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How to Run a Cattery

There are around two million cats in South Africa, which is a large market if you’re keen to operate in the pet boarding sector.

However, running a cattery is a lifestyle business. And a love and genuine interest in caring for animals is a prerequisite.

Animals need time and care to settle into their new surroundings, and it may take some cats a while before they become accustomed to your cattery.

Although catteries and kennels offer lucrative business opportunities, if you’re not passionate about animal welfare and wellbeing, then this industry is probably not for you.

When looking after pets, you must keep a close eye on unusual behaviour or potential health issues, so you can report these to their owners.

As a cattery operator, you should also be proficient in handling animals and administering any medication, if necessary.

It is also important to follow any instructions clients may give you to ensure that their pet receives the same level of care as they would in their own home.

Many pet owners should provide their cat’s health history, dietary requirements and emergency contact details before leaving their cat in your care.

Variety of accommodation

In South Africa’s pet boarding industry, many business operators are now offering customers a more luxurious boarding experience for their pets. Some boutique catteries include more spacious units with separate bedding and exercise areas to give animals extra space and felt freedom.

Your cattery should include products like tree stumps inside individual units so the cats can exercise and enjoy natural surroundings within the safety of a contained area. 

Some dormitory units can also include extra heating and grass - luxuries that can usually be included at an extra cost.

Other basic boarding facilities should still offer cats adequate space within their individual units.

A well-built cattery should have runs that are around 1.8 metres by 1.2 metres.

Cattery operators should also allocate space for a secondary safety door to ensure pets are kept secure when staff enter the cage at feeding time or when they are cleaning the units.

Know your competition

For entrepreneurs who are keen to specialise in running a cattery business, you should consider who your competition is, what catteries in the area are offering, and at what price.

If there is already a successful pet-boarding business in the area, find out what services they don’t currently offer and try to provide these within your business. 

To make sure you stand out from your competition, generate good reviews and referrals from your clients. Catteries rely heavily on repeat business, as once a pet owner finds a cattery they are comfortable with, they are highly likely to return for any other holiday or situation.

Therefore once you gain a new client you should be doing everything in your power to ensure you get repeat custom.

Business expansion

There are 7.4 million dogs in South Africa, which is a huge market for entrepreneurs to consider when starting a pet care business.

Expanding by including a kennel facility to your cattery can dramatically increase your customer base. However, you must have adequate space on your property to cater for both animals. And the extensive knowledge of caring for dogs – a highly different routine to cats.

Despite cats and dogs both needing similar attention and care, they are very different animals in nature and size. Cats can become increasingly stressed and unsettled if they are exposed to dogs, can hear dog’s barking or even smell them.

To create a calm environment for both animals, you must ensure the cattery is positioned far away from the kennel accommodation.

Licenses and regulations

You must check with your local council to know what licenses you need to run a professional cattery. 

For example, the city of Cape Town has an Animal By-law (2010) that outlines requirements for cattery conditions and the materials that should be used to build the enclosures, cages and flooring.

It is important to study each council’s guidelines before you set up your cattery business, as the requirements may differ for each municipality and failure to comply could be detrimental to the running of your business. 

There will also be by-laws that relate to the keeping of animals, such as removing all faeces and other waste matter from pet enclosures at least once every 24 hours, or making sure all loose food is kept in receptacles with close fitting lids within the food store.

Additional services

To maximise your business revenue, you can offer clients additional services, such as pet grooming, or collection/drop-off services which can be charged at an additional cost.

If you don’t have any training in pet grooming, you could approach a local groomer and hire them to come to your business one day a week, depending on demand. 

This not only creates more income streams for your business but it also helps you to connect with other operators in the pet industry, which can also help build up your referral rate.

Including a small store inside your premise that sells pet toys, food and treats, bedding, etc, is also a viable additional option for your cattery

This again allows you to get in contact with local suppliers as well as larger pet food brands, building up your contacts within the industry as well as increasing your customers overall spend.

Krystena Griffin

About the author

Krystena Griffin writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other industry publications.


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