed by 9pm....That's when the light goes out."

She has her own cats, a burmese named Sophie and Ebony the black long-hair, but she does establish other favourites, including a "beautiful big" meng kun, and a Siamese named Mr Darcy, who's chocka with character. "He's a crazy cat," she said. "He's the boss."

Then there's the "stroppy" one who just about gets away with it, because her "mother" calls her "Madam".

Christmas wasn't quite the usual Christmas for mein host, ditching the traditional turkey for a barbecue, which seemed more practical in the circumstances.

The greatest beneficiaries were possibly the cats, for having had the chance to watch a bit of TV and listen to music on the radio, they enjoyed the extra visitors and the offering of the day.

"Yes," Mrs Gilbertson said. "I think they had some steak."