Two Ways to Ease Feline Client Anxieties
By Deborah Hansen
Cat owners can be as finicky and temperamental as their beloved furry felines. When adding cats to a dog facility, many times boarding owners and staff struggle to understand the needs of this group of pet owners.
When we look at the different groups of feline owners, those who are most likely to bring their cat in for boarding fall into the overprotective group that always wants the best of everything for their kitty. When the other groups of cat owners leave town for a few days, it tends to be challenging to convince them that their cats actually need the supervised care that a boarding facility provides.
Once your facility attracts these high–maintenance cat owners, the next step is to keep them happy without monopolizing your staff’s energy during their stay. There are several systems your business can have in place to help make the stay of these clients’ cats run smoothly while assuring that the needs of all the pets in your care can be met in a timely manner.
Here are two steps that I take to put these clients’ minds at ease: First, I send them a daily text or email with a picture of their cat and a quick note about the feline’s day. Second, I keep a daily journal that records how their cat was provided for each day during the boarding stay. These two simple solutions also assist in encouraging rebooking of feline clients.
Daily Text or Email
Offering a daily text or email goes a long way in calming owner anxieties when they are out of town. When I started caring for felines while their owners were out of the country, I was surprised at the efforts the owners make to check for a daily email or text. Clients on a cruise would make special arrangements to receive shore–to–ship emails to see a picture of their cat every day. And, international travelers would be sure to add international cell service to their phones to receive a daily text about their cat.
Knowing the effort and expense these owners encountered to receive a daily email or text made me nervous about capturing a picture that was unique and original day after day. It did not take me long to discover that clients simply want to see their beloved furry family member. A quick picture of the cat is what is important. If all the kitty does is hide in the cubby or sleep in the corner, then that is the picture they will be getting.
I have a set daily picture time in my business. There is one cat that is notorious for always eating when I come by at picture time and another one that is always asleep in their cubby. The feline owners that pay for boarding just want to see that their cat is doing what their cat always does. This is comforting to many cat owners. If you happen to snap a picture of something unique or funny, owners love that as well. If 80% of the pictures are the same, the owners also appreciate that their kitty is acting “normal” while they are out of town. In my experience, every picture is appreciated.
In the beginning I thought I needed to say something creative with every text or email; “Kitty enjoyed her wet turkey with gravy for breakfast before she took a bath and a nap in a sun puddle.” Then I realized owners were just as happy with, “Hi! Kitty enjoyed her breakfast and morning nap. Hope you are having a relaxing day!” I also like to add any catch phrases my business uses for branding in my quick note to the owners. Your notes do not need to be long or well curated to be effective.
At first these additional steps may seem overwhelming and costly, but, in my business, I have found that it actually saves me time and money. I do not charge extra for this service. Sending a quick daily email or text with a picture of the cat tends to eliminate numerous random phone calls that keep the staff from attending to the needs of other pets.
While having cameras and a video feed that clients can log onto is a great option for an add–on service, sending a quick message seems to be more cost effective when caring for these clients. At check–in, I simply set up a daily email or text as part of the standard service instead of as an add–on.
Journal of The Cat’s Stay
The other option I like for these clients is a daily journal that includes a checklist which I provide to the client at the end of their stay. I have designed these on two–part NCR paper so the client gets one and I have a copy for their records. If your files are digital, I would suggest a digital option using the same setup as your client intake form.
My client journal has a place for date and time, then a checklist for food, fresh water, litter box cleaning and play time, followed by a section for notes. I try to write one note for each day of the journal. I write things like, “Fluffy really enjoyed her feather time today,” “She loves turkey and gravy” or “Silly girl was playing in her water bowl.” I always try to write a positive note that emphasizes that my business was attentive and observant to the cat’s every movement. Having positive and insightful notes on the first stay not only encourages rebooking, but also seems to calm the anxiety and saves on communication time during future boarding stays.
Feline boarding clients are much different than dog boarding clients. Often their uniqueness leads to frustration and a lower profit rate. Simple things like a daily email or text and a daily journal go a long way to reassure these clients that your business is taking amazing care of their beloved furry family member, while also building their confidence to encourage rebooking in the future.