Calming cat lady comes through for cat community


Margie McGhee of Cats Play While You’re Away opens her space to foster cats during these trying times

She is a cat lady. No doubt.

Nothing crazy about her, though.

Margie McGhee just wants to take care of your cat when you are out of town.

Margie McGhee opened her feline spa and boarding company, Cats Play While You’re Away, last spring, turning her love for cats into a career. Photo by Paul Valencia
Margie McGhee opened her feline spa and boarding company, Cats Play While You’re Away, last spring, turning her love for cats into a career. Photo by Paul Valencia

Unfortunately for McGhee and her business, not too many people are going out of town in these times.

Her business is struggling. Its future is unclear.

This, however, is a celebratory story. McGhee’s passion for cats has driven her to offer her space to foster cats in need. She took in more than 25 cats from the Humane Society when that organization had to put adoptions on hold. 

She did that at no cost.


Cats Play While You’re Away
2904 NE Burton Road
Vancouver
(360) 605-8935
Catsplayboarding.com
“Let us love your fur friends like our own until you return.”


“I’ve been ‘Team Cat’ all my life,” McGhee said. “I haven’t had a dog for 40 years. Intuitively, I understand cats very well. It’s easy for me to think from a cat’s perspective.”

The office at Cats Play While You’re Away leaves no doubt that cats rule. Photo by Paul Valencia
The office at Cats Play While You’re Away leaves no doubt that cats rule. Photo by Paul Valencia

With that passion, as well as a background in construction and retail management, McGhee opened “Cats Play While You’re Away” last summer.

The first six months were strong. Over the holiday season, McGhee was booked with dozens of four-legged visitors.

A couple months later, just before her busy season, the government’s reaction to the pandemic brought everything to a halt.

There was no spring break for “Cats Play.” And it sure does not seem like a traditional summer will be happening.

“Cats Play” had bookings well in advance. 

Had.

“I expected to be full over Vancouver spring break. All my spring reservations cancelled,” McGhee said. “I have not had a paying customer in here in a couple of months. I think my next reservation is June 22.”

Stay-at-home for people meant no need for cats to be cared for at the spa.

Yes, the spa.

Located at 2904 NE Burton Road, Cats Play might look like any other office building from the outside. Inside, it is a spa service equipped for feline boarding. It is not just some place to have your cat fed by an employee. It is, in a way, a cat’s home away from home, with a person who loves what she is doing.

Even the coffee mugs celebrate all things cat at Cats Play While You’re Away. Photo by Paul Valencia
Even the coffee mugs celebrate all things cat at Cats Play While You’re Away. Photo by Paul Valencia

Family going on vacation? Need someone to talk to your cat, cuddle with your cat, take care of your cat when you’re away? Call Margie. 

She is there, up to 10 hours a day, six days a week. Oh, and she visits the spa on Sundays, too, just to make sure everyone is purrfect.

Each cat apartment has its own bed, fabric ball, and a scratching post. There are climbing shelves. Each cat has its private litter area. Oh, and plenty of toys.

And yes, they are called apartments. McGhee said there are 26 apartments at her extended stay operation. There are no cages. A number of doors, walkways, and walls keep kitties safe.

“It gives them a little home base to feel comfortable in and to feel safe and secure,” McGhee said.

McGhee reads to the cats in her care. She also performs reiki, a form of energy healing. And she takes pictures of the cats in their apartments, to send to families on their vacation, to show that their cat is happy.

The business plan was being executed. Until it wasn’t.

Still, this is supposed to be a cat haven.

“This whole thing happened. School shut down. My business left, completely,” McGhee recalled. “I’m sitting here, ‘If I can just get cats in here, I’ll be happier.’ I might not be able to keep my business. While I have it, I want to have cats in here. That’s the point. I did all this with cats in mind.”

This is the centerpiece of the artwork in the office of Cats Play While You’re Away. Photo by Paul Valencia
This is the centerpiece of the artwork in the office of Cats Play While You’re Away. Photo by Paul Valencia

McGhee also works with Furry Friends, an organization that helps homeless and abused cats. She remembered offering Furry Friends some space, if needed. Then, through a client who volunteers at the Humane Society, she made the same offer. 

She was asked to take 10 cats. McGhee said, how about 15?

“They were sweet cats,” McGhee said.

The Humane Society had put its adoptions on hold but still took in cats. So the need for extra space continued.

In all, McGhee and Cats Play took in 26 cats. 

“She cares for all their needs day and night, as well as gives them individual love and attention during a time where they don’t have the opportunity to find a forever home,” said Jaime Garver, president of Furry Friends. “Even though she faces an unpredictable future, as all small businesses are facing, she has opened her business and her heart to do her part to help within the community.”

Oh, and it turned out, working through Furry Friends, many of those cats McGhee fostered eventually did find permanent homes.

McGhee just hopes that there will be a business for those cats to return to when those families take a vacation.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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