Many a pet owner treats their furry companions as vital members of the family. According to a 2017 study by Boomerang Africa conducted in six countries, including South Africa, 72% of South African families laugh at least once a day because of something their pet does, such as kissing, licking or chasing someone or something.

It is no surprise then that pet owners want to do the best they can for their “fur kids”.

“The global trends of pet parenting and pet humanisation whereby pet owners regard pets as members of the family has filtered down to the South African pet care industry, encouraging consumers to spend more on pet products, spoiling their pets as one might spoil a child,” reads the South African Pet Care Industry Landscape Report from Insight Survey.

“As result of this, South African pet owners have become more vigilant in their purchases of pet care products, opting for products and services that treat pets as part of the family.”

While the pet food industry has taken off locally, there are booming opportunities for other sorts of businesses.

Pet insurance

This service, says Juanita Aitkenhead, founder and Editor of the Pet Health Care website, provides financial cover for a medical procedure or emergency on a dog or cat. Some plans also offer a limit on routine care like vaccinations.

“It definitely has grown over the past five years because people have realised they need insurance because vet care has become so expensive,” she says.

One visit to the vet can cost R800-R4 500, she says, depending on what type of pet you have and what is wrong.

Along with improved veterinary technology, she says, vets needs to understand the anatomy of many animals so their education is more intense compared to a normal doctor.

She advises people to read the fine print of their cover carefully and to take out insurance immediately on getting a pet. “People must keep in mind and understand once an animal is diagnosed with any illness, that will be excluded from the pet insurance cover if you get cover after the diagnosis.”

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Pet-specific products: ‘Catios’

Morne Combrink saw a gap in the market in 2012 when he met many pet owners through an animal charity who asked for a way to keep their pets safe while they were outdoors. “People wanted to protect their pets from getting lost or killed in an accident,” he says.

He started Pet Safety Solutions last year and specialises in constructing enclosures for pets. These enclosures can be an extension from a window or any access point from the house. A “catio”, he says, is a concept from the USA and Europe that is gaining popularity in SA. Simply put, it is enclosing an existing patio for specifically, you guessed it, a cat.

“I’d say 80% of what I build are for cats because it is so difficult to keep cats in your property,” Combrink  says. “Dog enclosures have been less popular. I am getting a lot of requests from shelters to upgrade their existing infrastructure.”

With a two-week waiting list of clients, he says he’s noticed that this is taking off in SA. Each of his jobs are custom-built to cater to the property and home. “It must be aesthetically pleasing and blend in with the property. It must also be built so it can be easily removed.”

Pet-specific: cat ‘wine’

An American company, Apollo Peak, also specialises in a non-alcoholic “wine” for cats. Though not yet available in SA, The Pinot Meow – yes, really – is made from organically grown cat nip, fresh beetroot and natural preservatives to help hold the taste and colour.

Pet sitters and other accommodation

When pet owners go on holiday, someone has to look after their pets. If there is no family member or friend available to help out, options include taking the pet to a hotel, kennel or cattery or hiring a pet sitter.

“People now have a luxury touch to kennels and catteries,” observes Aitkenhead. She says it is a wonderful opportunity for people who love animals and want to start business around pets.

However, people need to do their research, she advises, and know how to maintain high levels of hygiene to keep disease from spreading, or know when to limit the number of pets, and how to separate different types of animals.

Much like a baby sitter operates, a pet sitter will either visit a pet owner’s home when they are away to take care of the pet (services include feeding the pet, cleaning the poop and so on), or stay at the owner’s home to do the same thing.

“Pet owners like when the sitter send feedback, photos of the dog or cat – that increases the credibility with the owner,” says Aitkenhead

“Some sitters charge R60 for visit, and it can go up R450 a day if they are staying over.”

She advises people who are looking for pet sitters to be specific about their requirements and then to get a quote.

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