Here kitty, kitty, kitty ... If your dear one has been dining out of a castoff human dish, this is a perfect time to upgrade. Specialty pet supplies with aesthetic flair, such as this ceramic cat-food bowl, are available at pet boutiques and stores around the island. This one, from Naturally Pets on Ward Avenue, sells for $20.99.

Dedicated sitters welcome
furry and feathered friends

From treats to training, more businesses
cater to the modern pet set

Gifts for pampered pets

By Joleen Oshiro

What's the sense of keeping a bird in a gilded cage? Along the same lines, your pup could have every new treat known to dogdom, your cat, balls of string in every color, but what they want -- and need -- most of all is love and attention.

Pet owners the world over answer these needs with millions of belly rubs to compensate for the hours spent away at work. They've exercised the body, mind and spirit of their furry friends with lessons of "sit," "stay" and "fetch" in nearly every language.

RING-A-LING: Gift your feathered friend with a toy made especially to provide challenge and stimulation. Ring-a-Ling is eight inches of hardwood turnings and plastic and straw beads, with a bell at the bottom. Nalani Toys -- online at -- sells the item for $9.

The 21st-century pet owner, however, has taken love-and-attention matters up a notch. Plain belly rubs don't cut it when there are professionals to do the job at doggy day care. "Sit," "stay" and "fetch" lessons are delivered sans reprimands. The replacements? Pats and snacks. Today's pets can receive care and affection 24 hours a day, every day -- with or without their owners. Here are a few examples.

The Cozy Cat Lodge is also known as "The Cat Spa." It's a haven for felines, run by Jan and Bill Schmidt and their daughter Nani. Cats are not only fed and groomed when their owners are off island, but they're "held, hugged and fed snacks," says Jan Schmidt.

"The lodge was built on 1,000 square feet of covered lanai by my husband. It's attached to our home," she says. "We're their foster family, so the cats bond quickly with us."

The Schmidts even provide e-mail responses and return phone calls from doting owners who want to know how their pets are faring.

"For most people their pets are like their children," Jan Schmidt says. "We feel we are providing a service. We've helped people have peace of mind while they're away."

At "Pets are Inn," Babs Poei places animals in foster homes while their owners are away. "I interview host families and clients to match them up," she says.

For the pets, the time in foster care can mean even more attention than they get at home.

"The 10 to 20 host families in Hawaii don't work outside the home, so pets have constant companionship," Poei says.

Potential caregivers must meet more criteria than the animals -- who must be indoor pets and trained -- who would stay in their homes.

"The homes must be clean," Poei says. "And they must be loving. I've been doing this since 1989. I have a sixth sense about picking the right families.

"I kinda know right away if they'll work out."

Vera Higashi once punched the time clock like the rest of us, until her husband finally told her she should be working with animals, since she spent so much time with them.

So four years ago she opened Pets Companion Services Hawaii. Serving clientele islewide, Higashi does everything from walk dogs during the work day to offering pet-sitting services overnight. She's cared for everything from dogs, cats, fish and birds to chameleons and turtles.

"Once I did 15 overnights for people in Aina Haina," Higashi says. "They had a dog, two cats and a turtle. The turtle was on a special diet of chicken and shrimp, so I cooked for the turtle and ate what it ate."

Higashi says she has 80 to 100 regular clients and travels an average of 100 miles a day. When she finally gets home, she's mom to two cats, four feral cats and one rooster, and she's a foster mom to a chicken.

"I have no social life or private life. I'm dating my husband. I smell like a dog most of the day," she said. "But I love what I do. I absolutely love it."

The "in" place to be if you're a dog or a dog owner is Purr-fect Paws in Kailua.

Part dog pastry shop, part dog boutique, part doggy day care and social hall, Purr-fect Paws is all about cultivating the relationship between dogs and their owners.

Every facet of the business is run by owner Sally Tucker and her sister Lil Samson. Every weekday starts at 7 a.m., when doggy day care begins. "We potty-train the puppies and teach the dogs basic manners, like sit, stay and not to jump," says Samson, who's also the pastry chef.

Healthy snacking: Health food nuts who love animals can combine their passions at Naturally Pets. Stocking stuffers such as Salmon Doggie and Herring Cat Snacks, priced at $2.50 a bag, keep your pet's health a top priority.

Three times weekly, an hour before day care wraps up at 6 p.m., "Yappy Hour" is already commencing. The free gatherings are an opportunity for dogs and owners to socialize. Off-leash play is supervised by Samson and Tucker, while owners can enjoy good conversation and complimentary coffee.

Other services at the shop are dog parties, with some or all of such trimmings as dog piñatas, birthday cakes, party favors and ice cream cones. Twice weekly the shop is the site of humane obedience classes, and once a month, a dental hygienist passes through for teeth-cleaning day.

If you're the sort who flinches at the thought of using a choke chain to train your dog, Wendy Mah's Sirius Puppy Training is the answer.

Mah and her crew teach a training philosophy that uses "positive, humane behavior modification techniques" (read: treats) to teach -- and reteach -- obedience.

Pups learn everything from socialization to sitting and staying in basic classes, and become more proficient at obedience in advanced classes.

Here is a brief list of these and other pet services available on Oahu:

Cozy Cat Lodge: Houses up to 25 cats at a time in "condos and suites" with tropical views, no cages; daily play times in a large playroom. Cost: $10 to $14 a day depending on cat's size and special needs. Call 261-1101.

Kitty Bed and Breakfast: Kennels and outside runs with soft music and TLC throughout the day. About $10 a day, depending on size and special needs. Call 262-4291.

Pets Companion Service of Hawaii: Care for latchkey pets, dog walking, pet taxi service, in-home pet sitting. Call 672-5530 or 549-3361 for fees.

Purr-fect Pals Pet Service: Care visits while owners are away include affection, play time or walking and in-home pet sitting. Fees start at $10.50 for a half-hour of care, plus a mileage charge. Service primarily to East Honolulu. Call 735-3117.

Pets Are Inn: Places pets with host families while owners are away. Fees range from $15 to $29 a day, depending on pet's special needs. Visit Web site at or call 626-9446.

Purr-fect Paws: Dog day-care service, Yappy Hour dog playtime, dog parties, obedience classes, teeth cleaning. Located at 417 Kuulei Road, Kailua. Call 262-4896.

Sirius Puppy Training: Group training provided at seven locations islewide: Moiliili, Diamond Head, Salt Lake, Aiea, Kapolei, Kailua and Kaneohe. Six-week group classes cost $175. Private in-home sessions also available. Call 732-0258.

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