“I really just want to quit my job, move somewhere gorgeous and open my own B&B.”
That’s the secret dream of countless executives and “worker bees” alike. Chances are, they’re thinking of a luxurious inn that’s a peaceful, upscale retreat for humans – not a smaller facility filled with often-yowling and often-demanding cats.
Then again, those dreamers are probably not “cat people.” They can’t understand how fun it is to tend to a building filled with adorable, playful and trouble-making feline guests. That could be an ideal situation for cat lovers, though.
If this describes you, here’s a look at how to start a cat hotel.
Let’s get this out of the way up front: you’re not going to make millions of dollars running a cat hotel. You can, however, make a decent supplemental income or even develop a viable small business by providing a reliable, safe and comfortable home for cats whose owners are out of town on holiday or for business travel.
Before taking any concrete action, research and planning are essential. Here are key questions to ask yourself.
Are you really up for this?
A cat hotel isn’t just a facility that has lots of cats to play with when you have the urge. You’ll have to spend hours cleaning, preparing and serving food, grooming and administering meds. Plus, there’s the administrative work you have to do on a 24/7 basis- with no vacations.
In fact, normal holiday periods will be your busiest time. A staff under your supervision can do much of the work for you. However, if you’re not actively supervising them, you may be at risk of losing everything you’ve built.
Is there an underserved market?
Many areas already have numerous cat or pet boarding facilities. Trying to take away their business is a lot harder than opening a cat hotel where there’s a demand for one.
Do you have the experience and knowledge?
Training or certification isn’t required in most areas. Just as running an inn is very different from having house guests, running a cat hotel is much more demanding than taking care of your own pets. Consider training courses or working in an existing facility before starting your own.
Do you need government approvals or permits?
You will, in many areas. You’ll also have to check zoning regulations to find out where cat hotels are and aren’t allowed.
Do you have the necessary funds?
You’ll need to acquire a suitable building, purchase everything from housing to food and market your service extensively. You’ll have to do all those things before revenue can start rolling in.
Still interested in taking the plunge after answering all of those questions? Here’s a brief guide on how you can start a cat hotel.
1. Find a proper location, ensuring there’s plenty of room for expansion if your business takes off. Don’t purchase or lease, though, until you’re sure that it meets all zoning requirements and you acquired all of the necessary permits.
2. Talk to a lawyer and accountant to set up the right business structure for your business. Be sure to obtain all tax IDs and permits, including employer ID numbers and sales tax permits.
3. Build suitable housing for your guests. It should be spacious, comfortable and safe. Build play areas, too. There are companies you can hire to do this for you.
4. Obtain liability insurance to protect against accidents and potential client lawsuits. Better safe than sorry.
5. Purchase the food, toys, play structures or other essentials you’ll require.
6. Hire staff members, if you have the need and the funds.
7. Build relationships with local vets, so they’ll be available in the event of emergency and (hopefully) recommend your facility.
8. Market, market, market. Start by giving away fliers and brochures at pet-related businesses and local stores. Advertise in local “coupon” magazines and build an online presence. Once you have a regular, satisfied clientele, you’ll have a regular income.
The old cliché says “Do what you love.” Running a cat hotel is a lot of work, and it will never generate enough income to let you retire to a tropical island. But for a true cat lover with a solid business plan, it’s a great way to reap financial rewards while doing what you love. And, it will definitely keep you busy!