Checking in to Cornwall's boutique cat hotel
PUBLISHED: 10:57 22 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:17 22 January 2019
There are few creatures in this world that are harder to please than the household cat – so creating a boutique cat hotel in the Cornish countryside was no small matter, discovers Abby Driver
When Gemma and Richard Machin couldn’t find a suitable cattery for their beloved cat Wish, it sparked an idea: they would build one themselves. The result? Meadow Cat Hotel – a luxury boutique hotel for cats. ‘Of course at the time if you said you’re going to build a hotel for cats people would think you’re mad. Until it’s built and you see the demand – then it seems an obvious idea,’ says Richard.
The stars aligned as Gemma was looking to leave her teaching career and start her own business; they just so happened to have a pony paddock across from their house. ‘We had this vision of the cats sitting on the windowsill looking at nature and being entertained by it,’ she says. So the pair set to work designing their perfect cat hotel and this is precisely what makes Meadow Cat Hotel stand out from the crowd. It has so clearly been created by people who own, love and understand cats. And this sentiment has been officially recognised as the hotel has just been awarded the maximum five-star rating by Cornwall Council.
Take the building; it has been designed in an L shape so that each cat suite can enjoy a glorious view across the meadow. Inside is free of the materials often associated with a cattery; there is no wire mesh or concrete floors in this cosy and solid build. Instead guests can pad about on underfloor heating and enjoy a constant supply of fresh meadow air from the ventilation system. Inside each suite, cats are treated to fun climbing furniture, wrought iron beds decked out with luxurious bedding and plenty of toys. At dinner time there is a menu to choose from – including gourmet options – and any cardio loving cats are well catered to with the brand new exercise wheel. ‘It’s nicer than our house to be honest,’ says Richard. ‘Warmer than our house definitely,’ adds Gemma.
But it’s not just about fun and frivolity here; Gemma and Richard take their jobs as custodians incredibly seriously. ‘We hear a lot of horror stories about catteries which goes as far as them losing the cat or the cat coming back with cat flu. It baffles us because of course we don’t have any of that and we can’t see how you would allow your precious family member to be exposed to that,’ says Richard.
To put the owners’ minds at rest all cat guests must be fully vaccinated, the hotel has double-entry door systems internally and CCTV monitored visitor entrances. ‘I’m here at 6.45am serving breakfast and then I’m back here about 8.30am and Richard is helping me cleaning the rooms. We give all of the rooms a thorough brush through, changing the litter trays, giving the cats a little cuddle. And then at 10am the customers start arriving,’ says Gemma. Speaking of cleaning, hygiene too is taken very seriously. ‘Even though the materials are all hygienic – it’s all plastic and glass – it has to be cleaned and disinfected between cats. For example, the windows would get cleaned, disinfected and then polished,” says Richard. ‘And then polished again by you because I’ve not done it nicely enough,’ adds Gemma!
While this level of care and attention may surprise some, there is clearly a market for it. ‘We do see a fair amount of owners that have never left their cats – in fact have never gone on holiday before,’ says Richard. ‘It’s a challenge for them just to visit us. Before they’ve got to us they’ve only seen the website or heard about it. But when they cross the threshold you can kind of see the relief in their face – like ‘oh, this is nice’.’
New customers are also delighted to discover ‘cat cam’ which allows them to see their cat in real time via their phone or computer while they are away. Gemma and Richard also send email updates and often post photographs to social media. ‘I think it works well – it must work well because we have a great customer base and lots of interest every day. We only have 18 rooms which is a nice number and was chosen purposefully so that we get to know each of our cat guests really well. By now we’ve seen some guests around 20 times,’ says Richard.
Nicola Purves first heard about the hotel through her work at City Road Veterinary Centre. ‘I came and had a look and thought it looked great compared to normal catteries. I like Basil to be somewhere where there aren’t a lot of noisy dogs and I’m really pleased with it,’ she says. ‘I used the cat cam the first time. I was obsessed with it – I was on holiday and I kept looking at it. I didn’t do it after that because I know he’s happy and they put photos up and send updates. Basil loves it! I thoroughly recommend it – there’s nowhere else like it.’
As well as the unbeatable facilities and services, customers also love the fact Gemma and Richard truly get cats. ‘The website made me want to find out more information, but what clinched it was that I sent numerous emails and made numerous phone calls to reassure myself before I booked. Not once did Richard or Gemma make me feel like I was being a nuisance – in fact they were only too happy to answer every single question,’ says Julie DeMarini. ‘It truly is a cat hotel, not a cattery. Luxurious, super clean and beautifully appointed rooms and second to none care of their charges by Richard and Gemma.’
And Richard and Gemma wouldn’t swap their cat-centric life for anything. While the hours can be long and holidays hard to come by, it’s worth it. ‘It’s really lovely actually to have a family business. To be in control and just to be able to cuddle cats – it’s not a bad day job at all! It doesn’t seem like work,’ says Gemma.
‘It’s a big investment, but it’s the only way we’d be happy to do it because anything less is a compromise,’ says Richard.
Or get in touch on social media! You can find the Meadow Cat Hotel on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pg/MeadowCatHotel/