Home working and no holidays hit pet sitters' trade

Kylie Rouse, co-founder of Norwich Cat Sitting Services.

Kylie Rouse, co-founder of Norwich Cat Sitting Services. - Credit: Kylie Rouse

Animal care businesses say a lack of travel and rise in home working has seen their income plummet this year.

Kylie Rouse, 33, of Magpie Road in Norwich, co-founded Norwich Cat Sitting Services in 2018, said before the March lockdown she had between 400 and 500 clients on her books.

She said: "Since my business depends on travel, as soon as lockdowns started happening across the world it suffered. This was from February and at that time of year we usually see quite a bit of new business coming in for the summer months.

"No-one was booking because of the uncertainty so we saw a fall in demand a lot earlier than when our own lockdown started. 

"When the UK went into lockdown our diaries cleared overnight. I had a lot of days when I was fully booked for the three to four months ahead so that was gutting. We simply don’t get bookings when travel is affected like it has been.

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"We had a good few months over summer and Christmas is also looking good but this year I will probably see my takings down by over half."

She said she was seeing more cancellations from clients.

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The business owner, who said she was thankful for grant support, started a pet to vet service which involved her or her business partner taking people's animals to vets if they could not leave their homes. 

They are also offering video calls or garden meetings and clean homes they sit in.

She said she was hopeful business would improve next March.

Shelli Higgins, founder of Let's Go Walkies Norwich.

Shelli Higgins, founder of Let's Go Walkies Norwich. - Credit: Shelli Higgins

Shelli Higgins, 45, from Old Catton, who established dog walking service Let's Go Walkies Norwich in August 2017,  said before the first lockdown she walked 14 dogs each week but after the restrictions came in that fell to one.

She said: "I lost 90pc of my income. It was a blow because I had bought a van for the business and was paying that off."

But the dog walker added the business was "recoverable" as many people bought puppies during lockdown and more people were returning to work, which has boosted her income.

Despite not getting a grant, Mrs Higgins had an income from another job.

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