Setting Up A Cattery Or Boarding Kennel


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.

Mon 24 Jul 2017

By Judy

Setting Up A Cattery Or Boarding Kennel

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.

A brief introduction to running a cattery or boarding kennel business

You will need the space to build your animal accommodation and permission from your local authority to run your establishment legally. Additionally, your life will be dictated by this work, early mornings, hard physical work and difficulty in planning holidays and having a social life. If you love dogs and or cats, however, and want to work from home this could be a career choice for you.

What you will need to start running a cattery or boarding kennels

You will need sufficient finance. You will have to prepare a business plan, which, if you need a loan, you be required to present to the bank or other lender.

The Feline Advisory Bureau suggest that you will not become very wealthy in this line of work and that it is a job that people often do when there is another income coming into the household as well.

What cattery or boarding kennel work demands of you

This is a 365 day a year job, the very times when others are taking holidays (the school summer holidays and Christmas for example) you will be at your busiest. You have to be available 24 hours in case an animal needs you and you start your days early rain, snow or shine. 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.

Would you personally be suited to the demands of running a cattery or boarding kennel?

You will need commitment and stamina, and be fit enough to scrub out units between client pets, lift heavy bags of pet food etc , clean, groom, prepare food etc. If this is a job you are considering for early retirement, consider how long you will want to run the business bearing the physical demands in mind.

It is probably essential that that you love the type of the animal you are boarding, even when they are ill, bad tempered or have just soiled themselves. You are their home from home for a few days so if you can calm and comfort them this is obviously beneficial to the animal. And if the animal is happy when its owners collect it, it should mean repeat business for you.


You will need to have good business sense, be disciplined enough to keep accurate daily records (very important if an animal is taken ill or there is an outbreak of say kennel cough). You must be able to present accurate yearly accounts.

You will need the social skills to be able to get on with the owners of the animals you board, and be able to handle crisis calmly. If, for example, an animal dies while staying in your establishment, how will you handle telling the owners?

Red Tape: the official permissions/licences required to start/take over a cattery or boarding kennel

If you are building a cattery/kennel from scratch again you must contact your local authority. Not only are there building planning issues but also the matter of business rates, operating licences and any other obligations. See this the government information pages about running a business from home including official information on business rates, planning and usage permissions, taxes, specialised insurance and Health and Safety requirements.

The Animal Boarding Establishment Act 1963

You will require a licence from your local authority under the terms of the above act. 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.

Local authorities take into account the following points when considering a licence for an establishment.

  •  That the animals will be kept in suitable accommodation at all times. Suitable accommodation takes into account the construction and size of the accommodation, the number of animals to be housed in it, facilities for exercising the animals, cleanliness and temperature, lighting and ventilation provisions
  •  That suitable and adequate food, drink and bedding materials will be provided to the animals and that animals will be exercised and visited regularly.
  •  That steps are taken to prevent and control the spread of disease among the animals, and that isolation facilities are in place.
  •  That adequate protection is provided to the animals in the case of fire and other emergencies.
  •  That a register is kept. The register should contain a description of all animals received, their arrival and departure date, and the name and address of the owner. the register should be available to be inspected at any time by a local authority officer, veterinary surgeon, or practitioner.
  • Normally, a council would get back inside 28 days to let applicants know whether they were unsuccessful in their application for a Animal Boarding Licence.

If you are taking over a property where you intend to convert outbuildings into your kennel/cattery you will need to get permission for this from your local authority, as you will looking at change of use as well as meeting the stipulations for this type of building as laid out by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.

A commercial kennel/cattery may be objected to by your neighbours – who may be worried about noise (dogs barking at all hours) and smell (numerous animals in captivity). You will need to take advice about the building/refurbishing of your kennels but basically note that:

Where wood has been used in an existing construction it must be smooth and treated to make it waterproof. Wood should not be used in exposed construction of walls, floors, partitions, door frames or doors in the animal kennel area. There must be nothing sticking out or any rough edges which could cause injury.

  • Fencing material must be secure and safe.Sleeping areas of kennels must be insulated to prevent extremes of temperature.
  • The construction must be such that the security of the animal is ensured.
  • All exterior wood must be properly treated against wood rot, for example ‘Tanalised’.
  • 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(hard wearing), smooth and impervious (waterproof).

Skills and training required to run a cattery or boarding kennel

No formal qualifications are required, though of course qualifications in such areas as first aid/animal behaviour etc will enhance your professional standing and help you out in your daily work . Obviously you need to like dogs or cats and and not be in any way squeamish about dealing with them and their bodily functions and you should be experienced at handling them.

In addition, before thinking about setting up a kennel/cattery and reading up about buildings and planning permission, business rates and taxes, heating and hygiene etc etc do do research in your local area to check on the demand for your business. If you are taking over an existing business you may well have an existing client base - unless the previous establishment closed owing to a bad reputation. If you are opening a new cattery/kennel in an area do your market research to make sure there will be sufficient clients before investing your money.

You can get cattery management qualifications, the Feline Advisory Board can advise you about courses.

Insurance for your cattery or boarding kennel

Your insurance will need to cover you for the amount of animals you are licenced to board.

You must be insured for public liability and product liability (particularly if you sell items). You should be insured for professional indemnity and against the loss of income if you lose your licence. Liability to animals in your care custody and control is definitely required. In the case of kennels and catteries, cover for vets fees can be extended to include any illness in a client pet that commences within 72 hours of leaving your establishment. Property damage cover should also be purchased.

Ensure, if you work from your home, that both your own home and your business are correctly and sufficiently insured.

You will require employer’s liability to cover anyone who works with you in the business - including volunteers or work experience placement workers. Your specialist small pet business insurer will advise you of the cover you need if you explain all of the areas you will be working in.

If you are using a vehicle to collect and deliver your pet clients ensure correct insurance for this.

Your insurance policy must be on public display in your kennels/cattery.

What can I charge at my cattery or boarding kennels?

Fees are around £10 per day for a cat and up to £30 a day for a dog, depending on the service offered (some kennels collect their pet clients) (December 2011) – people expect that you will pun on surcharges for bank holidays such as Christmas and Boxing Day . Check what local catteries/kennels and also pet sitters and home boarders are offering in your locality so that you don’t undersell yourself, but also don’t price yourself out of your market.

Other things to bear in mind when running a cattery or boarding kennel

You must be strict that clients are up to date with all vaccinations (ask to see paperwork) are up to date with worming and flea treatments etc. It is essential to do this for the well being of your charges and to comply with your insurance terms.

Your establishment will be inspected at least once a year by the Environmental Health Department and or local authority appointed vet.

If you have staff working for you as well as having the correct employer insurance in place you must also, by law, provide toilet facilities, first aid equipment and your staff must be vaccinated against tetanus as often as advised by a doctor. If you offer official training for your staff you need to have a clear written statement of what this will include.

Identifying and controlling dogs on site at your boarding kennel

The Control of Dogs Order 1992 means that all dogs, when in a public area, must wear a collar and tag stating the name and address of the owner.
It is recommended that all dogs boarded at the premises should wear a collar and tag identifying the name of the owner, or have the collar and tag secured immediately outside the kennel. This will help to identify the dog and will help staff with dog control in the event of escape, or if there is a fire or other emergency. When dogs share a kennel, take off their collars and hang them outside. From 2016, all dogs are required to be microchipped.