So you love cats or dogs and you wish you had more of them in your life? You’ve got some outside space? Setting up and running your own cattery or kennel might just be the job for you… or is it? Read on and see if it’s the new lifestyle for you.
Running a cattery or boarding kennel is not just a job but a lifestyle, involving serious commitment, in terms of legal compliance, investment and time. We feel exhausted already but surely there must be some fun involved such as cuddling lovely pets?
You will need the space to build suitable accommodation and permission from your local authority to run your establishment legally. Additionally, your life will be dictated by early mornings, hard physical work, difficulty in planning holidays and having a social life. If you love dogs or cats, however, and want to work from home this could be a career choice for you.
The first thing you’ll need is money. That and a business plan. The latter is a good thing to do even if you don’t need it to take to the bank for a loan. If you don’t know where you are going, you can’t get lost and even businesses need a strong sense of what they are and what they want to achieve so it’s worth writing up a plan. Without one, your business will be like a ship without a rudder. You’re unlikely to ‘get rich quick’ running a cattery or boarding kennel so perhaps consider if you’re able to have a separate income or indeed if you’re at a stage in life when you have less financial commitments.
If you are building a cattery or kennel from scratch, you must contact your local authority. Not only are there planning issues but also the matter of business rates, operating licences and any other obligations. Plus you need to consider your neighbours.
Many other matters need to be taken into consideration such as fencing materials must be secure and safe; sleeping areas must be insulated to prevent extremes of temperature; the construction must be such that the security of the animal is ensured; only products which are not toxic to cats and dogs may be used; all internal surfaces used in the construction of walls, floors, partitions, doors and door frames must be durable, smooth and waterproof. It’s more than the simple task of screwing together a few runs…
Catteries and boarding kennels are 365 days a year jobs. The times when others are taking holidays (the school summer holidays and Christmas for example) are when you will be at your busiest. You have to be available 24 hours a day in case an animal needs you (no doing breakfast and going off to work for the day then coming back at teatime). You’ll start your days early in all weathers and your last check-up will be late at night. If you have young children or other dependents who will also need your time, you need to seriously weigh up whether you will be able to meet all your obligations. You also need stamina and a reasonable level of fitness.
Businesses need customers, and catteries / kennels often rely on repeat business. It’s really only a good idea to run a cattery or boarding kennel if you love the animals in questions, as the owners will pick up on your genuine interest. If they think you love their pet, they will bring it back. You’ll also need to be professional and need to run efficiently with accurate daily records (very important if an animal is taken ill or there is an outbreak of illness). In today’s modern world, marketing communications are very important so your customers will often expect you to have a Facebook page and a regularly updated website.
You will require a licence from your local authority under the terms of The Animal Boarding Establishment Act 1963. This is issued to the owner of the business themselves, not the business, so this would also be the case if you took over an establishment from someone else. A fee will be required for your application.
Other things you need to consider are insurance; what to charge (do your research); checking that all residents are fully vaccinated. If you intend to have staff, you need to have employers’ liability insurance, toilet facilities and first aid equipment. You staff may be advised to be vaccinated against tetanus.
If this long list hasn’t put you off, then you will no doubt really enjoy running a cattery or boarding kennel. For every piece of paperwork or hour spent doing the accounts, you’ll see many lovely pets who will grow to know you and share their love with you. And what could be nicer on Christmas morning than getting up and seeing numerous furry faces waiting for a special festive cuddle? For some cattery or boarding kennel owners, their residents will simply become part of the family.
For more advice, visit www.pet-owners.co.uk