342
7 min 48 sec

Scientist Starts a Purrfect Cats-Only Pet-Sitting Service

In this meow-nificent episode, a Houston scientist and her partner start a service to look after cats when their owners are on vacation. Avoid pro-cat-stination—listen to Side Hustle School and get to work!
Animals Low Startup Potential Niche Ideas Products Service

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What It's About

A Houston woman finds a purr-fect side hustle in an underserved market.

Business Model
Service
Skills Required
Cat Keeping & Communication
Complexity
Low
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

There are a lot of places that watch dogs, but there aren't that many that are catered specifically to cats. It’s smart that they chose to take on cats only! I sometimes mention the Meow Haus in Portland, where the official show cat, Libby, goes to stay when her parents are gone. Peace of mind as an animal owner or companion is important, and cat sitters are a terribly underserved market in many cities.

Fun Fact

Nicole has had side hustles since she was little: lemonade stands, community newsletters, even an NSYNC fansite selling products for a profit. She’d find ways to make money and donate her profits to animal charities.

Notes from Chris

Episode 342
Today’s story comes from Nicole Kay. By day, she’s an environmental scientist at an oil and gas company. For her side hustle, she started an in-home cats-only pet sitting business in the dog-prominent town of Houston.

Nicole and her partner have five cats and had only gone on vacation once or twice in the five years they were together—they never wanted to leave town because they didn’t trust anyone to take care of their cats. One night, Nicole thought, “What if WE became the pet sitters?”

A cats-only pet sitting company didn’t exist in Houston, so she started one over a weekend by creating a free website on Wix and putting a post on Nextdoor:, a private social networking service for neighborhoods. She also spent a couple of hours putting flyers around her neighborhood, but never got a response from them.

The Nextdoor post didn’t get any comments or likes, but it did get her a customer a few days later. From there, people reached out after hearing about the business from Nextdoor or from word of mouth from clients, local shelters, and cat veterinarians. She went from having 0 to 40 clients in six months with just word of mouth from the community: purr-fect. Their website started generating leads about three months later from Google and from blog posts that appeared on page one of Google search results for “cat sitting Houston,” which was pretty meow-nificent.

The business grew from there. Nicole would see two to four clients a week, and each client had between one and three cats. She charged $25 for a half hour visit and offered 15-minute and 60-minute visits as well, which were not as popular. She’d also charge a few more dollars during the busy season.

She was averaging between $1,500 and $2,000 a month by only seeing several clients a week—which she says really helped with their mortgage payments! They ended up selling their client list to a competitor when they moved to Denver, and they're considering launching a new cat-sitting business in Colorado. In the meantime, it’s all cats all the time with their new online pet store and blog, Just Cats, and we’ll have to see what they manage to claw up next!


MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Just Cats, Miau CatCollection, & Kitty Sitting 101: Learn more about Nicole and the many things she offers on her websites. They're pawsome!
  • Wix: The online website platform that Nicole is used to set up her e-commerce store front
  • Nextdoor: The free, private social network for your neighborhood
SEE ALSO:

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Resources

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Quote of the Day
"I started this side hustle because I was frustrated and unchallenged in my full-time job. Waking up every morning felt like Groundhog Day and I needed something to make me excited about my life again. That's when I discovered Chris and The $100 Startup. I would say that this book sparked my previous entrepreneur flame that had long been extinguished."
—Nicole Kay #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau