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From financial whiz to chief chin rubber - my journey to a successful cat sitting business owner

What was it that inspired me to start my cat sitting business? What was the life-changing moment that made me walk away from my former career in finance?
Added on: 15 Apr, 2021 Posted by: Sandra James 6 min read (970 words)

In this article:

I know that many of us have had holidays - all sorts of plans cancelled, rearranged, or amended this year. Let’s be honest, while we know there are bigger issues abound, feeling like we are missing out on our summer holiday, our winter ski trip, or a trip to see family can be tough.

“I haven’t had a holiday in years”

That was me - six years ago before I started The Cat Butler. At the time, I was working in The City as a financial manager. It was a busy role, with many early mornings and late nights. You might think this role was the reason why I hadn’t been able to enjoy some time away -  but you’d be wrong.

The real reason why I hadn’t been on holiday for so many years was my then cat, Ziggy - a gorgeous Birman who I adored. Like many cats, Ziggy thrived on routine. He was the ultimate creature of habit, and he liked everything just so - he was never shy about telling me when things had fallen short of his exacting standards! 

Much as I would have loved to jet off somewhere for a week in the sun or to head back ‘home’ to see the family in South Africa, I just couldn’t bear the thought of leaving Ziggy. I’ll be honest here, I never understood it when people told me that they couldn’t - wouldn’t - go away because of their pets. Once I became a cat owner, though, I totally got it.

There must be someone who could have looked after him?!

There were some amazing catteries around me - five-star reviews, facilities that rivalled some of the resorts I’d been dreaming of going to. So, what was the problem? Well, I knew that Ziggy hated being away from home.

If I were to put him in a cattery, I’d first have to get him in the car. And that would mean that the dreaded cat carrier would have to come out. Even if I succeeded and managed to do this, I knew that the car journey itself would be stressful - for both of us!

Sandra James, founder of The Cat Butler and her cat Billy

Then, even once I got him there, I’d be leaving him in an environment that he didn’t know. Amazing as the staff there may have been, I knew Ziggy would be traumatised if I took him away from the familiar sites and smells of his own home. And, when he discovered that there were other cats there as well - cats he didn’t know - I just couldn’t do it to him!

Could you not have asked a neighbour?

Yes, I could have, but as well as feeling that this was a lot to ask of someone who didn’t have cats themselves or understand them like I - a cat owner - did, I wasn’t confident that this would give Ziggy the consistency, or the level of interaction, care, and love that he needed to be happy.

So, that was that. I just didn’t go on holiday.

Time for a change

In 2010, I decided to leave my career in finance. The time was right for me to make a change, and there’d been an idea building in my head for some time.

I knew there were other cats out there - besides Ziggy - who wouldn’t fare well in a cattery. And I was sure there would be many other owners who didn’t feel comfortable leaving their cat in the care of a neighbour while they were away.

What if, I thought, there was somebody who could go into a customer’s home and look after their cat when they were on holiday. Somebody who was insured, who had been DBS checked, who was trained to give medication, and so on. Somebody who wouldn’t just go in, feed the cat, and leave; but somebody who would take the time to get to know them and deliver them with the care they deserve.

And wouldn’t it be great, I thought if that person could look after the customer’s home as well? Bringing in the post, taking out the bins, closing the blinds, and so on.

Well, you’ve probably guessed it, but this idea is how The Cat Butler started - and I’ve never looked back!

Life today

These days, I spend my time working with cats - visiting them in their homes, and waiting on them hand and foot while their humans are out of town. I rub their chins, give them cuddles, play with them… it’s hard to remember what my days of number crunching were like!

And do I now go away on holidays? Well, now I have a team of Cat Butlers around me, and I know my cat Billy is in safe hands, I sure do!

Sandra James,
The Cat Butler Founder

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Sandra James

Sandra James

Owner & Founder

The Cat Butler was set up by Sandra James in recognition of the fact that a stay in a cattery can be unsettling for many cats and also their owners.

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