Cat lover cashes in on city's cat-sitting market

Zhang Long
An unfortunate experience led cat lover Chen Suting to start her own business which now has a team of 150 carers.
Zhang Long

There were 48.2 million cat owners in urban China in 2020, a gigantic market valued at over 202 billion yuan (US$31,09 billion).

Among the many entrepreneurs taking advantage of the burgeoning pet market is Chen Suting. 

Cat lover cashes in on citys cat-sitting market

Chen Suting pictured during a recent interview with CCTV.com

In 2012, Chen adopted a stray cat in her neighborhood, calling it Chenpi (tangerine peel). A month later she had to go away for a few weeks and asked a friend to take care of her cat. However, as the cat urinated in lots of places in her friend’s home, the friend got mad and kicked it out of the house.

Cat lover cashes in on citys cat-sitting market

Chen's first cat, Chenpi

Chen looked everywhere for Chenpi but had no luck. The incident made her think nothing like this would have happened if there had been a professional carer she could have asked for help.

Chen took it upon herself to take care of friends’ cats and they were all surprised to see how good she was and word got around. In 2016, Chen opened online store Heymao on Taobao to offer a cat-sitting service for Shanghai pet owners. 

Cat lover cashes in on citys cat-sitting market

The cost of the cat-sitting service ranges from 60 to 120 yuan (US$9.32-18.65) depending on distance.

Now she has a team of 150 people, most of them women in their 20s. The reasons why team members are mostly women is because cats are thought to favor female voices, Chen said in an interview with CCTV.com.

Requirements for team members include owning a cat and attention to detail. Every carer sent to a customer’s house is required to write a check list of their needs, such as feeding specific food, emptying the cat litter box, or ventilating the house. If a carer forgets to close a window when leaving a house, something could happen to the cat and Chen can't allow that. 

Cat lover cashes in on citys cat-sitting market

Cats that have been taken care of by Heymao's team

Each service is about 40 minutes long. After a basic service such as refilling the cat’s water and food bowl, preparing food if required, and cleaning the litter box and changing the litter, the carer then can play with or pet the cat.

The team can be overwhelmed with orders during national holidays, such as the past Labor day holiday. Chen’s team would get 400 to 500 orders each day, 10 times more than on a normal day.

Still, most employees only see it as a part-time job, for orders can vary greatly at different times of the year. Many of them only do it out of their love for cats.

Cat lover cashes in on citys cat-sitting market

A review from a customer saying she gets the same carer for her cat every time she's away, and her cat now completely trusts the carer.

“I guess the most satisfying thing of doing this job is to get thank-you letters from our customers, and a mutual trust is formed between us and the families we have served. 

“We have watched many kittens grow into adult cats. When dealing with them, it’s not only us who takes care of them, most of the time, it’s them that heal us,” Chen said.

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