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What is a Cattery Business?
There are more than 10.8 million pet cats in the UK, with 26% of households having at least one feline friend in their home.
With more than a quarter of British households having a pet cat, it’s no surprise that catteries are consistently in demand.
A cattery is a place where cats are temporarily housed. This could be because their owner is on holiday, ill, in hospital or the cat is unable to stay at the home temporarily. A cattery is a professionally run, licensed business that takes care of cats for a short time.
A cattery business will take care of cats of all ages, from kittens to elderly cats. To set up a successful cattery business, you will need clean, spacious, fit-for-purpose premises and facilities, appropriate equipment, knowledgeable caring staff and the correct licences.
Catteries look after multiple cats at one time. However, the cats should never be kept in the same sleeping area unless they come from the same household. Instead, your cattery will have many separate rooms or enclosures. You may also choose to have a communal area where cats can play, exercise or socialise, either together or separately.
Running a cattery business will mean you have multiple responsibilities including:
- Providing each cat with a clean, heated, well-lit sleeping area.
- Ensuring the housing area for each cat is secure and the cat is unable to escape.
- Feeding the cats and ensuring they have enough water at all times.
- Changing the cats’ litter regularly.
- Administering medication, if required.
- Providing beds, toys and scratching posts.
- Ensuring you are fully licensed.
- Implementing emergency procedures.
- Protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of the cats, your employees and any visitors to your cattery.
- Ensuring the housing area for each cat is the correct size, in line with regulations.
If you are an animal lover, with experience in taking care of cats and you have a flair for business, starting up a cattery business could be a great option for you. Running a cattery business can be demanding and time-consuming. It requires commitment, so ensure this is the best business opportunity for you before you begin operating.
Types of Customers
The types of customers you will target with your cattery business are cat owners.
When identifying your target market, you first need to decide what type of cattery you are going to run.
- Budget: Budget catteries are designed for those who want to spend a minimum amount on their cat’s boarding. They will usually have smaller housing areas with fewer extras available. Customers may also have to provide their cat’s food during the stay. The cats may also get fewer visits from staff per day.
- Mid-Market: A mid-market cattery is targeted at customers who want their cats to have a little more comfort and luxury but don’t want to spend too much money. A mid-market cattery business will likely offer larger housing areas than budget catteries and extra services.
- Luxury: A luxury cattery, sometimes referred to as a cat hotel, will have larger, more luxurious units for the cats to stay in. Daily grooming, gourmet menus, socialisation and entertainment, and even cat spa services may be available. Luxury facilities usually house fewer cats at one time so the cats can get extra time and attention.
Equipment You Will Need
When setting up your cattery business, you will need to plan your equipment requirements and purchase or rent the equipment and tools you will need.
Some of the equipment recommended for your cattery business includes:
When purchasing or building the housing area, you must account for the agility and climbing skills of the cats and the prevalence of diseases, infections and fleas. Most cats dislike other cats, especially those they are not familiar with. You must ensure that your housing areas keep all cats separate and that the cats preferably cannot see each other. The areas must meet the minimum space and dimension requirements (we will look at this more later) and must protect the cats from the weather. Ensure the doors are secure and the correct temperatures are maintained. The cost of the housing can depend on the size, materials, facilities and the number of cats you plan to house.
Every housing area will need its own litter tray and if you have multiple cats from the same household together, you may need more than one litter tray. It is also recommended that you keep a few spare trays in storage. There are many different types of litter trays and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. A basic litter tray can cost as little as £7, whereas a hooded litter tray can cost up to £30.
Litter tray equipment
Some of the equipment you will need for your litter trays includes scoops, tray liners and cat litter. You will also need to purchase specific cleaning products that are solely used for the litter trays.
A CCTV system
A Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) system can help cat owners to feel more secure and comfortable leaving their cats at your cattery. With pet theft on the rise, CCTV will help to protect all your feline residents. A CCTV system can cost between £300 and £5,000, depending on the specification of the equipment, how many cameras you require, and the installation costs.
Air conditioner and heating
Cats are the masters of squeezing through the smallest of spaces, meaning you will likely need to keep all windows and doors closed at all times. Air conditioning can help cool air to circulate through the cattery in warmer months while a heater can ensure the cats stay nice and warm during the colder winter months. Ensuring your cattery remains at a safe temperature is imperative for the health and safety of the cats.
A deep sink/washing area
As you will have a lot of equipment to clean, including the food bowls and litter trays, installing a deep sink or washing area will allow you to wash a lot of equipment at one time. This will help you to save time overall.
A washing machine and dryer
If you supply beds, beddings, blankets or soft toys for the cats, these will need to be cleaned between every cat visitor. A larger washing machine and dryer will enable you to wash more items at one time. You can expect to pay between £500 and £3,000 depending on the size, make and specification of the machines.
A van or another form of transport
Some catteries, especially those that charge higher prices, may offer a collection and drop-off service. If you decide to offer this service, you will need a van or another suitable form of transport. Your vehicle will need to have space to safely transport the cats. The cost of a vehicle can vary, depending on whether it is new or used, and the make and model of the vehicle.
A cat first aid kit
A fully stocked cat first aid kit is likely to contain bandages of different sizes, gauze, a foil blanket, tape, wipes, sting relief, scissors and plastic pouches. A pet first aid kit can be purchased for £15.
A human first aid kit
A first aid kit is a necessity in case an employee or visitor to your cattery becomes injured. A first aid kit can be purchased for as little as £12.
Some of the cleaning supplies you may require include a sweeping brush, a mop and bucket, bleach, window cleaner, sanitiser, cloths, sponges and other cleaning supplies. You should also supply hand sanitiser and handwashing facilities for staff and any visitors to your business. Ensure any cleaning materials are safe to use around animals.
Other equipment requirements
Some of the other equipment you may need for your cattery includes:
- Scratching posts or furniture (one in each housing area).
- Cat toys.
- Grooming products.
- Food and water bowls (for every cat you will house).
- Bins with closed lids.
- A till and Point of Sales (POS) system.
- A laptop or desktop computer (for appointments, marketing and accounting).
- A camera or camera phone (to send photos to your customers).
- Gauntlets or gloves made from leather or a tough material (to prevent scratches or bites when dealing with difficult or stressed cats).
Planning the typical costs associated with setting up and running your cattery business is essential. It allows you to plan your initial investment amount, prepare a budget, calculate your pricing structure for customers and estimate your profits.
Some of the costs associated with setting up a cattery business include:
This will be the most significant cost associated with setting up your business. Your cattery will need to be located in a good area that is easily accessible to your customers. Your site will need to have enough space to build your housing area, a reception area, storage rooms or buildings and parking for your customers. The cost of your site can vary significantly, depending on the location, square footage and existing infrastructure.
As you can see from the list above, your cattery business will have extensive equipment requirements. You can expect to spend between £5,000 and £30,000 on equipment.
Cat food and other stock
You may choose to provide food and snacks for the cats you take care of. You may need to purchase a few different types of food, including wet and dry food. Purchasing the food in bulk can help to save you money long term. Depending on the number of cats you house and the brand of food you choose, you can expect to pay between £100 and £500 per month.
Replacing or maintaining equipment and your premises
Cats like to chew and scratch objects and furniture, meaning you may have to do repairs and replacements more frequently. Allocating a percentage of your budget every month to finance this is recommended.
This will include the overhead costs associated with running your cattery business such as electricity, water and gas. You will also need to pay council taxes and your business tax. If you use a van or other vehicle as part of your business, you will also need to account for your vehicle insurance, tax and petrol.
Branding may be key to the success of your business, especially if you are competing with other catteries in your area. Branding could include creating your business’s visual identity, a logo, business name, your business website and your brand message. You can hire a professional to help you with branding or do some of the work yourself. Branding can cost between £500 and £10,000, depending on the level of branding you require.
Advertising and marketing
Advertising can help to ensure the success of your cattery business, especially when your business is in its first year of operation. Advertising can help you to stand out from competitive businesses. It is recommended that you spend no more than 10% of your annual revenue on advertising costs.
As a cattery business operates 24 hours a day, you will need to employ multiple staff. When calculating the costs associated with employing staff you should consider the number of staff and their hourly wage. You will also need to account for holiday pay, sick pay and maternity/paternity pay. You will need to pay your staff at least the national minimum wage of £9.50 per hour.
A cattery business will have several insurance requirements including Public Liability, Professional Indemnity, Employers’ Liability, Care, Custody and Control, Product Liability, Vet Fee Package, Material Damage, Loss of Money, Business Interruption and Personal Accident. Insurance costs can range from £10 to £120 per month, depending on your insurance provider and the level of coverage you choose.
The prices for cats staying at a cattery can vary significantly, depending on:
- The location of the cattery.
- The size of the housing areas.
- The facilities and equipment that are available.
- The availability of extras, such as grooming and playtime.
- The number of staff.
- Whether food is provided.
Budget catteries usually charge between £5 and £10 per cat per day. Mid-range catteries usually charge between £10 and £20 per cat per day, and luxury catteries in a prime location usually charge between £20 and £30 per cat per day.
Many catteries offer multi-cat discounts for cats from the same household who can be housed together.
Safely Running a Cattery Business
You will be responsible for the health and safety of the cats, your employees and any visitors to your cattery business.
It is essential that you implement safety procedures and practices and run your cattery business with all necessary safety considerations in mind.
Some ways you can safely run your cattery business are:
Ensure the security of the cattery and the animals
You need to prevent the cats from escaping or being stolen. It is therefore imperative that you ensure the cattery and the individual housing areas are completely secure. Some ways you can do this include installing CCTV and locking all doors and gates. Installing double doors or a safety corridor can also ensure the cats cannot escape.
Ensure staff are properly trained
Having staff with appropriate training can help protect the safety of the cats. Ensuring your staff are trained in animal or cat welfare, first aid for animals and safely handling animals is suggested.
Ask for proof of vaccinations
To ensure the safety of all the cats in your care, it is recommended that you check their vaccination status before accepting them in your cattery. Asking your customers to provide paper or electronic proof that their cats are up to date with all vaccines is recommended. Cats are usually vaccinated against cat flu, feline enteritis and feline leukaemia.
Conduct risk assessments
Risk assessments are a legal requirement if you have five or more employees working at your cattery. However, even if risks assessments are not legally required, they can help to ensure the health and safety of the cats and your employees. Risk assessments should be completed for any task or activity where there are any potential hazards and risks. This could include manual handling activities and risks associated with having physical contact with the animals.
Have the vet information for each cat and a dedicated emergency vet you can contact
Each client that visits your cattery should provide you with their cat’s vet information in the case of an illness or injury. You should also have a dedicated vet that you can contact out of hours.
Effective cleaning procedures are essential in your cattery, as you will consistently have new human and animal visitors to the site. A cleaning schedule and cleaning policies should be in place. They should cover equipment, surfaces, sleeping areas, beds, and food preparation and storage areas. Implementing handwashing procedures for staff and visitors is also recommended.
Keep fully stocked first aid kits
You will need separate first aid kits for the cats and for humans. Ensure the first aid kits are fully stocked and easily accessible in your cattery.
Ensure food and treats are correctly labelled
Similar to humans, cats can have allergies and intolerances. Label food and treats with the ingredients and allergen information to protect the health and safety of the cats.
When setting up and running a cattery business, it is essential that you comply with all legal requirements. Failure to comply could result in legal action being taken against your cattery by the RSPCA or your local authority.
All catteries in the UK must be both licensed with and inspected by the Environmental Health department of their local authority. This is in line with the legislation set out under the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963.
Some legal requirements you must ensure your cattery business complies with include:
Apply for a Boarding for Cats or Dogs licence
You will need to apply for this licence before you open your cattery. Your cattery will be inspected by someone from your local council who will check the suitability of the accommodation, the food, drink and bedding, whether the cats are protected, visited and exercised, and whether staff are trained to look after animals. You will be granted either a one-, two- or three-year licence. As part of your inspection, you will be awarded a rating between 1 and 5 stars.
Display your licence
You must display a copy of your licence from the Environmental Health department prominently in a location that is accessible to your customers and the general public.
Follow government regulations on sleeping areas
Cats should never share sleeping areas unless they come from the same household. Regulations specify that the sleeping areas in a cattery must follow minimum size regulations. All sleeping areas have a minimum height requirement of 1.8m. The minimum size requirements vary depending on the number of cats the sleeping area holds.
- One cat: Minimum area = 0.85m2. Minimum dimensions = 0.9m.
- Up to two cats: Minimum area = 1.5m2. Minimum dimensions = 1.2m.
- Up to four cats: Minimum area = 1.9m2, Minimum dimensions = 1.2m.
Follow regulations on temperature
The regulations regarding the temperature of sleeping areas specify that a temperature between 15°C and 26°C must be maintained. A temperature below 10°C should never be reached.
Ensure the sleeping area gets enough light
If the sleeping areas in your cattery get natural light throughout the day, you won’t have to make any special adjustments. However, if the sleeping areas use artificial light, you must ensure the lights are on for between 10 and 12 hours every day.
Ensure the cats receive an acceptable number of visits
You should ensure the cats in your care receive a visit at least once every four hours (during the working day). Cats who have any health conditions may require more frequent visits.
Apply for planning permission
If you need to make particular changes to existing infrastructure or build on the land, you will likely need to apply for planning permission by contacting your local planning authority (LPA) via your local council.
Implement necessary health and safety policies
Health and safety policies are a legal requirement for all businesses in the UK. The policies should protect the cats, your staff and any visitors to your business and should include emergency procedures.
Keep up-to-date records
Catteries are strictly regulated and are usually inspected every year. As part of your licence requirements and in order to pass the inspection, you will need to keep up-to-date records of your clients, cleaning schedules, risk assessments, health and safety policies, temperature checks in the sleeping areas, and health records.
Comply with employment legislation
If you employ any staff to work in your cattery, you must comply with employment legislation. This includes legislation relating to recruitment, working hours, pay, sickness, discrimination, dismissals, and maternity or paternity pay.
Some types of insurance, such as employer’s liability cover, is legally required. Contact your insurance provider to find out which coverage is legally required, and which is optional.
Register your business with HMRC
You must register your cattery business with HMRC. You will need to register your business name and keep records of all your income, profits and expenses.
Apply for a Notification to Process Personal Data licence
If your cattery uses CCTV or processes any personal information, you will need to apply for a licence with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and renew your registration every year.
Positives of Owning a Cattery Business
A cattery business can be an extremely rewarding venture.
There are several positive aspects of owning a cattery, including:
Taking care of animals can be extremely rewarding, especially if you are a cat lover. A cattery business can be both financially and emotionally rewarding. You could also have the opportunity to care for stray cats or provide food and necessities to animal charities.
High customer retention
Once cat owners find a cattery that they like and they know their cat is comfortable there and well cared for, they are more likely to return to that cattery again. They may also recommend your cattery to other people, meaning not only will you have high customer retention, but it will also help you to grow your business.
Do something you love
If you are an animal lover, running a cattery business allows you to do something you love and still earn money. Starting up a cattery business can be a vocation, as you can do a job you love. It can feel less like work when you are spending your time and energy doing something you enjoy.
Choose your customers
You can choose how small or large your business is and how many cats you want to care for at one time. You can also refuse to accept cats if you have had issues with them before or don’t think you can adequately care for them.
Choose your employees
As the business owner, you will be in charge of hiring employees. This means you can choose the employees who will be most valuable to your business and who have a genuine passion for animals. You can decide what experience, qualifications and traits you find the most valuable and hire employees that fit these criteria.
Create the business you want
You can design your cattery business exactly as you want. You can decide the type of cattery you are going to run, the design and the aesthetic. You can also choose what facilities, equipment and services will be available and the type of market you are going to target.
Work in your local community
You will most likely set up your cattery business in your local area. This allows you to be part of your local community and connect with other animal lovers in your area.
Unlimited income potential
A cattery business can be extremely profitable, especially if you operate at high occupancy. As your business grows, you will also have the opportunity to expand your cattery or open additional catteries in other locations. This offers you unlimited income potential.
Control your workload
Once your business is established, you can choose to take a hands-on or hands-off approach. You can opt to be involved in the day-to-day running of the cattery or hire staff to handle most of the responsibilities. Being in control of your workload is a major benefit of owning your own business.
Negatives of Owning a Cattery Business
However, there are some negative aspects to owning a cattery business that you should be aware of:
Work can be inconsistent
A cattery business can sometimes be seasonal as they are generally more popular during the times of the year when people often travel, such as Summer, Christmas and Easter. At other times of the year, you may find you have very few furry customers. This can make it more difficult to make a profit.
High time commitment
Catteries are open 24 hours a day and are often busier at weekends and during the holidays. As the business owner, you will have a lot of responsibilities that can be time-consuming. Additionally, when your business is newly opened, you may hire less staff to keep your costs down, meaning you will be responsible for picking up the extra slack.
Part of running a cattery will include taking part in manual handling activities, such as handling heavy objects, cleaning and bending down. Manual handling activities, especially when done incorrectly, can result in musculoskeletal disorders and other injuries. You will also likely be on your feet and active for a lot of the day. Running a cattery can be both physically demanding and tiring.
It can be stressful
Being solely responsible for the success of your business can be stressful. As you will be responsible for multiple tasks and roles, this can result in additional stress. You will also be responsible for the health and safety of the animals in your care and your employees.
High start-up costs
As you will need to purchase the site for your cattery business and you will require a lot of equipment, your start-up costs will be high. This could mean you have to source an outside investment. It will also take longer for you to begin turning a profit.
Can be competitive
Not only will you be competing with other catteries, but you will also be competing with cat sitters and kennel businesses. It can be difficult to make your cattery business succeed if there are already other catteries in your local area.
Planning Your Cattery Business
When starting up a cattery business, you will first need to create a well-designed business plan.
There are some important considerations you should make when planning your cattery business:
What type of cattery business are you going to run?
You need to decide whether you are going to run a budget, mid-market or luxury cattery business. This will impact the type of customers you attract, your price points, your equipment requirements and your branding.
What will your maximum occupancy be?
Your maximum occupancy is how many cats you can house at one time. Your maximum occupancy will depend on how many sleeping areas you create and how many areas can house multiple cats from the same household.
Where will your cattery be located?
Your cattery should be in an easily accessible location with a high quantity of your target customer base. Finding an appropriate location that already has the suitable infrastructure or the space for you to build it is key.
What local competition do you have?
Being aware of your local competition is essential to the success of your business. An oversaturated market can negatively impact your occupancy rates and your profits. Look at other catteries in your area, their price points and the customers they target. This can help you decide the type of cattery business you are going to set up.
What are your equipment and premises requirements?
Consult the equipment list above to determine what your equipment requirements are. Budget, mid-range and luxury catteries will have different premises, facilities and equipment requirements. Once you have determined your requirements, you can calculate the approximate costs. This can help you to decide whether to purchase all of your equipment or whether some will be rented.
What are your investment requirements?
Can you finance your business yourself or do you require outside investment? To determine your investment requirements, calculate your start-up costs, running costs and expected profits. Outside investment can be obtained from a bank, another financial institution, a private investor, other businesses, or from family or friends.
Do you or your employees require any specific training or experience?
This could apply to you and your employees. Training may be required to ensure your cattery business operates safely. It can also help your cattery be more attractive to potential customers or can result in a higher rating during your inspection.
What are your business objectives?
Determining your business objectives can be a great way to attract investments for your cattery business and can help you to grow your business. They also help you to create your business plan.
Your business objectives should be SMART:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Realistic
T = Time-bound
Have you complied with all legal requirements?
Look at the list above to determine what legal requirements you must comply with. You must follow all guidelines and regulations and apply for the correct licence. Failure to comply with the legal requirements may result in the local authority revoking your licence. You could also receive a fine or face prosecution.