My Story: How I Became A Holistic Cat Care Specialist
Today, I want to share with you the story of how I became a holistic care specialist for cats. It's been quite a journey, so grab a cup of tea and let's get started.
I'm Paola Zanibelli Davies, Holistic Cat Specialist for Super Cat Parents.
Most people know me for helping holistically-minded cat guardians and cat rescuers to support their cats with natural remedies that make giving them a happy, long, healthy life easier, safer, and better, but what you may not know about me is that for a long time, I really struggled to embrace my desire to work with cats because I was pulled by a very strong need to live far away and be independent.
I was unable to attend vet school, and I enrolled in Psychology instead. I had a very deep desire to get away from my home and my home country, which is Italy: the drive to find my own path, travel the world, and be independent was so strong that it steered every choice I made about my life, no matter the cost. Sadly, my career would suffer due to my absolute sense of urgency to fly the nest and make my own decisions. By the age of 26, I had self-learned English, Spanish, and French, but I needed to practice all these languages to speak fluently and be able to REALLY live abroad, away from Italy and the boring, predictable life that my peers seemed to have already laid out in front of themselves.
Against my parents' wish, once I had graduated, I went to live in Spain at first. While I was there, I fought very hard to manage to complete my post-graduate education abroad, and this led me to move to France and live in Paris the following year. While in Paris, I managed to secure an internship at a university in Sydney, so off I went to Australia a year later.
During these years, I was mainly on my own; I moved through so many accommodations that I couldn't keep count and found myself on a street corner, sitting on my luggage, wondering where my next lodging would be that night, a few more times than I wanted to. To the eyes of others, these experiences were very glamorous and colourful... I mean, Barcelona, Paris, Sydney, baby!
But in reality, these years were also tinted with tears, struggles, and a huge amount of instability due to the feeling that home was not home, but there was nowhere I really belonged and nobody I could share it with. What was particularly painful was that I was desperate to have a cat, but as nomadic as I was, I couldn't. I did end up with 2 rabbits in Barcelona, and I had a special wild bird in Sydney who came to visit me every day, but you know... Cats were out of the question. During that time, I also traveled to the US a lot (Hawaii, California, and Washington, to name a few states), and I even traveled to Canada.
My need for independence was so strong that nothing else mattered. The fact that moving from country to country made it impossible for me to have cats, and a career, was simply a necessary hurdle I had to face, I believed, in order to be FREE. I would have done ANYTHING to avoid going back to Italy.
When my time in Australia came to an end, I worked on my next escape path.
I applied for Emirates, went through the strict selection process, and within a few months, I was on my way to live and work in the Middle East. I ended up staying in Dubai for 15 years.
During that time, my glamorous flying job took me to so many more countries, and it exposed me to working with people of more than 100 nationalities.
The world was at my feet; my life was a roller coaster of new experiences, exhaustion, struggles, and happy times. I was FREE. Neglecting a more stable career was again simply part of the deal, and so was squashing my deep longing to be a cat mum. I did love flying and took the difficulties that came with my job with a smile.
I thought FREEDOM was all I had to find and create for myself in order to find happiness, but I was wrong. Things were great until they were not: my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and within a year, she was gone.
My world came undone as I dealt with that very significant loss as well as I could in an environment where friends were hard to find and even harder to spend time with, given the erratic schedule flight attendants have and the fact that we worked an awful lot! I was never the party person or the crazy hostess who is sometimes depicted in movies. I used to fly everywhere and once I reached my destination, my favorite activity was to explore my surroundings wherever I landed, particularly the supermarkets. It turns out that the way food stores are and what they contain can tell you a lot about a country. But losing my mum to cancer, watching how poorly the doctors handled her illness, and the sense of impotence I felt in front of traditional medicine, was the real pivot in my life.
Traditional medicine was utterly unable to resolve the issues at hand. The traditional doctors I dealt with merely targeted one symptom after the other, while causing a plethora of side effects, without looking at what could have caused those symptoms in the first place, which I was absolutely baffled about, and I grew more and more keen on finding the answers myself, by looking at natural solutions.
I immersed myself in the study of nutrition, holistic therapies, health, and self-development. Time on earth felt short all of a sudden, and I started getting involved in cat rescue and volunteered to save, treat and rehome many Dubai cats when I was not working. I actually adopted my soul cat, just after my mum passed away. After a while, I adopted another cat, and when I lost her, 3 years later, I faced more grief. Again, the way she was handled still makes my heart ache, and even if the vets meant well, I felt that again traditional medicine did not have the answers to resolve what was happening. Had I known then what I know now, she would probably still be here.
Then... One day I injured myself at work, and I stepped off the plane coming from NY (where I have been, fun-fact, 58 times in my life so far!), never to fly as a First Class stewardess ever again.
I have learned that I can only succeed at something which I am strongly passionate about. While I transitioned to becoming who I am today, I met a wonderful man, enrolled in a high-level feline behaviour management course, got married, learned to manage my autoimmune condition naturally, I have expanded my holistic health knowledge into feline care, faced more loss, I adopted more cats.
I knew I was capable of more and this was my chance to prove it. I started to work with cats and their human parents, and I soon became fully booked, 7 days out of 7. I loved all the cats I met during that time; I grew very fond of so many of them. My ability to connect with animals came back fully. Then the Dubai chapter closed, and we all moved to the UK, and shortly after, I started to move my business online.
I've learned that embracing what was unique to me and putting it front and centre in my own life and work was the key to being happy and fulfilled. I learned that I could follow my desire to live away from Italy without suppressing how much I wanted to be involved with cats and without having to follow a traditional path.
I learned how strongly I felt about finding the answers and secrets to long-term health and wellness and how much it fulfilled me to help others do the same. And you, too, don't have to sit there and follow medical advice you don't find useful, or feel you have no other options in your hands when it comes to helping your cats with health and behaviour.
This is why I do what I do because far too many wonderful, caring cat guardians aren't given alternative options, and this is costing them the health of their cats and their peace of mind.
They end up following treatments or plans that sometimes don't work at all, they try and look for other ways, but there is so much information out there that they soon freeze in confusion, and they find themselves depending on the system completely. As a result, they end up with frustration, and with guilt, and regret for not being able to do more or to do differently to prevent things from going south, so I help them consider alternative options, trying positive training, exploring safe, effective, and natural remedies with patience and confidence so that they can become those Super Cat Parents they want to be, and share a long, happy, amazing life with their cats.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is an online Feline Holistic Health & Behaviour Practice based in Wales, UK. My customers are cat guardians who want to support their cats' health and behaviour through natural remedies and positive training so that they can live long, extraordinary happy lives with their cats.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner is growing as an individual as much as professionally because there is nothing as fulfilling and challenging as bringing my own purpose and message to the world to create an impact and help cat parents keep their kitties around for longer.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things that come with being a business owner in my opinion is trading being an employee who does a specific job with being the CEO of your business, who effectively covers a very complex role, wearing at least 15 hats at the same time. You must master not only your trade but also the many functions needed for a business to succeed, all on your own (at least initially, for a good while): for example, you must master social media marketing, video production, messaging, and copywriting, customer service, website development, email marketing, finances, HR, legal coverage, budgeting, effective planning, team management, time management, project management, advertising, launching, evergreen offers, systems and processes, technical skills to run the systems, processes, and software you need, content creation, community management, coaching, relationship skills, etc. The flip side of this is that you get to be your own boss and that this lifestyle ensures you are on a never-ending learning journey.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
The top 3 tips I would give to someone looking to start, run and grow a business today are:
- Invest in high-quality mentors and education.
- Raise your standards, over-deliver, and offer a variety of options to work with you for people at different stages of their journey.
- Hire soon, work hard, and focus on getting results for your clients.
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