August 2007, I bought a reformer. I had been to a Pilates Style conference and knew that I wanted to study Pilates and start a business that offered one-on-one Pilates sessions. At the conference, I took several classes on the Reformer and quickly fell in love with it. I decided to order one.
I was working full time at a local gym, so I was not really thinking about how to go about growing my budding Pilates business. In fact, I hadn’t really thought about where I would put this Reformer that I ordered until it arrived at my house. Luckily, we had a space in our house that we weren’t using, so I set up there.
As my husband and I assembled the Reformer, I wondered Who in the world is going to come to my house for Pilates sessions? My next thought was Well, they better like cats!
With three indoor cats, I knew that there would be fur all over my house. In spring and summer when the windows are open, I sometimes feel like I’m in a western as the feline fur tumbleweed rolls across the floor with the breeze. Definitely, I would not be able to work with people with an allergy to cats.
Plus, my cats are very nosy and strongly advocate for an open door policy. Anytime we close a door, there is a cat outside it yowling and pawing, yelling at us for breaking their rules.
My First Client
My first client had actually been coming to me for years. She came to my Pilates classes at the gym and later, she personal trained with me. In fact, it was because of her encouragement that I decided to open my own Pilates studio.
As an individual with cats (although hers were all outdoor), she assured me that she was ready to come participate in the experiment in my house. Personally, I thought our first session would be a nightmare. I envisioned an hour of instructing my client while one or more cats sat on her, preventing her from actually doing anything.
To my surprise, that was not the case. They actually did not even bother getting up from their sleeping spots to investigate what we were doing. With a few sessions under my belt and a growing confidence about what I was doing, I started decreasing my responsibilities at the gym and putting the word out that I was starting my own Pilates studio at my house.
The Other Clients
To my surprise, I started getting calls from people I didn’t know about Pilates. I got several referrals from my massage therapist and one referral from a physical therapist who I still have never actually met. (Isn’t networking amazing?)
The phone conversations went something like this:
“Yes, I teach one-on-one Pilates sessions on mat and Reformer in my house. I need to tell you, though, I have three indoor cats. Are you allergic to cats?”
Everyone answered no.
“Do you like cats? Because they might be in the room with us during your session.”
Everyone answered yes, that they would love to have cats incorporated into their Pilates sessions.
Very quickly, my client base grew. I felt so blessed to meet so many cat lovers who were interested in learning about Pilates (from me!). It was obvious to the cats that these strangers liked them and, more and more, the cats came to participate in sessions.
Troy, my oldest, really just likes people to see and discuss how beautiful he is. Truly, he likes you to remark out loud that he is beautiful. So, when Troy would grace us with his presence, he would stand like a statue and make the kinds of expressions that male models make. If we didn’t immediately remark on his presence, he left disgusted. When we did talk about how beautiful he was, he still would only stay for a short while before he became disgusted with us and left.
At the time, my cat Frank was 3 or 4 years old. He was loud and full of energy, a spunky stray who would run in and out of the room in a flash.
One of my clients, a male, used a money clip to contain his money. However, sometimes he wouldn’t have the money clip on all of his money. When he emptied his pockets, there would be change, the clipped money, and sometimes loose bills.
One particular day, my client emptied his pockets and got on the Reformer. We began our session. Stealthy as a ninja, Frank snuck into the room and went over to the money. Then, I kid you not, he started flipping through the loose bills. Past the ones and fives, he found a twenty, grabbed it, yowled, and took off out of the room like a lightening bolt before I could fully register what was going on.
I had no idea what to do! My cat just stole money from my client! Desperately calling his name, I chased Frank through the house. I finally caught him and got the $20 back. I was mortified, but my client laughed it off. The Frank incident seemed like a big deal–until the Marcus incident.
Marcus is a very mild, sweet, loving cat who, somehow, is the boss of the others. In fact, as I write this right now, he has muscled his way into my lap and is purring uncontrollably while I type instead of petting him. Literally, I had never seen him bite anyone until he bit my client.
She was on the Reformer getting ready to do Single thigh stretch. To do this, you have one knee on the Reformer and the other leg’s foot is on the footbar. It’s sort of like being in a kneeling lunge position to start.
Focussed on her form, I got my client into position. Marcus decided to jump up on the carriage. He did this sometimes and took the free ride as whoever slid the carriage along the tracks. Everything looked good.
My client got ready to go. All of a sudden, she said, “Oh! He bit me! He bit my butt!”
What?! No, I thought. Not Marcus. He wouldn’t do that!
I looked at Marcus. He looked as sweet and innocent as he always does. I got my client ready to go again but this time, instead of watching her form, I watched Marcus. Sure enough, right before she pushed against the footbar, he leaned in, mouth open, and bit her butt.
I was horrified, but she laughed it off. She was friends with some of my other clients, so it wasn’t long before everybody knew about Marcus biting her butt. It became quite the joke.
My Studio Today
My studio wasn’t in my house for long. After a couple of months, we decided to build a garage with a studio above it. Now, when I go to work, I leave my cats and go to work across my driveway. This gives me the freedom to work with those who are allergic to or just plain don’t like cats.
A lot has changed in that time since I first opened my studio, but I have found that one thing has stayed constant; all my clients are animal lovers. Some of them have dogs, some have cats, and some have a mix of both. I am so blessed to have these animal lovers in my life!
Do you have any funny stories about pets interfering with or participating in your work day? Tell us about it below.
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