CEDAR RAPIDS — When Sabrina Atkinson was a child, she and her aunt used to pet sit for friends while they were out of town.
“She would have me feed them, let them out and take care of them,” Atkinson said. “One November, her friend was going out of town and I didn’t have a job. She said, ‘Why don’t you do it, and you get 10 bucks per visit.’
“So I started doing it and I thought, ‘Hey, I can make a business out of this.’ I printed up some fliers, posted them in pet stores and laundromats around town, and I started getting phone calls.
Her boyfriend, Ben, suggested she needed pet-sitters insurance to make sure that the animals are secure for their safety, so her business was born.
I also learned about online courses to improve my knowledge about certain animals and attain certification,” she recalled.
Tails and Feathers Home Playcare’s daily and vacation services include pet sitting, dog walking, overnight care, pet transportation, alternating lights and curtains, mail and newspaper retrieval, make sure doors are locked, and pet massage and behavior modification.
“We offer services for cats, dogs, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles, caged pets, horses, farm animals and special-needs pets,” Atkinson said. “We grew up with tarantulas, scorpions, geckos, frogs and lizards, so I’ve never been afraid of them.”
She said she tried to stick to the owners’ schedule as much as possible.
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Her business has grown to the point that Atkinson has hired two associates, Cathy Cutler and Deb Bowers. Due to the travel time and fuel costs involved, Atkinson has had to limit her services to Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Robins and Toddville.
The growth of Atkinson’s business is tracking with an American Pet Products Association industry survey that found 65 percent of U.S. households own a pet.
The association reports that a total of $62.75 billion was spent on pets in the United States in 2016. An estimated $5.73 billion of those expenditures was for pet services, including pet sitting and dog walking.
In a recent interview for Pet Sitter’s World magazine, Bob Vetere, APPA president, said 35 percent of all dog owners have used pet sitters over a six-month period. Sixty-seven percent of cat owners responding to the same APPA survey used pet sitters over the same period.
Atkinson charges $15 per 20- to 30-minute visit, rather than charging a fee for each animal.
“We have added charges of $5 for walks and litter box care,” she said. “While there are other pet sitters in the area, we’re all friendly. We don’t see each other as competition.
“For me, it’s more like senior animal care and puppy or kitten care. We also have some diabetic animals that we take care of, so we do insulin shots.
“I have some veterinary technician training, which also helps a lot.”
At a glance
• Business: Tails and Feathers Home Playcare
• Owner: Sabrina Atkinson
• Telephone: (319) 521-6356
• Facebook: Tails & Feathers Playcare Services
• Website: Tailsandfeathersplaycare.com