To serve pet owners who need a place for their cats or dogs to stay while they are away, entrepreneurs are opening up pet hotels. In Irvine, California, for instance, Club Cat is billed as the “first luxury cat hotel” in Orange County.
Shana Martin, who founded the hotel, had owned cats for years and had always struggled with pet care. She worked for several companies that were not headquartered in California and would have to fly out for meetings. She didn’t feel comfortable having a pet sitter in her house, and her only options outside of pet sitters were family, friends and neighbors (or pet clinics).
“I would just struggle every time” over anxiety about what to do with her pets, Martin told PYMNTS in an interview. “I didn’t want to disrupt their routine.” At the same time, she wanted her cats to be well-cared for and have human attention while she was away.
As an adjunct professor of business and management at a local college, Martin would show her students videos of different businesses corresponding with their areas of study. One video focused on a franchised dog boarding and daycare business that transformed the industry in the early 2000s and inspired other companies. The company made the experience more fun for dogs, akin to a child care experience. “I just kept thinking, ‘Gosh, I would love to do the same thing for cats,’” Martin said.
The Business Model
Enter Club Cat, which Martin equates to a fancy hotel like the Ritz Carlton or Fairmont for felines. Her company’s suites, which are eight feet tall and have actual walls along with a glass door, are designed with cats in mind. Since cats like to climb to multiple levels, the club features eight-foot balconies that let them safely lounge. Standard suites are said to house a maximum of two cats from the same family, while deluxe suites can host up to three cats from each family.
Martin also has webcams in each of the suites, so cat parents can see their felines from their iPhone or Android phones at any time of day. The company also offers “resort treatments” that include fur therapy, calming therapy and paw-icures, where the company will massage a cat’s paws and clip their nails.
To schedule a stay for their pets, customers can make reservations through Club Cat’s website. “We operate much like a hotel,” Martin said. The hotel’s cat guests check in during the afternoon and check out in the morning, much like human guests would in a traditional hotel. For technology, the company uses the Kennel Booker platform for reservations and Stripe for payments.
The Pet Care Market
When it comes to target market, Club Cat will serve anyone who has a cat and a need – they don’t have to be based in Orange County. The cat hotel is located near John Wayne Airport, and Martin said she can house cats from different areas. In the future, Martin sees the company expanding to other states.
Humans have always loved their pets, but in recent years that love has evolved to a new level. According to VIP Petcare’s data, 84 percent of pet owners consider themselves “pet parents.” And the company estimates the average pet owner spends a little over $2,000 a year caring for their fur baby, while Nielsen notes that Americans collectively spent about $69 billion on pet care as of 2017.
In this thriving market, entrepreneurs are serving pet parents through hotels designed with the unique needs of cats (and dogs), as well as their pet parents, with the aid of digital technology.