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Leia: The Inspiration Behind the Garage Suite

I was on my cat-themed tour of the Dallas Metroplex  when I stayed at the best-rated and most beloved Air B & B in Texas: The Garage Suite in Plano, hosted by Sonja and her feline life partner Leia.  First-time cat owner partnered with a first-time human owner.  How do they make it work and live their dream?  Find out in this exclusive interview with CatProfiler.  
leia

The Garage Suite is a fully-appointed luxury retreat that’s insanely affordable.  Sonja, the owner, has cultivated an elegant style that echoes the spas in West Texas, Her attention to detail spoils her guests, making them return over and over.  I feel completely at home there, only in a home that’s way nicer than my home.  

Welcome to the Garage Suite.
Welcome!

What attracted me here?  I know Sonja.  A few years ago, Sonja gave me a call.  She was thinking about getting a cat.  

“I always thought of myself strictly as a dog person,” Sonja told me.  “Until TikTok.”  Sonja did a bunch of research and started browsing local shelters to look for likely candidates.  One day she met a super social orange tabby named Pecos, a good West Texas name which felt like kismet.  Could he be her cat?  She went home to think about him overnight, but by the time she returned the following day, Pecos had been adopted by another family. Not kismet after all.     

Enter Princess Leia

But then a tiny, sleek young lady caught her eye.  Her sandy fur was the color of a mountain lion. She was so small she looked more like a kitten than a cat.  The little kitty leveled a gaze at Sonja, yawned, turned, and climbed a nearby cat tree. 

Sonja read her bio and discovered that “Princess” was a teenage mom with a kitten who had been rescued from the streets. Her kitten had been adopted, and Princess was ready for the single cat life.  Sonja reached her hand up to introduce herself.  Princess let her stroke her cheek.  

Princess had found her forever human.  She made an excellent choice; these two ladies couldn’t be more well matched.  They found they had endless things in common: beautiful surroundings, home projects, sports, hard work, and freedom. 

Princess was renamed Princess Leia so that she wouldn’t get any ideas about her position in the household.  After spending some time together, Princess Leia became simply Leia.  She confesses that she answers to “Lei Lei” to her closest friends.    

Learning to trust each other

Leia stayed inside for a few weeks, but she admitted it was hard on her.  “I grew up in the wilds of North Dallas, so I can take care of myself,” she admits modestly.  “But Sonja and I negotiated a compromise.”  

Sonja experimented with giving Leia supervised access to the backyard. Sonja’s yard is safely fenced in on all sides by privacy wood fencing.  Within minutes, Leia had scaled the fence and disappeared.  Sonja was frantic, desperate to chase after her.  But less than an hour later, Leia waltzed back in by herself, meowing “That was excellent!  When can we do it again?”  

The Garage Suite gardens
Over this fence.

Leia now has her own private entrance and a collar with an air tag.  When Leia was new to the neighborhood, Sonja would often see her blocks away.  But she always came back after a few hours, often with little gifts she thinks Sonja might like. “She’s hard to please sometimes,” Leia told me.  “She doesn’t seem to like anything I get her.”  

Sharing a love of travel

When Leia first started going over the fence, she was a roamer.  It wasn’t unusual to locate her air tag several streets away.  But since then, she’s settled down.   “I don’t get out as much these days.  Running the Garage Suite is a lot of work.  So I usually stick to a small, four-house radius.  I have a lot of friends I like to visit.”  

Leia is a great favorite with the neighbors – on the weekends Sonja often receives grainy movies from security cameras.  Leia chasing moths.  Using the fences as a balance beam.  Doing night patrols as part of her neighborhood watch program.  Leia lets off steam with plenty of hunting, chasing, and wrestling. 

Contact sports

Wrestling with Leia is disconcerting at first.  Once Leia has decided she likes you, she’ll throw herself on the floor next to you, flip to her side, grab your foot or your arm and deliver terrifying bunny kicks while she holds on with her front paws.  You wait for the blood to start flowing from your palms and exposed wrists or ankles, but then you realize that she always leaves her claws sheathed.  Her chomps are theatrical and fun, adorable little nibbles made with her gums instead of her canines.  It’s hard to imagine a mountain lion being so polite.  

Leia
Ready to wrestle.

Leia is popular with humans, but she’s grateful to be an only kitty.  Any other animal who breaches her territory does so at their own peril.  One night recently Sonja woke with the unsettling feeling of being watched.  Her first thought was that Leia must want something, but then she felt the weight of Leia snuggled on her feet.  Sonja opened her eyes to find a strange cat sitting outside her bedroom window, a silent sentinel watching her.  Or was he watching Leia?  Creeper.  I wouldn’t want to be that cat if Leia catches him.  

I almost lost my cat in Santa Fe

Leia is a capable warrior, but she was almost lost by misadventure.  It was a traumatic experience for everyone involved.  

Sonja and Leia drove to Las Vegas in November of 2021 to see family for Thanksgiving.  Leia confided that her biggest nightmare is to be confined in a carrier or a kennel.  “I was born to be free.” 

Knowing this, Sonja got her a harness and leash for the trip and insisted that Leia wear it at all times during the journey.  Leia agreed, sitting on the console between the two front seats and looking out the window, counting yellow cars passing by before she got sleepy and made a nest in the back seat.  

In Santa Fe, Leia and Sonja got out to stretch their legs.  A passerby saw Leia calmly walking on her leash and got so excited that she reached out for her.  Leia wasn’t having it. 

It took her less than a second to fling off her harness and make a break for the nearest fence. Leia went over, running full-out.  Sonja panicked and vaulted over the fence after her.  In the space of a few seconds, she started making plans to move to Santa Fe so she could look for her cat full-time.  She decided she would do it.  How much were houses in Santa Fe? Anything to get her back.

Cats lost while traveling

Luckily, cats who escape during travel are often the easiest to find.  After their initial panic and flight, cats find the closest space to hide and stay there.  Owners can coax out of hiding as soon as they calm down.  Everyone has a lot of complaints about the whole affair.  

Leia was no exception.  She bit and scratched Sonja.  The trip back to the car was a litany of accusations and abuse by both parties.  They both laugh about it now, their big adventure Sonja could write a country song about:  “I almost lost my cat in Santa Fe.”  

Living the dream

I often think that cats grow into their names.  If you name a cat Princess, watch out, because you’ll wind up with one.  But the original Princess Leia was a feisty warrior and leader of the rebellion. Leia is the perfect name for this spicy minx who roams and protects the grounds of the best B & B in Texas.  

Sonja and Leia’s lifelong dream has always been to have their own B & B.  Now Sonja and Leia have made that dream a reality.  Together they rehabbed their garage, turning it into a private, luxurious guest getaway called The Garage Suite.  Leia is the inspector, project manager, and support staff.  Sonja did the design and the heavy labor that requires opposable thumbs. Leia brought home dinner on the nights Sonja worked late.  

The Garage Suite:  now accepting reservations

Since The Garage Suite’s  grand opening in the summer of 2022, it’s seen guests from all over the globe and has something I’ve never seen before on Air B & B:  a solid 5-star rating.  Most reviews rave “I’d give it more stars if I could!”

Entrance to the Garage Suite
Private patio of the Garage Suite

The Garage Suite caters to couples and single travelers, and you’re welcome to stay completely contactless, drive right up to your private parking spot, just steps from the door.  Or you can seek out Leia and Sonja!  In the summers you can find Leia baking in her beautiful garden or playing chase with the guests.  

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