Name: Ana Catarina Rodrigues
Age: 27 years old
Current location: Lisbon, Portugal
City you were born in or raised: Born and raised in Lisboa.
What is your title and name of your business? O Gato Fica (The Cat Stays)
Please tell us more about O Gato Fica. How and why did you come up with this concept? O Gato Fica was born back in July 2014 because we felt a personal need to create a cat sitting service. Even though there were a few petsitting services already at the time, none of them were totally clear about prices, procedures, staff involved, etc. Booking a petsitter would involve many email exchanges about specific factors that would influence prices in a somewhat unpredictable way and it was quite hard to put a face to a name, at least until you decided to confirm your interest.
Adding to this a strong desire to work exclusively with cats and some unexpected time available during those summer months, O Gato Fica was born, and soon became bigger than it was initially conceived to be!
What is the mission of O Gato fica? Our mission is to promote welfare amongst our feline friends. Cats are territorial animals that get easily stressed out when taken out of their familiar environment, with all its smells, sounds, routines, etc. As such, the best for them is the opportunity to stay at home whenever their human housemates leave on holidays, work trips or anything that might take them away from home. The human can go, but what the cat really wants is to stay!
We also strive to spread the word about feline needs, trying to give away information that is accurate, based on scientific knowledge and on all the things we’ve been able to learn after having accomplished more than 8,000 catsitting appointments.
What types of services do you offer in addition to just cat sitting? We have a few other services that focus on helping in other situations. For example, we have a service that helps the owner and the cat to get accustomed to a new family member, like when the owner wants a new cat, we can help with the process of introducing the two of them, so it’ll go the best way possible. The same applies for dogs, other pets, or even a baby!
We can take the cats to the veterinarian when the owner doesn’t have time/can, or we can take them to the groomers or whatever else the kitty needs. We have a consult about feline behavior that aims to help the cats and owners with some problems that they might have.
We also sell some of our recommended products. It’s not our main focus, but since there were a lot of people asking us for product recommendations, we tried to facilitate access to those same products.
Why did you decide to take care of cats and not dogs? The majority of animal services and business here are aimed for dogs, even though they say it’s aimed for pets in general. The truth is that the cats are frequently underappreciated in the veterinary community. There are so many things to do when caring for a dog (socialization, puppy classes and so on), that the cats are often neglected. As a cat lover (and owner of two), I think it’s very important for me to believe that the people who are taking care of them also understands them. This might sound strange, but only a person who has (or had) a cat really understands how a cat “works” as they are different from dogs and they have their own necessities. We really wanted to show that we are devoted to understanding cats and to help them anyway we can.
What is your educational or work background that helped you with your pet sitting business? Both of us have psychology degrees, which is very interesting and certainly helps when dealing with people and animals. I have a criminal psychology background (Bachelor’s Degree) and a Master’s in clinical psychology and Joana, my business partner, has a Bachelor’s Degree in general psychology. Then, Joana started studying veterinary medicine and she’s now ending her thesis, giving her a Master’s Degree, too. When I graduated from the Master’s program, I wanted to know about animal behaviour so I completed a post-graduate in animal behaviour and welfare. We always try our best to be at the top of the feline sciences, taking new courses on feline medicine and behaviour.
How do you want to grow your business? For now, our aim is to be able to get to as many cats as possible in the Greater Lisbon area, providing a quality service you can trust and that is reasonably affordable.
Any advice for other young entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses from their passions? If you are lucky enough to find a passion that you can mold into a business, be sure to be consistent and reliable. Also, be sure that efficient services aren’t the ones who say “yes” to everything, but the ones who learn how to say “no” in an assertive and respectful manner. Defining clear lines and procedures from the start—or at least as early as possible once you get a grasp on what the market and your limitations impose—will help you in sharing with your clients what is and isn’t acceptable. It will also help you out on avoiding situations you don’t want to find yourself in and that might end up harming your business and yourself as a person.
Do you own any pets? Tell us about them! Yes I do! I have one dog and two cats! I love them dearly: Mishka is the oldest (8), she’s a beautiful a chubby black cat. She was abused as a kitty by a child whose mother felt sorry for her, so she took Mis to the nearest petshop and left her there. Thankfully we found her, because no one wanted her for being an adult black cat. From the beginning, she was well loved, but she was terrified of people—she even faked being dead so we’d leave her alone! It was quite a journey for her to feel safe around humans again. Took about 2 years for her to lose some fears (like heights), but nowadays she is really happy and always resting in our lap and purring. Kami (4) was very important for Mis, he’s a tabby cat, and he is really dependent on her and me. He loves Mis so much, and she ended up loving him back. They’ve been best friends since the beginning and I love to see them so happy together. Well, the newest member came to the family almost by mistake. I’ve always been a cat person, but a family member found a newborn puppy in the trash—she was the sole survivor, and between caring for the puppy and all the dedication necessary for caring for a newborn puppy, we ended up falling in love and couldn’t give her back to anyone else. So now I also have a dog, her name is Night (3) and Mis and Kami received her well enough. Now, when I come home, I have 3 happy pets waiting for me, and it’s one of the best things in my life ☺
What are three things everyone should know before buying or adopting a pet? It’s important to really think about the commitment you’re about to do. A pet is part of your family and it shouldn’t be considered any less. First of all, you should think about the lifestyle you lead. Are you an active person? Do you work long hours away from home? These questions are important in the matter of choosing between a cat and a dog, but also between choosing an active dog or a companion dog, for example. There are many people that choose their pets based on their looks and that often leads to problems. Then, you should really think what kind of financial commitment you want to have. Caring for a pet involves some spending, and thinking about their wellbeing. It’s important to give them good food and take them to the vet when they’re ill (and caring for them in your absence), and all of this involves money. Lastly, it’s important to understand the pet you have. If it’s a cat, then think about what you can do to make sure it’s a happy kitten. There are lots of ways to improve you cats wellbeing, such as environmental enrichment. Sometimes people forget that the needs of a pet aren’t the same as people needs, and it’s important not to anthropomorphize your pet and understand that it has different needs.
Tell us about Lisbon! What’s it like living in Lisbon, especially now with all of the new tourists compared to a few years ago? Has it changed? I love Lisbon. I think it’s one of the most beautiful cities. It has a lot of history and because it’s near the river, I think it’s really beautiful. I think that if i didn’t like my city, it would be a little more difficult to work the way we do, because we are always driving around, and sometimes it’s not uncommon to just stop to drink some tea/coffee and sightsee some beautiful parts of Lisbon.
There has been a change when it comes to the tourism, mostly at the center of the city. As you know, Lisbon is not huge, and all the tourists want to see the same key point of the city, which is understandable, but I don’t think our city was prepared for so many people in one place.
Nowadays there are lots of buildings being restored as hotels and the center of the city have been through a massive makeover to accommodate the tourism. This has its ups and downs. Now it’s a bit more difficult to work in the center of the city, but it created new job opportunities. I really welcome everyone to know a little about Lisbon. I think we have a beautiful city to visit and take a few days off.
Give us a few insider Lisbon places to go when we’re in town:
What is the best café? Somehow we became great fans of Café Com Calma, near Braço de Prata. They have quality food, an amazing chocolate mousse pie and a nice retro ambience.
Favorite Portuguese dish to eat? Maybe our grilled fish, it’s very fresh if you choose a good restaurant! We also have great seafood if you know where to go.
Best place to go for a drink? Lisbon is called the Seven Hill’s City, which allows for some amazing viewpoints all over town. Just grab your favourite bottle of wine, get some good company and you’re in for an astonishing sunset with an amazing view over our beautiful city.
Activity to do or see in town? Visit the sightseeing of Miradouro de Santa Catarina and Castelo de S. Jorge. I also love Belem and Gulbenkian. I love to sightsee in Lisbon, even if I’m always around as the city never loses its beauty.
Favorite beach in Portugal? Nowadays, Algarve, famous for its beaches, is quite spoilt with all the tourism. If you’re into having a more private moment by the sea, just head down the Costa Alentejana (also called Costa Vicentina) and keep stopping along the coast until you find your favourite spot. You’ll get to know dozens of wonderful beaches with their own special identity. Even better, they haven’t been swept away with by mass touristic makeovers.
Your other favorite city or town in Portugal that tourists should visit? I love the North of Portugal. I know that the majority of people visit the south because of our beaches and I agree, it’s worth it. But the North is beautiful. If your search for Peneda-Gerês National Park, you can see a little bit of what I’m talking about. Also, the Douro Valley and Porto are really beautiful. I really appreciate a nice view!
Read Ana Catarina’s “Principles of Cat Behavior” article to learn more about why cats behave the way they do!